Surf shop: still a good business | Photo: Mollusk Surf Shop

The US surf and skate industry is managing to keep the sales up, despite the challenging economic times. 54% of core surf/skate retailers believe their gross retail sales are up anaverage of 16% in 2010 from 2009 levels. The research conducted by the Leisure Trends Group and commissioned by SIMA also reveal a a shift in the industry’s core retail landscape.

"We have seen considerable contraction in the independent wholesale channel and rapid expansion into mall chains and all forms of owned retail, and this shift is reflected in the sales data", says Doug Palladini, SIMA President and Vice President of Marketing for Vans.

Total sales dipped 13.6% from $7.22 Billion in 2008 to $6.24 Billion in 2010, but things are getting better as the world economy rises from recession. Passion and youth continue to largely drive the surf industry. Surfers and skaters view the industry as a lifestyle, not a passing trend. Thus the core of the industry remains strong despite the tough economic times.

The loyalty of surfers andskaters to the lifestyle and sport is shown in the increasing demand for surf/skate footwear, wetsuits and hard goods as evidenced by the growth of these key categories.

"The good news among remaining core board sports retailers is that their opportunity is perhaps greater than ever,” says Sean Smith, SIMA Executive Director. “Surfing is a culture and sport defined by passion - it’s not a hobby or pastime for core participants. Even in a down economy, core surfers will keep surfing and youth will still desire to be apart of the surf lifestyle and culture."

Footwear generates the greatest sales with $1.5 billion (up 8.2% over 2008). Wetsuits sales also increased to $110.4 million in 2010 (up 24.3% over 2008) and returning to a level not seen since 2006.

With 47% of total retail sales in 2010 being attributed to the West region, the increase in sales of wetsuits could be credited to the record low temperatures in Southern California during the year, as well as the evolutionary innovation and technology used in wetsuits the past two years.

The surfboard and skateboard hard goods category showed large sales growth in 2010 increasing to $1.46 billion (up 35% from $1.07 billion in 2008). As a strong emerging trend, SUP sales generated $14.5 million among core surf shops and accounted for 9% of total surfboard sales.

Boasting an average retail price of $1,105, SUPs are the most expensive product in the hard good category, followed by surf longboards, which average $691 per board.

Many independent core retail stores that have closed their doors in the past two years have been replaced by specialty chain stores or brand-owned stores causing only a slight dip in total surf/skate doors to 4,826 in 2010 (down 1.7% from 4,910 stores in 2008).