Surf retailing – what next?

Surf Retailing

I’ve been touring the surf shops of Brighton, handing out posters for the Museum of British Surfing’s first exhibition at its permanent home in Braunton, Devon*. It’s made me realise how much surf retailing has changed and wonder where its going.

There are 3 ‘proper’ independent surfshops (Filf/Bone Idol, Oceansports and Brighton Watersports) run by surfers (or other watersports enthusiasts) all within sight of the sea. These all have long pedigrees and sell the hardware needed by surfers as well as surf brand clothing. The other 2 shops are outlets for global ‘outdoor lifestyle’ brands O’Neill and Quiksilver (2011 gross profits US$1.08BILLION) that are located smack bang in the the heart of the shopping centre and mainly sell their own brand clothing and a little bit of the other hardware (wax) needed by surfers. Then, of course, there is the growing band of online retailers, including the local surf community website, Sharkbait, able to operate without coughing up for retail premises.

I can’t help wondering where surf retailing is heading. My own experience of buying from big online shops hasn’t been too happy – products didn’t live up to expectations or the wrong stuff was sent necessitating time, money and hassle exchanging it. I don’t resent the founders of global brands (surfers themselves) cashing in on the popularity of the surfing lifestyle, but I don’t want to swell their coffers anymore.

Independent surfshops must be getting squeezed from all directions but there has to be a future for them as no-one in the right minds buys a surfboard or wetsuit without inspecting them or trying them on first and its these shops that are most familiar with local conditions. Spending money in these shops helps the local economy, rather than making multinationals even richer. Support your local surfshop.

*All shops I visited were very willing to take the posters and show their support for the Museum which started in Brighton.

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