French Boardsports Market Insight, Autumn 2018


Unfortunately, aside from of a few days of jubilation, France’s victory at the 2018 Russia World Cup did not translate into durable euphoria across the country. The general mood of households measured by the INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies) remained stable in July, with polling conducted in the middle of the World Cup. Underlying factors such as unemployment and inflation have dwindled the optimism of the French, and the success of the football team in Russia has not had the effect that we might have hoped. By Benoit Brecq.

How have things been on the ground in reality for retailers? How has the start of the 2018 season been in stores in terms of foot traffic and sales?

After an exceptionally rainy and cold winter and a non-existent springtime from a weather standpoint, the particularly sunny summer was welcome. At the Okla shop in Toulouse, Florian told us: “The start of the season was somewhat difficult. After the rather wet weather this winter, the nice weather arrived just six days before the sales. As a result, we had quite a bit of summer product already in stock, so the sales went very well, and they were beneficial for our customers too.” At the Neway shop in La Rochelle, Jérémy remarked: “The summer has been pretty exceptional with nice weather across the country. Despite that, the month of July was rather bizarre with low foot traffic in the store, but at the same time sales were decent for the time of year.” He sees several possible reasons for that: “The conditions for skiing were really good this year, so people spent more time on the snow than usual and less at the beach. And that more and more often people were waiting until the last minute on deciding whether to go on vacation or not, and with nice weather all over France many have chosen just to stay home.” At Olo Surfshop in Hossegor, the opinion seemed to be the same: “In-store traffic was down at the start of the season, but sales have been stable since the beginning of July. However, the pre-season was rather positive, notably during the Easter holidays and the month of May.” In the beachside town of Henday in the Basque Country at Extreme Glisse, Romain confirms: “We are very dependent on the weather and especially the waves. We didn’t have many good waves this season and therefore we really felt a reduction in the number of people in the store.” It was the same situation at Quai 34 in Narbonne, where Guillaume said: “It’s been hot and our activity depends on the wind. So, naturally we’ve seen a reduction in foot traffic and sales. As soon as there are a few waves, or the wind picks up, people come into the store, which was the case at the same time last year when on the contrary things were pretty good.”

Even with retailers specialising in street products, most notably skate shops like Transfert in Bordeaux, it seems as if the great weather hasn’t just had positive effects. Julien told us: “It’s been hot, but much too hot for skating. As a result, the month of July was rather calm in the store with sales logically falling due to the heat wave.” When we asked them about the World Cup effect and the superb victory of the French Team at the 2018 tournament, we expected a bit more enthusiasm and a more positive aspect in stores. However, it would seem that the World Cup in Russia has not been positive for retailers. Vincent from Olo said: “It’s not a sporting event that incites people to go on holiday or take off for a weekend away from home. They preferred to watch the games with friends and a certain number of them probably put off leaving for the holidays until after the end of the tournament.” Bertil from Barik added: “The timing of the games didn’t help either, with many scheduled at 4pm, which is generally a good time of day for the store.” At Okla in Toulouse, Florian noticed: “With the French team playing games at 4pm on Saturdays the store was empty, while we did really well on sales during the same period last year,” adding that, “the World Cup in Russia didn’t have the same positive impact as the 2016 UEFA European Championships held in France. Even though France won, because the event was held in a foreign country, it didn’t bring the same influx of tourists.”

As for the most sought after products in stores, it would seem that the nice weather had a rather positive impact on apparel sales, especially summer products. Vincent from Olo in Hossegor said: “The beautiful weather in the month of July obviously oriented purchases towards summer products, with solid sales of things like caps, shorts, boardshorts and bikinis.” At Okla, Florian confirmed: “Shorts, sleeveless t-shirts, t-shirts and caps saw a solid level of sell-through. We saw the fanny pack make a comeback as well this summer. We’ve also seen early sales on back to school items in our baggage aisle.” Brands that sold well were essentially small French labels and others that have raised themselves to the same level as large brands, such as Tealer or Ripndip being mentioned. Bertil from Barik added: “The street and skate universes are resonating with teenagers again with brands like Thrasher, Powell, Santa Cruz and Bones being more and more sought after by the youth.” It’s a trend that has been confirmed by Julien from Transfert who has been focused on the market segment for several years: “People are looking for small labels and core products, that have a strong identity that they can relate to.”

As far as sales of technical products is concerned, it would seem that softboards were quite sought after by customers this season, confirmed by Bertil from the Baril shop who told us: “Softboards have been selling pretty well, notably high-end brands like Softech and Catch Surf, because for beginner boards people tend to buy them in large chain stores or somewhere that is offering cheap prices.” Jérémy from Neway told us: “Like every year, funboards have made up the majority of our sales this season. However, the general skill level of customers has increased and therefore more and more often they’re looking for large fish models like those made by Torq that are experiencing a solid sell through level in the shop.” SUPs, especially inflatable models that represent 90% of in-store sales have still been selling well this summer. Jérémy added: “People come to us to buy quality products at a reasonable price. Listening to our advice and explanations, they quickly come to understand the difference between what we sell and the beach toys sold in supermarkets for 300€.” According to storeowners, the top selling brands are Red Paddle, Fanatic, Ari’i Nui and Surf Pistol. At Quai 34 in Narbonne, kite and windsurf gear also seems to have been selling well. Guillaume told us: “The foil craze in these two sports seems to be having a positive influence with more and more people coming into the shop to buy gear.” The most sought after brands in both sports are essentially North, Fanatic and Gunsails.

Summer 2018 seems to have been a sunny one, but despite that traffic didn’t necessarily live up to expectations. The World Cup effect that we hoped would increase store traffic generally didn’t. Nonetheless, sell-through seems to have been attained at acceptable levels, and the continuing nice weather leads us to think that the end of summer and early fall should show positive results for shops. We shall see…


On the cover: Pukas’ Adur Letamendia surfing the Pukas Pegaso by Chris Christenson. Photo by Carles Medina.


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