Clairemont is hardly a beach town — located on the hot, dry mesas just inland from La Jolla’s Mt. Soledad. The neighborhood is characterized by its older residential neighborhoods and never-ending procession of slightly shabby strip malls. But for the past 24 years, Clairemont has also been home to one of the leading surf retailers in San Diego County. Clairemont Surf Shop acts as a bellwether — both for apparel trends and where the industry is heading. This is a shop that caters to surfers first and tourists second, and it’s a shop surfers will head out of their way to visit.
Sure, the soft economy has more than a few predicting the surf industry will be beat about the head for the next twelve months, but Manager Rob Chalfant isn’t buying it. “We’re down probably ten percent from last year,” he says, “but that has more to do with the weather and less with the economy.”
One of the ways Clairemont coped with May gray/June gloom was buying closeouts and blowing them out. For example, Chalfant says he sold a few-hundred Osiris closeouts at rock-bottom prices. “The store made money on each pair, and we gave our customers a price that was simply too good to pass up.”
But overall, Clairemont hasn’t had to do much to maintain sales volume, says Chalfant — who mentions men’s apparel, footwear, and surfboard sales have been especially strong.
In terms of trends, Chalfant says he’s beginning to sell polos again and that the wooden stake has been firmly driven through the tech look’s heart. White, navy, ash, and tans are selling well, as are the tonal T-shirts from Volcom. Twenty-one-inch-inseam shorts are also doing well, replacing the longer 24- to 26-inch models in top sales volume.
When it comes to men’s apparel, Quiksilver, Billabong, Rusty, and Hurley are all selling well — although Chalfant says demand for some of the wacky fashion-forward items and brands is beginning to fade. The juniors’ market is lead by Billabong, Roxy, and Hurley. In shoes, Circa, éS, DVS, and Lakai are best-sellers. Rip Curl, O’Neill, and Billabong lead wetsuit sales. Chalfant says he can’t keep egg-shaped boards in backstock, and funboards and Surf Tech models have also been selling well. “It’s been an exceptional spring for board sales,” he says.
Window Brands: Quiksilver, Rusty, O’Neill
Major Display Brands: Quiksilver, Billabong, Roxy, Rusty
Strongest Category: Footwear
Weakest Category: Surf trunks
Hottest Brands: Quiksilver, Billabong, Rusty
Bests Reps: Jonah Mechanic (Rusty), Pat Artukovich (Quiksilver), Mike Burns (O’Neill)