Escuela Cantabra de Surf, Spain

3 European Surf Shops Discuss Impact Of Coronavirus on Business

We catch up with shop owners from Italy, Spain and France; Wipeout (Alessandro Danese), Escuela Cantabra de Surf  (David “Capi” Garcia) and ATS Surf Shop/ ATAO Surfboards (Xavier Auffray) respectively. Despite being forced to closed for 2 months, all have reported a positive turn in sales post-lockdown and are optimistic for the future.

Editor’s note: we spoke with these surf shops before the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Spain and France.

Tell us just how your business was affected by the lockdown?
Wipeout (Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy):
The shop was closed for 2 months, sales were 0, including online. Surf and related activities were forbidden for the entire period, people wanted to go out but simply couldn’t. People also wouldn’t buy anything if they didn’t know when they’d be able to use it again.

Escuela Cantabra de Surf (Northern Spain).
We were closed for 2 months so the numbers dropped drastically, and it took almost another month for activity to begin again. We were surprised at how everything was reactivated, obviously this year won’t be the best ever and it will take a while for everything to recover. Things in Spain are still a pretty tricky.

ATS Surf Shop / ATAO Surfboards (Brittany, France)
Like any business, we could never have anticipated the sudden shutdown. Therefore, we were left loaded with winter stock we couldn’t shift till Spring.

Wipeout, Italy

Wipeout, Italy

What were the key performing categories in your eComm biz during lockdown?
Wipeout (IT):
None, we basically use the online platform as catalogue.

Escuela Cantabra de Surf (ESP):
Special technical stuff. Hardcore material.

ATS Surf Shop/ ATAO Surfboards (FR):
Ecommerce allowed us to sell a few wetsuits for optimistic customers who wanted to be equipped during confinement.

What categories/products have been trending since opening?
Wipeout:
Surfboards, hardgoods in general, skateboards (10 year selling record!).

Escuela Cantabra de Surf:
The sale of wetsuits and accessories has increased as well as clothing. It seems that after being locked up for so long people looked to renew their gear, and as we’ve had so many good swells lately and people have had time to surf, many people renewed their quivers.

ATS Surf Shop/ ATAO Surfboards:
Since the reopening, it’s the technical products essential to the practice of surfing (boards, wetsuits, accessories), that have shifted.

Can you talk us through the current mood with your customers?
Wipeout (IT):
Everyone is happy to use the extra money saved whilst in lockdown to invest in their passion, and as this, this summer will probably be a “locals only” summer: as mentioned before, all categories are going well. Skateboarding is flying.

Escuela Cantabra de Surf (ESP):
I think the first 2 or 3 weeks were good because people needed particular things; those who entered the shop or the school generally really needed or wanted something, and the mood was good. But we also have to consider that now is the highest peak of the season, so we should compare it with last year and comparing both, things are slower.

ATS Surf Shop/ ATAO Surfboards (FR):
Customers are in a spending mood. They come out of frustration and spend as if they’re afraid of being locked down again.

Escuela Cantabra de Surf, Spain

Escuela Cantabra de Surf, Spain

How did you work around SS20 orders being ready for arrival while doors were closed?
Wipeout (IT):
That’s a good point, not for the question itself but for how the market reacted to the problem. We had no problem opening the doors as we work online too, and this allowed us to go in our shop everyday if needed. But most of the order was postponed by the supplier, then started the real problems. With apparel and shoes, in Italy sales start on 4th July, and most of our orders were postponed until after lockdown (Na Pali was just delivered 2 weeks ago – we’ll pay what we’ll sell). At that point we started to negotiate; most of the suppliers offered 30-50% off, some stayed on 0% and got their stuff back. Everyone has been affected by the lockdown, everyone should take charge of their part of the problem, in my opinion. We’ve cut every supplier who doesn’t support this way of thinking.

Escuela Cantabra de Surf (ES)):
Unfortunately, we had to cancel many pre-orders and most of the brands that we work with understood. We did our best to maintain some orders, but with everything closed and no income, it was difficult. Now that  everything has been re-activated, we began to order again. Honestly, now we are just waiting to see how things develop to see if we can risk or not in pre-orders for winter and next season.

During the last 2 economic downturns surfboards sales have boomed. Can you confirm things are going the same way this time?
Escuela Cantabra de Surf (ESP)
I guess that is connected to people having less time working and more leisure time. It makes sense, but at the same time factories nowadays sell so much online that is difficult for us to compete with them. Sales have increased slightly but technical stuff, especially surfboards, it’s not at its best, at least here in the Spanish market.

ATS Surf Shop/ ATAO Surfboards (FR):
The sale of boards has indeed taken off as much as accessories. The past few weeks have allowed us to make up for the shortfall in spring.

ATS Surf Shop

ATS Surf Shop, France

What are the biggest opportunities you’re spotting out there in the surf business landscape at present?
Wipeout (IT):
Everyone should get some Firewire in their shop. Firewire marketing is powerful and sales go well. Also, we’ll probably see an Eco-sustainability turnaround in the next three years in the whole surf industry, new brands are coming up.

Escuela Cantabra de Surf (ESP)
As with all crises, there will be many new opportunities and we hope that this will clean out all the ‘pirates and the people that saw our surfing world as an opportunity for business. I hope that surfing companies will realize that they have to return to the beach, to their roots, and not just think about sales, because otherwise they will lose the essence of what surfing is really about. I think surfing should return to its core, and to me, that is the great opportunity that we now have; stop this nonsense of trying to be something that we’re not and to return to our real roots. Together.

ATS Surf Shop/ ATAO Surfboards (FR)
I don’t know if there any are opportunities, but I just hope that the new economic model will be healthier and that collections will slow down so that the products are devalued less during the end of the season, meaning that the customer will no longer be used to buying at -30% and boards at -20%.

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