Interview by Dylan Beach
If you were lucky enough to get along to last month’s Industry Roundtable in Coogee, you would have had a book full of notes after retail specialist Peter James Ryan from Red Communications shined a light on current Australia retail environment and the opportunities of the surf industry. We thought one session with Peter wasn’t enough so we flicked Peter a few questions to follow up. Enjoy.
Firstly, What did you think of the SBIA Roundtable – How do you think the concept works in engaging and relevant for the industry?

Great idea that could do with some more structure and some shared objectives in order to give it a bit more teeth. But the idea of coming together, being stimulated & inspired and then discussing what you can do to make the industry better for everybody is essential.

Your presentation was well received throughout the room but for those that didn’t get the opportunity to attend, what do you think key take outs for the surf industry to take notice are?

The surf industry in my opinion killed the goose that laid the golden egg and needs to rediscover its mojo. It has one of the best opportunities of all retail categories to get sustainable profit growth as long as it stays focussed, disciplined and not too greedy.

You were very quick to be positive across the surf retail industry in Aus, saying that retail is actually up in Australia, but there are some areas that can be improved. What do you think the top 5 things that surf retailers can do now to better themselves.

The top 5 things are:

1. Focus every endeavour on the joy of surfing. As long as you stay true to that essential point of truth you can’t go far wrong.

2. Control distribution of branded surf wear, like the industry used to do up until the 1990’s when it went all corporate and greedy.

3. Make sure the people who design the product and have contact with the customer actually surf & are passionate about the lifestyle.

4. Make the stores deeply immersive, multi-sensory & engaging for the customers.

5. Range to sell out & sell to value not price. You don’t have to be afraid of sell price inflation if a) the products are over-distributed and b) they are designed and manufactured with integrity because people are looking for products that are special not functional.

Lastly, can you see any particular advantages that the surf industry has over the general retail industry? Are there any disadvantages that you can see also?

The great advantage the surf industry has is the passion of the people who love surfing. It is a giant cult with a special set of rules that people outside it aspire to. That is what gives it leverage and that is what has been wasted in recent years. Get back to that and keep it pure and the surf industry will prosper. The disadvantages are simply that too many people get involved in the mix who don’t really fit the culture, aren’t true merchants and don’t get the fundamental laws of retail. If you can get rid of the exploiters and the pretenders and keep the industry true to its essence (including magnifying its Australian flavour) it will be a very prosperous and sustainable category. But get too greedy and bland it out for excessive growth beyond its natural glass ceiling and it will perish.