Retail Buyers Guide: SUP 2020
Brand: SIC (Sandwich Islands Composites) aka SIC Maui
Interviewee: Anthony Scaturro, Global Brand Manager
Sales wise, has the SUP market hit the ceiling?
This is a difficult question to answer in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We had very strong 2020 retailer bookings and we were seeing very strong in-store. For SIC we have expanded our range in recreational paddling in both composite and thermo-formed boards, we also launched our foil board collection and expanded our surfboard range from soft foam/glass hybrids and thermo-form boards into a range of premium composite surf with full PVC wrap so SIC was growing for sure.
Overall, I think the market was also stable with market share shifting from less interesting brands to brands that were really innovating both in high end design and technology to brands like SIC that had a nice range of products that offered great value at a more affordable price.
What we know is that as the market has slowed there has been price compression but that said, this offers a lower barrier to entry to newcomers and this helps to drive participation.
All sports hit plateaus! If SUP wants to continue to grow then we must focus on the entry level and youth, maintain a healthy and active paddle community and foster the paddling experience into the higher performance sectors. If we do this then SUP can continue to have a bright future.
What is your vision of the market segmentation, from the core SUPer on the one hand, to the once-a-year paddler?
For the Core SUP paddler you have racing, down wind, expedition, surf and SUP foil boarding
For the recreational paddler you have a ton of segments: cruising (just playing and paddling), touring (people getting out and exploring travelling greater distances), general fitness (to actually get into better shape and as an alternative/accompaniment to the gym), yoga, fishing, recreational surf….
As for channel segmentation this offers also a great opportunity to brands that exist or market to the core sup community, mainstream consumer, boating community, resorts and concessions, rental and high-performance demo, and the list goes on as to the potential channels SUP can sell into.
Apart from the entry-level all-round model, which categories are trending? (touring, waves, race…)
I think this depends on the brand. I think there are a lot of people buying high quality boards for recreational fitness, touring and boards which can be used to race, but they are not necessarily hardcore racers. There have been too many people buying surf shapes to paddle recreationally that will never surf. This to me is one of the mistakes we have made as an industry so it’s good to see lower priced, displacement or at least touring designs over surf shapes.
Do you think hardboards can bounce back and regain market shares on inflatables?
This is a funny question. To me the market is setup like a pyramid in terms of price and technology. If we are embracing new participation, whether they are buying inflatables, thermo plastic boards or low price composites then the overall pyramid, with race board sitting in the top section, should grow proportionately larger. Inflatables are a huge part of the marketing and estimated to be 80% +/- in Europe. That said, we are getting 650+ people on the water in January for the GlaGla race on Lake Annecy – France and nearly all of these people are on composite boards. This is what we have to understand. When we embrace new people, lower the barrier to entry (could be price, technology, access) and then welcome these new paddlers into the greater community, educate, foster, people to connect and paddle with (community) then they will graduate into mid-higher end boards and this builds a sustainable and growing sport/industry. I see all of the technologies as a co-dependent/symbiotic necessity.
What are the main innovations within your 2020 range (inflatables & hardboards)?
For inflatables we have brought some great things to market for 2020. The RS Air-Glide series utilizes a new Carbon Fusion Lite skin which is lighter than normal fusion skin. We also use carbon belt stringers to stiffen and lock in the Rocker.
On our Bullet Series we use Fusion Skin which is amazingly stiff when inflated to just 15 psi and we added a secondary air camber running nearly the length of the board. This add stiffness obviously as you now have 6 sidewalls on the board and of course you now have a redundant bladder system should anything happen when paddling away from the shore or offshore. This is exciting.
For Composite boards we have taken 2 of our award-winning boards, the RS and the Bullet and we have managed to make them even better through fine refinements to the shape which further enhances these two amazing designs. Additionally, we changed factories and now our boards offer a full PVC wrapped EPS core on our Super Fly construction and a full wood veneer wrapped EPS core on our Dragon Fly construction. Super Fly is SIC’s top of the line construction and yet the board still comes in priced under $3,000 USD where other bands would be closer to $4,000 USD. Our Dragon Fly construction is probably the most durable composite construction in the industry. The weight is slightly more than if we build the board in our Super Fly construction but the price averages around $1,700 +/- USD. Some models like the Bullet are offered in both constructions.
Do you value the foiling market?
We value foiling very much! We live a lifestyle of watermen and water women. This means we love to play in the water with not one but many crafts. This keeps things exciting, it brings more people to the water’s edge and that is the KEY. The key is getting people to the water’s edge regardless of what they choose to be on because this creates the opportunity for them to segway into one or more other crafts or for one of their friends or family members to see SUP or something else as something “they” want to do that is not foiling. The real competitor for us is not SUP vs Foil vs Outrigger vs Surfing vs Kiting. The real competitor for the water industry people is when people choose to spend their hard earned money on a new mountain bike, motorcycle, snow skis or board or by taking a “vacation” rather than buying a board and using this as part of their “staycation” plans for themselves or family. Oh and we love foiling because its fun, innovative and interesting!
This may sound candid but don’t you think the mere size of SUPs has impaired their inshop storage, thus leading to the success of online sales?
YES and NO! Online retailers may have more space and have more options whereas a brick & mortar retailer may not have as much space to display and/or store inventory and therefore less model options. At the end of the day I believe it comes down to service, finding your niche and competitive advantage, what value added can you offer on the front end and what after sales service you can offer to keep customers coming back and bringing their friends.
Any piece of advice to brick & mortar retailers concerning their order sorting? (as there is only so much room in their shops and so many SUP categories/models available)
Focus in on brands that have a clear brand image and value proposition. People buy into brands they can connect with and then select a product within that brand that fit their paddling needs and budget. Focus on suppliers that are reliable and investing back into the sport. Focus on brands that continue to invest in innovation and in you! Look for brands that are in it for the long haul and have the financial wherewithal to survive the ups and downs of the industry.
Please name and describe your 3 highlight pieces and items that retailers should definitely order.
BULLET as an award winning all around composite board often called the Swiss Army Knife of SUP
OKEANOS – Inflatable for compactible performance