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Bio Statement Action sports is a big, fat, enjoyable business. And Southern California is the sponsor of the celebration. That realization, for those now living Beneath a stone, will definitely pop into your mind should you choose to put in the center of Orange County, and roll down its yellow brick road, the Pacific Coast Highway, in search of this activity sports version of skateboard reviews. You will find as many board stores on this stretch of road as there are street signs. (Well, seemingly, at least) And only a short jaunt off of O.C.'s venerable PCH is the manufacturing Mecca of board sports as well, with a number of the world's top action sports manufacturers based in Orange County industrial hubs like Irvine and Costa Mesa. A slew of others are just a kickilip and an ollie off in SoCal hot areas within LA County and San Diego County. "It goes quite far, to the 1960s Even," says Laurence LaHaye, VP of sports for American Sporting Goods, which pushes out its EVOS and NSS skate shoes from Irvine, CA. "The Beach Boys ought to get attributed some of the success. Back then, Orange County did not exist--it was an orange grove, and LA was a big metropolis. The big scene was in San Diego, especially for skate. The industry really got its start from the '60s. It took off with the boom in the '80s and also a great deal of apparel-based manufacturers moved into Irvine and Orange County because it is more affordable to do business there." So fast-forward to 2003. There you are, California Dreaming, rolling down that yellow-bricked PCH, and what would you find in Oz? A group of merry women and men alive the life and packing up a piece of Southern California to be offered to eager customers throughout the globe? Well, yeah, pretty much. The SoCal scene is home to billions of dollars in activity sports industry. Skate, surf and snowboarding have impacted youth sports culture in such a manner that Orange County has morphed into a kind of fairytale dreamscape for activity sports. "I always say I could sell plastic Baggies full of sand from the shores here," says LaHaye. "People only want to be part of it, and receive a piece of Southern California." But have a look behind the orange curtain at The folks making the industry run and you're going to notice here is much more than meets the eye. Orange County itself is a perfect personification of activity sports' conflicting realities. The region not only has perfect ocean breaks, stunning skateparks and easy accessibility to unreal ski websites, but it's also home to a number of the nation's wealthiest, most conservative taxpayers. Really, the activity sports business can be characterized in much the exact same schizophrenic manner: serious partyers doing serious business. And according to people on the interior of the industry, that contradictory reality is what separates action sports from the pack. A journey to the center of activity sports supplies a glimpse of this beautiful dichotomy. Any dialog about why SoCal is your Epicenter of activity sports must begin with its surroundings. The landscape is so well-suited for participation in surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding and BMX riding which, naturally, it's become the perfect place to do business within them, as well. It has warm weather, smooth concrete, dirt paths, consistent waves, and snow from the hills. But there is much more to it than that. Way more, bro. "These are the reasons the Majority of the top Riders from all over the world come here to live, and whenever you have the best riders as well as the best terrain, the producers and media will follow," says Don Brown, VP of marketing at Sole Technology, that generates skate manufacturers Etnies, Emerica and ES, as well as 32 snowboard boots. "There are more actions sports manufacturers in Southern California than any other place in the world. California is the fantasy for action sports. It's all you have ever wanted, with just a little bit more" The industry thrives in SoCal not because Of the closeness of great actions sports conditions, but also due in large part to a neighborhood full of people with time, interest and money to invest in search of good times. "[SoCal] has the Exceptional combination of Having millions of kids in a place which has snow, surf and things to skate," states Tim Garrett, VP of international marketing at Globe, whose U.S. headquarters are located in Torrance, CA. "There is a long history of activity sports icons from SoCal that have influenced, began, or operate these brands. People and location help create credibility, and credibility is the cornerstone for any successful brand." The validity comes Not Just from being Busy in a lifestyle, but living it, too. Contrary to other athletic activities, action sports are often described by those in the industry as extensions of the lives of its participants, instead of simply avenues for physical exercise. "Non-traditional sports have always Developed from California," states Scott Bowers, VP of sports marketing at Oakley. best skateboard brandĀ for beginners "Californians get bored doing the same thing everyday. We also carry a bit of disdain to be limited by regulations and rules. We like to do things which express individualism, freedom and rebelliousness. We also possess the surroundings and weather to accommodate our lifestyle" Combine the culture, the advantage and the Consistency of the conditions and you've got the ideal surroundings not just to participate in such activities, but to profit off them, too. "The relaxed, but energetic, lifestyle here Enables us to market these activities and products," notes Alain Mazer, director of public relations at Irvine-based Op. "The main point is that the economics here support it. Orange County is where most of the money is. It's the tech coast. The money supports the lifestyle which has been a part of the culture for the past 10 decades. Even though all of these factors in the SoCal Environment help make it a virtual incubator of trends and innovative solution, in addition, it plays a massive role in the relaxed, non-traditional business attitude that emanates from many of the industry's brands. At precisely the exact same time, competition drives every one of the businesses to try to be the best, leading to a, dare we say, conventional approach to business. "It's friendly cut-throat," says Globe's Garrett. "It is like when you're surfing in your favourite place--you all may be buddies in the household, however the bottom line is you want the very best wave of the day and you are likely to Light for position to find that tide for yourself. Overall, however, I believe everyone supports each other, because we know that the action sports industry is much larger than just a few companies, and when there are far more successful action sports companies then it develops consumer awareness and raises our consumer base." He adds, "On another note, it's a tight industry and everybody pretty much knows everybody. Should you do something lame, it is going to return to haunt you." In the SoCal scene, even when you make a sell-out Move, the people laughing in mind only may be your buddies. "We like it when somebody makes a mistake, Don't get me wrong," says Catherine Breton, Southern California sales rep for Rip Curl Girl. "But we do not have hard feelings and we hang out together. Ultimately, all the brands have a different name and we are selling another brand." Unlike some other pro athletes, activity sports Pros aren't paid by deep-pocketed team owners. Athletes in snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, BMX and MX make the majority of their money by using their patrons. And many go into the business side of the sport to supplement their income. This helps to keep the businesses in the control of heart participants, and it also boosts corporate collaboration between brands. "Many brands in non-competing categories Share athletes and have a tendency to group up on advertising programs like events, tours and video releases," says Candy Harris, juniors brand manager for Billabong. "Generally speaking, everyone is eager to understand this sector grow and we understand one brand's success usually means media attention and prosperity for the sector as a whole." Harris points out that Billabong's involvement With the Universal film "Blue Crush" supplied "amazing exposure for Billabong, but in addition, it helped promote women's browsing. Because of this, many relevant brands benefited in the Egyptian Hollywood hype." Of course, when an industry is in a growth phase, As the activity sport industry undeniably has been over the past ten years, it is easy for manufacturers to be friends. But just like in any other sector, tighter economic times will breed even the most laid back competitive relationships. "Our businesses have been growing solidly For the previous 10 years, so everybody has been focused on ensuring we could supply the demand over caring about what the competition is doing," supports Sole Tech's Brown. "Since most of the action sports industries have reached a plateau, there will be a whole lot more strategies aimed at gaining and sustaining market share from the competition. I think we will see many more punches going down in ASR." While Brown may be flashing his well-honed Sharp wit regarding possible trade show pugilism, he brings up a point. The businessmen in the action sports industry are willing to fight to get what they need. And insiders say it's their love of the sports that compels them to work difficult. "The Work of action sports is also The fun of action sports, says Op's Mazer. "Both are inextricably connected. Our company is that which we reside. We are facilitators of what we enjoy. There is not a disconnect to our job and what we are. Someone who creates a circuit board is not a pc, but somebody who creates a surfboard is a surfer. The guy making skateboards is a skater." Just as in any other business, success from the SoCal action sports manufacturing scene is predicated by how attentive a provider is to the requirements of their consumers and retailers. The companies that do the best at retail would be the individuals who know the business, those which ship in time and give excellent support. "The equation for any good business is The exact same equation for achievement as activity sports," says Mazer. "And the folks handling the business of surf culture tight now are consummate small business people. Their business acumen is really on par with executives at almost any other industry." Indeed, in the past few years, the Business Has become accustomed to people most business-like occurrences: mergers and acquisitions. Among the major deals: Board sports giant Billabong bought the edgy skate company Element; actions sports savant Bob Hurley sold his namesake company to Nike; and Globe purchased Kubic Marketing, the U.S. holding company whose properties include World Industries and Dwindle Distribution. "The bigger companies do good Company and they're doing global business," states Mazer. "France, Brazil, Australia, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico--the lifestyle is becoming so pervasive on a worldwide scale. Aggregation is one of the strongest companies and it's allowed and enabled companies to completely realize the culture on a worldwide scale." While the compact business tactics have Made the brands stronger on a worldwide scale, they also have served to increase competition at retail in their home turf. With an influx of strong product flood the SoCal market, retailers immediately run out of space for open-to-buy. "The real estate is so tight in California," says Rip Curl's Breton. "Retailers have a tendency to stick to the principal brands so it's hard for smaller companies to break in. They want Quiksilver, Billabong, Volcom and Hurley. You need to compete with some businesses that offer guaranteed sales. All the retailers are selling the same brands, exactly the exact same item. People think California is easy to break brands in because it is so saturated in retail shops, but there is so much competition." The idea of endless retail chance for Brands is simply one of many misconceptions regarding the action sport industry. Quiksilver is a $700 million business. Oakley is closing in on $500 million, and best skateboard. The list of additional SoCal brands counting their international dollars in the countless millions is now ever-growing. Knocking at that doorway are Hurley, Volcom, O'Neill, Rip Curl, Op, Globe, Vans, DC, Rusty, Sole Tech and more. Yet outside this industry, there are individuals who dismiss the company as being one filled with jokers and smokers. "The uninformed think we're on drugs, unprofessional, and menaces to society," says Oakley's Bowers. "Others think we're a lot of kids having a fantastic time, who don't have a clue how to conduct company. I like to believe we're all of those things, along with being concentrated, organized and cuffing-edge in our business practices." There is the rub. Corporate America can try to Weasel into action sports with being organized and concentrated, but they will never truly function of it. Fun-loving lunatics can learn business acumen, no issue. However, can Middle American businessmen learn lunacy? Not likely. And that's fine with business insiders who delight in seeing mainstream businesses fail in their efforts to grab a piece of So Cal. "By far the most common misconception, in My mind, is that outsiders believe that they could borrow from the sports, like slapping an action shot at an ad or poster, and they will acquire instant business from children," says Globe's Garrett. "Kids, and customers in general, are all smart. They know what's real and what is not. If they get fooled by an outsider, then a cooler kid will call them on it and they won't make that mistake twice. No industry is protected from poachers, but when your organization is not built on a sound, authentic, activity sports foundation then your long-term success is going to be limited, however complex your advertising is." And if firms grow to the purpose of moving General public, as Quiksilver, Billabong, Vans and Oaldey have done, business is not taken lightly; you will find those pesky stockholders to consider. "People outside the industry believe that With our tasks we get to skate surf or snowboard three or even four times a week," says Sole Tech's Brown, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "They're wrong, it is five to seven days each week. And we do not drink beer for breakfast--we have it for brunch. [In reality], the attitudes involving the action sports industry and the traditional sports brands are probably quite similar these days. Sole Technology is lucky as we're not public and have the freedom to do what we want to do. When we close down the business and take all of the workers snowboarding or skating, we are not being criticized or watched." Action sports insiders revel in the belief That when compared with other traditional sports brands, they aren't afraid to break the rules when it comes to product, marketing and distribution. As Oakley's Bowers states, "Complacency sucks." The thinking goes unless you climbed up in the action sports scene, and totally understand it, you won't have the capability to understand how to invigorate the marketplace, only how to react to it. "Legitimacy and validity are Paramount," claims Bowers. "No poseurs. You have to have roots in action sports, walk the walk and talk the talk. Your company culture must live it and breathe it everyday. You can not just claim it, especially if you are a big, conventional sports brand new. Truthfully, I do not believe they could be completely accepted. A couple of the large ones have tried unsuccessfully." At ASG, a conventional sports company, its Skate brands, EVOS and NSS, are steadily making their way on skate shoe walls. However, this entree to skate probably would not have succeeded were it not made about the shoulders of someone steeped in the business, as LaHaye is. (LaHaye formerly launched his skate shoe manufacturer, Duffs, and boasts a very long resume from the action sports industry.) However, at ASG, LaHaye faces the corporate reality everyday. "Attempting to tell a big business the Philosophy of the industry is majorly hard," says LaHaye. "But right now, everybody is trying to get right into it. There's not much happening in the sports sector, and action sports is the bright star." And while a few outsiders have managed to Creep in, the insular SoCal scene has, for the most part, stuck together and kicked most of the spores into the curb. But times are changing. More core action sports manufacturers are opting to jump to the big box sporting goods fray, side by side with these "outsider" traditional sports guys. And more of those huge corporations will continue to attempt to worm their way to the core of SoCal. "I really don't think that the traditional Sports brands have overlooked the action sports; they've failed at every attempt to get in," explains Sole Tech's Brown. "One of the biggest challenges in business is to buy your way into a business that has been built on passion for the sports. There are ways for mega-brands to get in, as Bob Hurley has revealed us. However, as a lot of them go in, the more homogenized the sport will become. Our industry and demographic thrives on creativity, rebellion and insanity. These are three items that mega-brands have difficulty fitting into their ISO-9000." RELATED ARTICLE: THE INSIDERS Finding a behind the scene take on what makes The action sport business tick required a great deal of cooperation from our friends at the business. True for their fraternal board sports roots, our willing cover topics exhibited an insatiable desire to get as many rival brands involved as possible. Our intent in collecting the group together was to depict the diversity and energy of the sector with a array of people from all walks of their board sports industry. Best row (left to right): Steve Van Doren, VP, Vans, whose daddy Paul founded the company in 1966; Tim Garrett, VP of global marketing, Globe; Brad Gerlach, pro surfer, representing O'Neill. Middle row (left to right): Scott Bowers, VP of sports advertising, Oakley; Chocolate Harris, juniors brand manager, Billabong; Don Brown, VP of advertising, Sole Technology. Bottom row (left to right): Alain Mazer, director of public relations, Op; Catherine Breton, Southern California sales representative, Rip Curl Girl; Jeff Hambrecht, staff supervisor, Rusty. The most successful producers in the Action sports company may be operating on a global scale, but you think that getting their equipment in the best specialty retailers in Southern California remains a top priority. SoCal board stores have the final say in allowing core consumers determine what's hot and what's not. In some cases, they serve as virtual showrooms for brands to exhibit their most ambitious designs. According to Catherine Breton, Southern California sales rep for Rip Curl Girl, merchants in SoCal are the most open to forward-looking trends. "The East Coast is way more conservative," says Breton. "I always end up selling my favorite designs at the lineup in California. You will find East Coast places that go cool, but it takes more time and it's done more discreetly. In California it's done more on impulse." With some noteworthy exceptions, the majority of Southern California's main action sports accounts are located on the shore, many directly on the Pacific Coast Highway. A comprehensive listing of all of the board stores in Orange County alone could take up more time than you have got, but we managed to pin down a couple industry favorites. The place to start is in the foot of the pier In "Surf City USA" where HUNTINGTON SURF & SPORT (HSS) and JACK'S SURFBOARDS are both situated in prime real estate, right across from each other on the PCH in Huntington Beach. Not only are all of the heart action sports brands in both of these doorways, but also a deep selection of each brand's lineup can be obtained, making the shops brand ambassadors as well as retailers. HSS is famous for especially good merchandising, and both Jack's and HSS have extensive women' sections. Both shops have three separate storefronts in HB. Jack's also offers a place in Newport Beach. "By a Real activity sports point-of-view, Huntington Beach's Main Street and PCH is Most Likely the greatest," says Tim Garrett, VP of international marketing for Globe. "Surfing and 'skateboarding are huge in HB. Both jack's and HSS have committed surf and skate sections, because they will find some; consumers who only care about skateboarding and a few that only care for surfing" In addition to HB, key board sports accounts Are spread out across O.C.'s wealthy coastal towns. BECKER SURFBOARDS is a growing chain with shops in HB, Hermosa Beach, Malibu, Corona Del Mar and Mission Viejo. Becker gets raves for top-line merchandise and trendy store layout. Other shops which do more than allow the merch sell itself: LAGUNA SURF & SPORT at Laguna Beach (and Aliso Viejo); PHARMACY at Palmdale; VAL SURF (in North Hollywood, Valencia, Thousand Oaks and Woodland Hills); ZJ 'BOARDING HOUSE in Santa Monica; KS at Encinitas; ACTIVE RIDE SHOP at San Dimas; HANSEN'S SURFBOARDS in Encinitas; and LIBERTY BOARD SHOP at Brea. O.C. natives have also been given up two Socalled anti-malls, THE LAB and THE CAMP, both situated in Costa Mesa. The two Anti-malls exist in a state of prefabricated trendy, however both are. surprisingly Effective at producing a "chill" purchasing experience.