Interviewee: Mark Brown / Brand Manager
How has your winter wetsuits segment evolved since last winter ? What are major changes in terms of products, categories and SKU ?
Mark: Our wetsuit development is focused around our winter season so we have some key changes for W17 like most years. The most notable changes include fresh new cut lines on some of the major styles, with a real focus towards functional panel placement to ensure the user is getting the most out of the suit in terms of warmth, flexibility and durability. Our Zipperless category has also been a focus for development after the success of W16 and is now a solid fixture in the range. Consolidation has also been an important process to ensure our range is the right size for our markets and makes logical sense through the spec and price points.
Is the demand for frigid waters’ wetsuits still growing ?
I can say that the demand for C-Skins Wetsuits is growing (not sure about the total market) particularly in cold water locales. As the surf gets more and more crowded I can see surfers heading to colder and more remote locations to get uncrowded waves. Its in our dna to focus on developing wetsuits for the coldest places on earth, so its great to see that we are doing something right when we see growth in these cold water regions.
Which new trends do you see on the 2017/18 wetsuits market ?
We have seen Zipperless Wetsuits gaining popularity. Our Wired Zipperless has sold well after there was some reserved judgement about this segment. We have seen zipperless come and go over the past 20 years and this time we see it staying mainly because of the developments that have been made in materials.
Another trend which I have noticed is a more educated consumer. These are seasoned surfers who can see through the bullshit marketing campaigns and know a good suit when they see one. As a wetsuit company its great to see.
I’ve also noticed a good amount of consolidation from retailers all the way through the supply chain. I guess this is a result of the economic climate and the increasing complexities of running a business has led to many consolidating and making their businesses less complicated to run.
The economic climate over recent years hasn’t lent itself to retailers carrying huge amounts of stock so it has become increasingly important for us to focus on this.
How have price points evolved and what are the main price hot spots?
As a wetsuit company we are covering winter price points from £110/€150 right through to £380/€500. We have seen the ceiling price rise every season which proves consumers aren’t afraid of spending money on good equipment that keeps them in the water longer. Our sweet spot sits around £250 – £320 for most core winter surfers.
Tell us a bit more about the linings’ benefits of your wetsuits ?
Our Dryknit lining dries fast and is incredibly thermally efficient. It has been proven to be warmer than many of the other quick dry linings on the market which is our main focus…..it also dries fast which gets you back in the water sooner.
What’s new in terms of fit and panel construction ?
We have been producing wetsuits for a long time so our fit has been slowly developed and built on over this time. We have included some fresh new cut lines for W17 which again focuses on function, performance and comfort. One new construction feature for W17 will be our Fused Iso Tape which is a new machine applied taping method which gives incredible consistency to seam strength and waterproofing internally. Basically it’s a stretch neoprene tape that is machine applied rather than hand glued. More coming soon on this.
Please list some of the best selling arguments for a wetsuit?
A suit that fits is crucial – no matter the brand the fit has to be right. At C-Skins we pride ourselves on the development we have put into our Mens Future Fit and Womens Benefit sizing blocks. Huge amounts of research and continual improvement have got us to where we are today. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight.
Warmth – Key feature. Linings, construction and neoprene thickness.
Durability & backup – most core surfers want to know their suit is going to last the course. Our brand dna is based on Last Longer which means we want you to last longer in the water on a cold day AND we want the product to Last Longer than our competitors. Focusing on construction methods that can increase longevity, be repaired and maintained locally is key to getting the most out of your suit.
Please take us through three key products that retailers should put on their order sheets.
The 3 key products I am suggesting to dealers is:
HotWired Steamer – this suit is for the serious cold water warrior. This suit is fully loaded with Dryknit lining, Power Seams outside, Fused Iso Tape inside. This is a serious bit of winter kit.
Wired Steamer – this is the suit most of our team uses. It combines the right mix of performance and warmth and sits at a price level just down from the top.
Session Boots – a perennial favorite amongst the core crew. This is a product that doesn’t mess around. 6mm thick, blind stitched with neoprene taping inside, fully rubber reinforced with asymmetric arch support and an unbeatable price point.