How are you dealing with the overstock issue this summer?
Given we already had a surplus of SS22 stock, we downplayed our ordering for SS23, allowing us to introduce a more cohesive new range of boards, graphically speaking, with tweaks to detailing. We invested heavily in developing our website and online sales, which contributed enormously to sales and have more or less now depleted our old stock supported by B2B sales, mostly at much-reduced prices. I would be surprised if any brand thought that SS23 SUP sales would be a big year, which, by any moderate analysis, has plateaued and is on a downward trend until it finds its median base level.
As the sport grows up, do you notice a trend for customers to lean towards more evolved products? (allround > touring or other specific use)
I’m reluctant to broadly call SUP a sport per se, as very few participants consider it to be so; more of a recreational form of mental therapy offering marginal health benefits and the possibility of social networking positives. Most SUP board owners have little interest in going faster or further, so they have marginal equipment needs. The very few with aspirations of wanting more from their SUP activity have equipment ‘wants’ correlating with a need to up-rate their equipment, away from the so-called ‘all-rounder’ toward more specialist designs. Ironically, paddle ownership and the money invested in a high-quality paddle is, in fact, the first step in the right direction toward any form of performance-orientated SUP activity regardless of what niche interest you have, accepting SUP yoga, perhaps. Recognition of investing in a good paddle is an epiphany for many wanna-be better and faster paddlers.
The shipping costs are back to normal, what about materials? Can you tell whether pricepoints will be maintained, reduced?
It’s been a positive development in seeing shipping costs return to some normality when it was rumoured they would remain high. The same cannot be said of material costs nor wages, which are under constant pressure to rise in line with inflation when there’s a general downturn in the market. Reduced prices will only come about due to over-stocked items or a price war, and frankly, the latter would not be ideal for anyone to absorb in our industry. Product prices will either have to go up or margins come down; I think we will need to see how the economics of SS24 look when we get there, given the rapid rate of change right now.
Single or double skin, fusion, welded, cross-stitched, multiple chambers… Technologies and constructions are still very opaque for the average Joe, thus benefiting to the no-name brands with cool graphics or colors. How can we solve this?
That’s a good question. I’ve long considered we, the industry, have been chasing rainbows insofar as what I consider to be the over-development of what amounts to a perfunctory product for the masses; akin to trying to make a better hula-hoop. As iterated before, when you have the majority of end-users who do not recognise SUP as a sport or something remotely high-tech, motivated to buy in through low prices, pretty colours and basic USPs to get afloat, why offer the latest technology and overthink what after all, is a very basic platform upon which to float and paddle. Worst of all, this prices the product out of the reach or interest of your average user. The major brands have, I feel, over-invested in time and effort to out-do one another in a quasi-illusion of technological advancement propped up by marketing hype; meanwhile, many no-name brands offering the basics, have dominated, focussing more specifically upon excellent customer service, informative websites and direct-to-customer strategies. Meanwhile, older established brands remain bogged down in protecting brand equity and image, while no-name brands have had no such limiters of thinking, delivering to the masses no more than what they need. What to do about it? Do as the no-name brands do, the model is there for all to see.
Inflatables: Which new technologies & models are you implementing in SS24?
We’ve taken the view we’ve enough technology invested in the inflatable boards we’re producing, and it’s essential to avoid over-shooting the market in terms of price points as a direct consequence of implementing ever-advancing costly technologies or techniques in manufacture. It’s exponentially unviable. Instead, we are focused on micro-design issues of improving fin design, deck ergonomics, fixtures and fittings and the bag in which inflatables are stored and transported. Additionally, we want to ensure the paddle included provides the best possible, affordable paddling experience.
Hardboards: Which new technologies & models are you implementing in SS24?
Over the years, we’ve invested reasonably heavily in race boards, producing race-winning designs; the juxtaposition today is that team riders and race boards are perhaps less effective as a marketing exercise as against aspirational riders doing extraordinary things on more basic equipment. Consequently, we’re moving more into the touring and all-round adventure designs. For example, we have taken one of our successful race boards, the Vanquish, and repurposed it towards adventuring and touring as a fast, stable platform. Concerning materials, there’s a need to move toward bio-resins and natural fibres, a time-consuming exercise where cost is the enemy in remaining economically viable.
What kind of support do you offer for retailers? (pre-orders sales terms, in-season restocking, demos…)
We’ve implemented a B2B portal on our website, providing buyers with stock levels, pricing and updates to streamline the ordering process. We provide support with marketing, photo imagery, POS materials, and favourable terms in line with order values and product composition. We’ve made ‘in-season’ reorders of stock possible, which we know to be popular, commissions on sales of premium products, and we can provide bespoke sales and product education if required.