San Diego Retail Tour: Wave Lines

Wave Lines
Carmel Mountain, California

Über-stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart have wiped out a bunch of mom-and-pop operations. Their ability to “roll back” prices — not to mention mass-market their brands — have rendered many independent stores expensive and obsolete. But there are some examples where big-box stores and specialty retailers can coexist.

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Take Wave Lines, for instance. The surf shop is parked right next to mega-sporting-goods-retailer Sportmart. While some thought it’d be a kiss of death, Manager Jimmy Schulte couldn’t be happier. Sportmart refers customers looking for “cool” brands like Volcom or Hurley to Wave Lines. “It’s a good thing being located next to Sportmart,” says Schulte. “Sportmart sends so many people to Wave Lines. They have all the mainstream stuff, and we carry the specialty brands.”

It doesn’t surprise Schulte that Hurley is the hottest brand at Wave Lines. After all, the shop is located a hop, skip, and a jump from Poway, hometown of Hurley-spokesband blink-182. Schulte is astonished, however, with the success the shop’s had with Billabong. “Billabong is really strong right now,” he says, adding that much of the brand’s success could be credited to the legacy of the Bob Hurley-Paul Gomez crew. Rusty — thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment by super-rep Jonah Mechanic — is gaining ground, and Quiksilver’s holding its own.

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Believe it or not, wovens are Wave Lines’ strongest category. Schulte speculates button-ups sell well because they’re displayed prominently on the wall instead of being hidden away on a rack.

Sunglasses are also huge. Even though there’s a big Electric display, and a handful of other brands, Arnette outsells all other brands combined.

Since it opened with the help of Clairemont Surf Shop Owner Steve O’Connell in 1993, Wave Lines has undergone a couple makeovers. At just 2,100 square feet, space is a premium inside the shop. If one category isn’t carrying its own weight, it’s moved or slimmed down.

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A couple years ago Wave Lines trimmed the fat around its surfboard section. Although the shop sold a number of surfboards, the category wasn’t strong enough to warrant the entire back wall of the shop. So Wave Lines decided to keep a handful of short- and funboards (both new and used) and fill the void space with skate hardgoods. It was a good move, and the skate section continues to edge its way across the back wall.

Window Brands: Hurley, Quiksilver, Billabong
Major Display Brands: Reef, Hurley, Billabong Girls, Rusty Girls
Strongest Category: Wovens, Arnette sunglasses
Weakest Category: Boardshorts
Strongest Brands: Hurley, Billabong
Best Reps: Pat Artukovich (Quik), Mark Weber (Hurley), Jonah Mechanic (Rusty)

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