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Kelly Gibson and Sean Smith

With Additional Reporting by Kailee Bradstreet

To jump start the week, SIMA & BRA brought together a group of inquisitive insiders for its Industry Boot Camp session at the Hyatt Regency Resort in Huntington Beach, CA. Industry veterans Michael Tomson and Rip Curl President and CEO Kelly Gibson, among other innovators and creative retailers, were present to push the limits on discussing some of today’s most pressing topics. Attendees filed into the convention center hall bright and early, and once everyone was settled and coffee buzzes kicked in, Rip Curl President and CEO Kelly Gibson took the stage alongside SIMA’s Sean Smith to welcome everyone.

Gibson openly discussed the transition from his position at O’Neill to his current role at Rip Curl, and the strategy behind his success in growing Rip Curl within the US market. Gibson also shed light on broader industry issues, saying that both retailers and brands need to “adapt,” and avoid becoming discouraged by numbers that don’t stack up to sales during the industry’s peak in the 90’s, because the industry is still strong, and—according to Gibson—more innovative than ever. Gibson chocked up a fair amount of the 90’s industry boom to “phony sales” from secondary consumers—consumers who were not loyal to the industry and who have moved on quickly. If brands can continue to innovate while conveying their messages, and core retail continues to do its job connecting with the strong demographic, then the industry will continue to progress and stay strong, according to Gibson.

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After the opening discussion, attendees chose their own paths for the day and were able to attend three of six panel discussions, which ranged from organic search strategy, studying the interactive consumer, driving offline sales with location based social and search tactics, state of the industry, tips for better online marketing, and PR and the media.

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Krush Founder Alexis Kopikis addresses the crowd. Photo: Steele

Krush founder Alexis Kopikis took center stage to talk about how our industry can summon it’s inner geek and use number data to help understand what the consumer wants. Krush is a web database that allows the outside consumer to preview product lines and comment, like, and dislike items. Their feedback and comment history is archived to create a massive database that can be broken down in several specific ways to give brands and retailers an easier way to forecast consumer expectations and reactions to product. Kopkis suggests that this method will yield more accurate results than trend-spotting. Brands and retailers alike need to find the balance between using these data summaries and incorporating them with their feelings and instincts on what will be successful.

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Gotcha Founder Michael Tomson Photo: Steele

Simultaneously, a second break-out group heard from Red Door Interactive’s Director of Cross-Channel Marketing John Faris on how to drive brick-and-mortar sales using location-based social and search tactics. The future of maximizing sales through content lies in paying closer attention to the way brands structure data on their sites, says Faris.”Give content to search engines in an easy to digest way so they can serve it to your audience in an easy to digest way.” Other tips from Faris included getting in front of the social media curve, and utilizing free webmaster tools that help brands evaluate important metrics such as page views and strengthen the reach of their sites.

Next up, Mark Price, Bruce Cromartie, Nick Cocores and Charlie Setzler sat on a panel geared around the state of the industry, which was moderated by industry leader and Gotcha Founder Michael Tomson. Panelists covered everything from large scale distribution and product segmentation, to supporting smaller brands. It was determined that brands and retailers need to be willing to take risks in order to maintain what Tomson dubbed ” the weirdness”— or a fresh perspective on product and retail— and the level of innovation on which the surf industry was founded.

TransWorld Business‘s Editor-In-Chief Mike Lewis moderated one of the final panel discussions of the afternoon with panelists Lora Bodmer MacDowell of Deep Communications and Rebecca Nordquist, General Editor of ESPN Magazine. A key focus around this brainstorming session was building relationships between media/PR outlets and industry brands, as well as keeping solid lines of communication open to collaboratively develop worthwhile stories that readers will enjoy and learn from.

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Mike Lewis, Lora Bodmer and Rebecca Nordquist Photo: Steele

After the discussions concluded for the day, attendees were invited to participate in breakout groups focusing on several different topics. The round table discussions serve as a forum for leaders across different several brands to brainstorm ideas and initiatives they believe will help to progress the industry as a whole within the specified table discussion topic.

The day ended on a successful note, and provided industry minds much food for thought.