Retailer Profile: Flow, Porthcawl, UK

Shop Name: Flow 

Location: Porthcawl, UK


Flow started due to their being a real need for a quality surf and skate shop in Porthcawl and have nearly completed their first year in business.

What was the reason for starting Flow and why Porthcawl?
We felt that there was a real need for a quality surf and skate store in Porthcawl – The South Wales coastline has some great beaches, and while Cardiff has City Surf, and Swansea has PJ’s, Onboard and Guts, we didn’t have anything similar in Porthcawl. I was brought up here, and it is a great place to be a surfer or skater so opening a store seemed the natural thing to do! 

What do you think are the benefits of having a physical shop over purely a online store?
You can really get across the surf and skate vibe having a physical store – Coney Beach is a 2 minute walk from our doorstep so we often get people calling in for wax or a leash in a dripping wetsuit! You can’t get that on the web! A physical store also stimulates senses you can’t do in webland – So many people comment on how the shop smells – and in a good way!

How do you stay in touch with the wants and needs of your customers?
We are pretty new here, so my motto has been “is there anything we could have sold today if we had it in stock”. And of course, this doesn’t work 100%, but if we are asked whether we can get certain items, more often than not we get it in. It is impossible to please everybody, but we do try very hard! 

How confident are you about the rest of the summer?
Well, so far the summer has been kind to us – the weather has been great, and while the surf hasn’t pumped, the beaches have been busy. We are up on our forecasts so far, and we are monitoring sales really closely so that we are not left with a load of summer stuff over the winter. So to answer your question, we’re quietly confident for August and September. 

What brands are doing well for you at the moment?
C-Skins wetsuits are really doing well for us – they are a great company to work with, and they hold a lot of stock for just-in-time orders. They have really helped us as a new company. Reef sandals and Havaianas have done well, and also Carve, Liive and Nectar Sunglasses – I think the weather has really helped. The other brand that is great for us is Northcore – great quality surf hardware at realistic prices. And we also took a punt on Vissla – The product is great, and tees and caps have sold really well.

Do you have any events or upcoming initiatives planned to encourage people into your store?
Yeah. We help out a few of the local lifeguard clubs with incentives on wetsuits – they recently had a big event and we sponsored the leaflet for the day. We currently have a promo on backpacks for back-to-school which will run until the end of August. And then in October we will be co-sponsoring the Elusive Open of surf – a surf comp which is going to be held at Rest Bay. Nick (the main man at Elusive) always runs a tight ship, so we are stoked to be involved with that one! We’re also long-time members of the Welsh Coast Surf Club (which started back in 1969) so we always try to help out with any events they are running. 

How do you use social media to your advantage to promote your store?
We’re pretty active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram although we try to post different things to each outlet. As a consumer, I get bored when a brand just links every post together. It is a bit more work but I think you interact in a more meaningful way with your followers. We are trying to build our fan base organically, as opposed to paying – It will take longer, but I think you get a better “quality” following – if that makes sense!

Which up and coming brands do you hope to stock in the future?
We are looking at some surfboard brands, but that is all on the quiet at the moment – Looking at neoprene, we are stoked to be taking on Matuse Wetsuits for AW14, and then for SP15 we will get involved with Billabong too. I used to work for them, and I think the company has been through some changes recently (for the better). Their offer looks great on the hardware side of things, so we are confident it will go well. Sanuk footwear is another great brand we are hoping to secure too. 

Outlook for the rest of 2014?
We’re excited for Autumn, and getting stocked with Winter wetties, and then we are going to have a birthday bash in October (we opened October 12th last year). And then the run up to Christmas will be chaotic as ever! My partner and I are expecting our second baby in September so everything could go a bit mental, but it’s good to be busy right? 

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