Sroka 2023 SUP S/S Preview
Retail Buyers Guide: SUP S/S 2023 Retail Buyer’s Guide
Interviewee: Bruno Sroka, CEO
Many SUP brands expected a comeback to a more rational market in 2022, with a moderate and sound growth. How did things play out eventually?
We have clearly seen, if not a return to normal, a clear decline in sales compared to the previous season. The reasons are numerous.
The first, which was noted at the end of the previous season, is a whiplash effect on retailers’ inventories. The brands, to compensate for delays in the supply chain, have over-ordered. The delay and the surplus of stock have seen the stores filled with 2021 material in the off-season.
When the war in Ukraine was declared, sales and traffic on the sites dropped drastically. Combined with the traditional uncertainties of the French presidential campaign, sales were poor. Stores were forced to sell off to recover cash, while they were already struggling against the low costers.
We are fortunate to offer quality products, recognized in the premium SUP market, but many younger brands have been hit hard. We may have sold less, but to a more technical clientele, looking for performance. We have long been positioned in the inflatable SUP market for professionals and those looking for maximum performance with the benefits of inflatability, and we have benefited from this in recent months.
Will you attend Paddle Sports Show in Lyon? Do you think trade shows remain a place where things happen, after a couple years of (quite successful) Zooms & virtual showrooms?
We will not be there this year.
We think that the product should remain the center of attention, and we have little faith in virtual trade shows. To be able to test, touch and physically understand the product is essential. Especially for high end products.
What is your strategy to ensure the SS23 products will end up in stores early in the ’23 season?
Technically, they are already there. We don’t renew every year the lines that work very well. The goal is not to propose marketing innovations, but product innovations. They are thought out over the long term, and at present both our customers and ourselves are very satisfied with the range.
For the new products that are coming out, we are ahead of the game with the factories. We also release products when they are ready, rather than being overstocked in winter and just-in-time in summer.
In 2022, the majority of SUP brands did cope with the increased costs of material/shipping, not reflected (that much) of the MSRPs. What about the 2023 models?
We don’t know exactly yet. Our main concern is the euro-dollar rate. The euro has plummeted in recent months, falling below 1 dollar, reducing margins for brands importing products. We have lost about 15 points since the beginning of the year, which is unprecedented. Our pricing will depend on its stability.
However, our goal remains to make high-performance products accessible in terms of price. We will always try to limit the price increase for the end consumer and make the more affordable ranges such as the Ocean Walker even more attractive, with more models.
Please forgive the recurrent question: Beyond the all-around supremacy, any noticeable movement to report in the other categories (touring, SUP surfing, race, river, foiling…)?
It is clearly the foil which pulls its pin from the game. Less accessible, it nevertheless attracts a technical clientele that has been around the board sports. We have made impressive progress on the technology, and foils are now more accessible and more performing at the same time.
People are discovering new conditions and new spots with the foil. It is becoming possible to make incredible downwind with a few strokes of the paddle. We are releasing front wings just for that, to meet the growing demand, like the 1350 and its very high aspect ratio.
Inflatables: Which new technologies & models are you implementing in 2023?
We keep the technologies that have made the strength of our brand: professional semi-rigid boat PVC, glues that are more socially and ecologically responsible than the competition, very high quality dropstitch… They have proven their worth and we continue to use them. The main novelties will be on the paddles and the thickness of the SUP touring and race which are decreasing.
Hardboards: Which new technologies & models are you implementing in 2023?
No hardboard in our range!