Eye On Orange County – Inflight

Inflight
Seal Beach
Business is up at Inflight. But that doesn’t surprise Manager Karl Koppenhaver or anyone else who’s been to the shop. After all, along with its good product mix, Inflight’s reputation for good customer service has helped it establish a strong local following.

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“We’ve had people come here as their first stop,” says Koppenhaver, “and then they’ll spend four hours visiting shops all the way down to Newport. But they come back and buy from us because we’re the most straightforward.”

Inflight’s no-nonsense approach has paid off. Koppenhaver says last year’s business was a ten out of ten. In fact, he says it was the best year in twelve years. This year, even with a dreary spring and a sagging economy, the shop is still rocking — an 8.5 out of ten.

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But when times are slower, Koppenhaver says flexibility is the key to success. “All you have to do is stay on top of things,” he says. “You have to be able to adapt.” With numbers flat this spring, Inflight focused its attention on accessories because they provide robust margins.

Overall, hardgoods are a priority. The second floor of the two-story shop is devoted to surfboards, wetsuits, bodyboards, and skimboards (and snowboards in the winter).

In the summer, longboards and hybrids are the breadwinners. Inflight’s Econoline surfboards (retro, nine-foot, single-fin longboards) are super popular with newcomers because they’re inexpensive (they retail for 415 dollars). Customers can get out the door with a board, leash, traction, and wetsuit for the about same price as a name-brand longboard.

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If you’re continuing to cram your bodyboard section into the darkest corner of the shop for fear of ridicule, you might want to talk to the Inflight staff. They can’t keep them in stock. “Bodyboards are going through the roof,” says Koppenhaver. By the end of summer the shop will have moved 300 to 400 boards.

While Inflight’s focus is on hardgoods, softgoods do extremely well, too. “They sell themselves,” says Koppenhaver. Hurley girls and Volcom denim are the top sellers, and Stüssy is strong as well.

If there were something the surf industry could improve on, Koppenhaver hopes it would be with P.O.P. He’s tired of manufacturers’ cookie-cutter approach to store-front window displays: “We want to be able to express our individuality along with their product.”

Window Brands: Black Flys, Stüssy, O’Neill, Xcel
Major Display Brands: O’Neill, Stüssy, Inflight
Strongest Category: Longboards, Xcel wetsuits
Weakest Category: n/a
Strongest Brands: O’Neill, Volcom, Hurley
Best Reps: Scott Overland (Dakine), Lance Varon (Xcel)

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