How has your winter wetsuits segment evolved since last winter? What are major changes in terms of products, categories and SKU?
A major change for O’Neill Wetsuits has been the introduction of our new TechnoButter 3 Neoprene. TechnoButter 3 is O’Neill’s exclusive, maximum stretch, durable hydrophobic neoprene with a featherlight ENVY foam rubber core. The neoprene is broken down into each layer before it is re-engineered to reach yet another level of materials technology.
Is the demand for frigid waters’ wetsuits still growing?
Yes, because more people are getting involved in watersports in general and wetsuit technology is helping people in the colder climates stay in the water longer where they might not have been able to before.
Which new trends do you see on the 2018/19 wetsuits market?
In each winter season, our market research shows that customers are looking only for technical features and reliable engineering for their wetsuit, the colours and prints can wait until summer.
There still have to be colour options, of course, but they’re all dark. In FW17/18 we sold out of Hyperfreaks and Psychos in November, not because we hit a perfect print or colour but because word had spread about how flexible our TB3 and TB3X neoprenes are. They’re like nothing else in the market.
How have price points evolved and what are the main price hot spots?
Price points are simply not evolving. Customers continue to set their budgets at €100, €200, €300 or €400 or €450 and we try to give them as much as possible for their money. There are some €500 wetsuits on the market but there’s no volume at that level yet.
Regarding the rubber specifically (neoprene or not) any major improvements?
Technobutter 3 with its ‘Layers of Innovation’ has been a major improvement. The 3 layers, starting from the outside of the suit are:
TB3 Exterior Jersey:
Maximum stretch hydrophobic yarns that keep you flexible and dry by shedding water for the lifetime of the suit – Built to Last.
Envy Foam Rubber Core:
Feather-light warmth. Microscopic air-cell rubber foam core formula increases the insulation factor by decreasing mass. Lighter. Warmer.
TB3X Interior Jersey:
Pre-stretched to retain its form for maximum flexibility. Snaps back to the hug the body for ultimate comfort. Superior Fit
Tell us a bit more about the linings’ benefits of your wetsuits?
TB3X Interior Lining: The X factor makes TB3 the lightest most stretch neoprene ever. An exclusive form of TB3 is ‘pre-stretched’ pulling the jersey just far enough to break the fibres apart but still hold its structure for maximum flexibility. TB3X also increases warmth with a low profile that sheds water while drying ultra fast. In addition, this new weightless tech feels super soft against the skin.
What’s new in terms of fit and panel construction?
O’Neill’s Area 52 R&D Facility allows for extensive prototyping with multiple rounds of fit checks to guarantee the perfect fit for every suit. In terms of panel construction our ‘Minimal Seam Design’ guarantees maximum flexibility, fit and durability using a unique approach utilizing large panels and fewer seams.
Please list some of the best selling arguments for a wetsuit?
Area 52, O’Neill’s exclusive R&D Facility, staffed by full-time engineering, design and prototyping teams who work closely with the world’s best athletes allows us to hand-build and refine multiple rounds of prototypes in the same fashion that Jack himself pioneered over sixty years ago.
Extensive prototyping, fit checks and testing in the frigid waters of Northern California provide unparalleled insight when creating the best fitting, most functional wetsuits on the planet.
Please take us through three key products that retailers should put on their order sheets.
The Psycho Series: All our suits in the Psycho Series feature TB3
The Psycho Series includes the Psycho Freak, Psycho Tech and Psycho One
Psycho Freak: The Psycho Freak is the ultimate in wetsuit technology, featuring heat retaining TB Firewall, and the lightest, driest neoprene ever: TechnoButter 3. In addition, the Psycho Freak features Super Seam Weld Technology, a stitchless 4mm silicone-based urethane seam applied to both the sides of a triple glued seam. Lightweight, non-chafing, waterproof and flexible.
Psycho Tech: The Psycho Tech with all-new head generating TechnoButter Firwall comes in a wide array of styles all featuring Fluid Seam Weld Technology – an 8mm silicone-based urethane sealed exterior with a triple glued and blind stitched interior. A watertight, durable and ultra-flexible seam.
Psycho One: The minimal seamed team rider favourite is designed to flex. Lightweight and loaded with durable features, this suit is the ONE to have for high-performance surfing. Exceeding the rigorous testing standards of the world’s best surfers.
Is eco-friendliness an issue for you and how do you approach it?
We’ve been working behind the scenes on neoprene alternatives and have tested all of the ones that you already know about. Unfortunately, nothing so far has been good enough for market but we’ll get there.
In our Hyperfreak series we are now using a solvent free, water based glue ‘Aqua α Glue’. In addition, our largest customers take direct shipments from the factories which reduces transport movements, we use biodegradable corn starch bags for our products and hang our lighter styles on recycled cardboard hangers.