Eric “E.J.” John, owner of the Laguna Surf And Sport chain and a partner in several other surf shops and businesses, likes metaphors and uses them effectively.
Pacing around his small but influential Pacific Coast Highway store in Laguna Beach, he stops suddenly and says: “Take a bucket and poke several holes in the bottom and then set it under the tap. As long as there’s enough water coming in, the bucket will stay full even with its holes. But if you turn the water down even by twenty percent, the bucket will be sucked dry almost immediately. That’s what’s happening right now in the economy and also within in the surf industry. The money spout has been turned down by just a hair, and all those little mistakes — those little holes — are causing the bucket to run dry for a few companies.”
But the bucket certainly doesn’t appear to be running dry for John or Laguna Surf and Sport. John’s stores neatly illustrate how to identify and cater to your customer base. The Aliso Viejo store, located within a huge new open-air shopping complex anchored by a thirty-screen multiplex, is spacious, sleek, and slickly merchandised.
The salt-of-the-earth location in Laguna is just across the street from Oak Street and several other surf spots. It’s smaller and rougher around the edges, but remains the more coveted location for brands for the market influence it wields.
[IMAGE 2] However, business looks good at both locations, and that’s the message John wants to get across: “This is not the early 90s, when surf took a dive and the industry tanked. The current economic conditions will be an adjustment for retailers, but the sky is not falling. Retailers are like farmers and every farmer goes through droughts — we’re just not used to droughts.”
Hurley T-shirts, Volcom Frohickey shorts, Electric and Von Zipper sunglasses, white boardshorts, and visors are all selling through at Laguna Surf and Sport at a furious clip. John says he’s happy with the job the manufacturers are doing, although he still wishes the surf industry could find a way to capture the excitement and immediacy of the skate demos the shop holds.
Window Brands: Electric Major Display Brands: Hurley, Billabong, Volcom, QuiksilverStrongest Category: Shoes Weakest Category: n/aStrongest Brands: Electric, Von Zipper, VolcomBest Reps: Joe Ky, Tom Ruiz (Volcom)