You’ll have noticed from Source’s recent articles on Cold Water Surf, and the CWS platform at ISPO, that it’s a trend people are really starting to take seriously. In this issue’s Retailer Profile, Source spoke with our good friends over at Nordic Surfers Mag to see which surf shop is doing it best in Scandinavia. Here’s Matthew Baxter, owner of Red Snapper in Malmö, Sweden to give us an insight into the Scandi CWS retail scene.
Please give us a brief history of Red Snapper.
I started the store in 2005 here in Malmö, Sweden, but I’ve been surfing here since 1996, and I wanted to make it easier to get good suits, boots and gloves.
Scandinavia is gaining a lot of traction as Cold Water Surfing becomes ‘trendy’. Why is this?
I think Norway is, and deserves international recognition for its good waves and empty line-ups. Sweden has its days but they’re few and far between. We’re better known for our beautiful ladies, Ikea, and meatballs!
Which brands do you see are really contributing to Cold Water Surf in an effective way?
I don’t want to fence sit, but they’re all pushing each other, which can only be a positive. Brands are only as good as their last suit, boot or glove. Personally, I use the O’Neill Pyro 6/4. I think the design’s excellent, as well as the flex. The boots I’m currently using are Xcel Drylock RT 7mm and I use Xcel Drylock 5mm three finger gloves. With those, you can withstand anything the Swedish winter throws at you. Having said that, I think Patagonia are on the right track with their environmentally conscious suits and high quality Japanese neoprene.
Are new lines important to your product mix?
As far as cold water wetsuits are concerned, I’d say no. Generally, the customers know what they want. If someone’s stoked on their suit, boots or glove, they let their mates know. For example, a lot of the time, customers will come in and say that their mate is over the moon with the Drylock 7mm Round Toe Boot – and that’s the only one they’re interested in, so it makes it hard for new brands to break in. I’ve heard Billabong are stepping up with a new suit and I’ll definitely be checking that out.
Clothing-wise? For sure. Rhythm’s a good example. I took them on board two years ago and it sells really well. I have customers that I email when the gear arrives and they come in straight away to check it out. This summer I will be stocking Afends for the first time and I’m sure that’ll go well too. If the style’s cool and the quality’s top notch, the customers are into it.
Please break down the difference between the requirements of a Scandinavian surfer to those elsewhere in Southern Europe.
Obviously in the winter months we need thicker suits. An integrated hood is more or less a necessity. If your gear is not up to the task, you’ve got half an hour in the water and it’s over. I mean, once the foot or hand goes numb, it’s all downhill from there. When you travel an hour for surf, you want to be able to stay in the water for up to four hours. Plus, it could be a week before there’s waves again. It’s a bit like anywhere… With accurate weather forecasts, you can see the surf coming from almost a week away. That means you’ve got to start making plans; it’s usually only a short window and you want to make the most of it. Surfers here are skipping lectures and sneaking out of work – but that’s the same, the world over.
What trends do you see upcoming in surfboards?
Everyone’s riding a bit shorter, but upping the volume a bit. The weight of the rubber and the lack of salt in the water means the extra volume is only an advantage. When you’re only surfing three or four times a month, it’s important to have the right board – or boards. A good analogy would be: ‘When entering the race; better a Ferrari than a Trabant…’
What kind of advice can you give other independent retailers who are trying to compete against the big box megastores?
Stick to quality gear and make sure the customer is stoked with his or her purchase. When I’m ordering t-shirts and boardshorts, I’m going over it like a CSI agent. Make sure the gear you’re purchasing isn’t going to turn up in a chain store near you – or anywhere else, for that matter.