Vestis Retail Group, the parent company of sports equipment and apparel stores Sport Chalet, Eastern Mountain Sports, and Bob’s Stores has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today.
I don’t have the financials for Bob’s Stores or Eastern Mountain Sports, but if the numbers for them looks like that of Sport Chalet, it looks like it’s another victim of passing trends and Amazon. I wrote about the bankruptcy of Quiksilver and how it can save itself, and about Amazon‘s effect on Walmart.
Mountain sports presents another challenge above its sea-level cousin, surfing. It costs a LOT more money to go skiing. Skis, jacket, goggles, beanies, gas, food, etc. The list goes on and on. With the slow economic recovery putting Vestis’s holdings on a slower expansion pace, downsizing and keeping only strategic stores in wealthier markets would have slowed the cash flow hemorrhage. Another factor unique to snow sports is the abnormally warm winters with little snowfall. This climate factor greatly hurt sales.
Who knows what the boardroom meetings were like when CEO Mark Walsh, CFO Susan Riley, and others were meeting; nonetheless they should’ve listened to the decision-maker that had a closer eye on industry, market, and environmental trends.
In every business plan, I include industry and market analysis that covers the trends, threats, and emerging opportunities for every business.
Last week I highlighted aspects about Quiksilver’s bankruptcy. So this is what Quiksilver and other surf brands do should to save themselves.
Looks like the other big surf brand, Billabong is also hurting too with diminishing revenues and net losses from 2012 to 2014.
Recently Billabong also sold its other assets: DaKine, Swell.com and Surfstitch to enhance liquidity.
Billabong also thought about selling RVCA but didn’t. I’ll get to that in a bit.
As I discussed in my previous post, Quiksilver bankruptcy is partly due to surfing not being as cool as it used to be.
So what is cool?
If extreme sports was cool in the ’90s and ’00s, extreme athletics is cool now. MMA and CrossFit is cool.
In March 2015 WWE announced a 50/50 joint venture partnership with MMA brand, TapOut. Founded in 1997, the brand had $200 million in revenues in 2010. Later that year the founders sold it to Canadian company Authentic Brands Group LLC for an undisclosed sum.
CrossFit had 8,000 affiliates in October 2013. As of January 2014 the company had 9,000. In May 2014 it hit 10,000 affiliates.
As shown by strategyandanalytics.com’s graph featured in Fast Company’s article, CrossFit’s popularity growth is amazing.
Of course, most people don’t actually want to do WODs and armbars. They only want to dress like they do, much like surfing and snowboarding.
This is why it’s no coincidence that Reebok (doing well financially with 5% growth in 2014 and seven consecutive quarters of growth) has its hand in the UFC and CrossFit.
Under Armour is so popular. Under Armour which also makes products for MMA and CrossFit enthusiasts were named as one of the most valuable American brands by Fashionista and as one of the top 10 MMA brands by FightState.
Heck, even Adidas (Reebok’s parent company) makes judo gis!
But Reebok isn’t a surf brand!! Quiksilver isn’t an MMA/CrossFit brand!!!
So going back to RVCA. RVCA, is a popular surf brand that is also popular amongst the brazilian jiujitsu crowd with its sponsored athletes such as MMA star BJ Penn amongst BJJ stars. RVCA recently did a collaboration gi with uber popular gi brand Shoyoroll. Billabong decided to keep this brand.
As RVCA has shown, it is possible for a surf brand to do a brand extension into other lifestyle activities.
So what should Quiksilver do?
Change their marketing communications. Surf ads right now are blondes in exotic tropical locations. Unfortunately for Quiksilver and other surf brands is that demographics are changing: wealth discrepancy is large also Hispanics and Asians are the fastest-growing minorities in the US. This growing market segment might not have the money or time to travel to exotic destinations nor do they even look like a pro surfer such as Alana Blanchard.
So abandon their existing surf model? No, look at the other elements of surf. The aspects of the lifestyle that are more relatable to this large, young, and growing market segment:
Surf spots: Urban surf spots such as old Huntington Beach (it wasn’t always the gentrified “Surf City USA” it is now), Long Beach, Rockaway Beach NY, San Pedro, etc. Even urban Honolulu can be a little edgy.
Embrace their connections with the skate world.
Athletes: Add famous MMA and/or CrossFit athletes that also surf. Especially with the Reebok-UFC deal, lots of MMA fighters are looking for more sponsorship money. UFC middleweight contender Luke Rockhold surfs in Santa Cruz.
Other lifestyle images: Tattoos and asphalt instead of sunsets and palm trees, turntables instead of ukeleles.
Diversify: Buy or strategic partnership with boxing/muay Thai brand Fairtex/etc. or Brazilian jiujitsu brand Gameness/etc.