In 1952 Jack O’Neill changed surfing forever with the launch of the O’Neill brand and the invention of the first wetsuit, a product that has opened endless realms of possibility in the water over the past six decades. O’Neill has always said that snow is just frozen water, and his company entered the winter sports market in the mid ’70s with innovative Neo-Snow pants, before becoming one of the first snowboard-specific lines in the ’80s.
We caught up with Product & Marketing Manager Juliet Korver to learn more about how O’Neill Snow is leveraging the brand’s 60 years of heritage, what’s new in its ’12/13 line, its strategies for dealing with a low-snow year, and what is trending for next season.
What’s your breakdown look like for sales between more freestyle-focused styles like Seb Touts’s stuff, and big mountain technical apparel like Jeremy Jones’s gear?
The line is divided pretty equally between freestyle-focused apparel, our Freedom Series, and Big Mountain-focused, Explore Series. Each of these categories offer a range of product from our pinnacle, Seb or Jeremy signature styles, down to more entry-level pieces that keep a similar look and functionality.
Tell us a little about some of the eco stories you’re featuring in next year’s line
Several items within our line are made with eco-circle fabrics, which is made by using a closed-loop recycling system. The Jeremy Jones Experience collection is made entirely of these fabrics.
We also design and develop our products to last and stand up to long-term wear. Making our products last more than one season is one of the best things we can do for the environment. Jeremy definitely puts this to the test. He requests only one set of gear per year and literally lives in it and takes it to the ends of the earth!
Follow the jump for more on what’s trending and predictions for next season…
This year, consumers will see 60th anniversary product from O’Neill in our O’riginals Collection. The design language is based on the classic look and feel of a brand with so much heritage. We have also launched the Jack O’Neill biography photo book, “It’s Always Summer on the Inside,” which sold out on Amazon in three days. The book tells Jack’s story as an innovator and our brand history going back to 1952…tons of great imagery!
How did the trade shows go for you?
We're very happy with how trade show season went for us this year — it was truly a breakout year for O'Neill Snow.
As an iconic brand with a strong reputation for building product to play in nature, we felt we were ready to expand our presence. We participated in Outdoor Retailer for the first time ever and were thrilled we did.
SIA was also big for us, as we debuted a new booth and had the busiest show in our recent history.
What differences did you see between OR and SIA?
Both shows are great in their own way. They allow us to directly communicate with retailers and other brands, exposing O'Neill Snow product to an array of audiences in a truly unique way.
OR is a new show for us, but we are committed to becoming a bigger part of the outdoor world and following in the heritage of the O’Neill brand. It makes sense for us to be there, so we are committed for the long term.
For us, SIA is more like home – we have been a fixture there for years and continue to grow with each season. There are certainly more snow-centric brands at SIA, so we tend to see familiar faces throughout the week.
Will you change your strategy at all for either show next season?
Both major shows went very well and we are happy with the results. Based on new product and marketing campaigns, I'm sure we will tweak our efforts, but we certainly want to have a significant presence at both shows next year and beyond.
What specific items got the most hype at the show?
There was a lot of interest in our team signature jackets. The Celia Miller jacket, Seb Toots Premium and the Jeremy Product got a great response. The O'Riginals collection was also very popular given the 60th Anniversary this year.
How has O'Neill been impacted by the low tide season?
It has been a challenging season for everyone. We're on an incredible growth path, so even with the difficult season, our numbers have improved greatly. We are committed to delivering great product, early and complete — this is a big part of why we were able to avoid much of the hardships of this warmer, snowless season.
How are initial orders looking compared to last season?
Our business is growing, and more specifically, we are adding retailers and increasing market share with the independents.
Are you changing course at all going into next year following the warm, dry season that North America has had?
We are not going to let a bad year throw us off. We have a plan that has been successful for years, and one snow season doesn't change that.
The snow apparel market is dependent on cold weather conditions and our business model prepares us for seasons like this. That said, we're definitely hoping for more powder in 2012-13!