2018 Australian Retailer of the Year ‘Multi Store’ | Coopers Surf
2018 marked another significant change for the SBIA retail Awards, whereby our retailer of the year awards were recognised on a National level rather than a state level. Both the single door and multi-door awards required a written submission and were judged by an independent panel made of up members from the Australian Retailers Association.
Industry pioneers, Coopers Surf took out the top gong for Australian Multi Store retailer of the year in 2018. Coopers Surf was started in 1969 by Bob Cooper, with the original store situated on the Jetty Strip in Coffs Harbor. Today, Coopers Surf has 7 stores around the Coffs Coast, including their latest edition ‘Urban Life by Coopers Surf’ at Coffs Central and is still owned and operated by two local families.
Not only have Coopers Surf been a stalwart of the surfing industry over the last 49 years, they have also made a significant contribution to their community by employing hundreds of locals and supporting numerous local community and sporting groups.
Lyndall: Pretty significant accolade to take home from the Awards Linz, must have been a pretty special moment to hear ‘and the winner is…Coopers Surf’?
Linz: Yeah it was for sure. A lot of people have put a huge amount of time and effort into Coopers and it was definitely a proud moment and just deserves for the efforts our team have put in over the years.
Lyndall: As mentioned in the intro Coopers Surf has been around since the late 60’s, can you give us a little bit of background as to when you came on board?
Linz: I have had a close connection with Coopers ever since I was a frothing little grommet. I hung out in Coopers and was lucky enough for Bob Cooper to hook me up with a sponsorship deal when I was about 12 or 13. Not long after Quiksilver hooked me up and I had about a 10-12 year association with them. So I guess you could say I have been lurking around for over 30 years.
Like most grommets I dreamed of owning the local surf shop and I’m stoked to of been able to achieve that.
Lyndall: As with any business it evolves over the years, you must have experienced significate change over the past 14 years?
Linz: Yes absolutely. The biggest change and challenge has definitely been the internet, online sales and our supply partners trying to retail.
While surfing has continued to grow and get more mainstream coverage unfortunately a large portion of the surf industry has tried to kill itself to a fair degree with the way they have gone about business.
It doesn’t feel like all that long ago I would get absolutely crucified if I advertised in my own trade zone a sale and had a brand or even a logo anywhere near it. It’s a free for all now!
For whatever reason and I really struggle to get my head around it, a lot of businesses are so focused on top line sales and seem to have no regard for profitability and the longevity of their brands or the industry.
We have some real iconic brands that sponsor amazing events, athletes and a heap of talented grommets around the world that all surfers are stoked on and then on the other side of the same businesses people are killing their brand with this discounting race to the bottom mentality. It must kill the crew in the marketing departments who look after events and athletes watching the other side of their business undo all their good work!
The time has come for change and I am hoping we look back at this summer and we see this was the turning point and the industry got back on track towards where it once was
Lyndall: As mentioned in your intro, Coopers employ a lot of locals and support various community and sporting groups in your area, how important is this for your business?
Linz: Generally speaking we try and employee people we know through one way or another. I have an amazing core group of people that have been with me for a number of years who have helped create a great culture within our business and when we have a job going we throw it out to our team first to see if they have any friends they think would be suitable to become part of the Coopers family. At the end of the day they have to work side by side with them. We tend to find we generally get positive like-minded people that fit in well this way. We always try and promote from within if opportunities higher up come along.
You have to give back to your local community. At end of the day the Coffs Coast is still very regional and most people in the surf community especially tend to know each other. It is critical to support local sporting groups, especially anything to do with surf if we want them to support us. Coopers has had a long association with Coffs Harbour boardriders. I am proud to be a part of the club, being a life member and vice president. The club has won the Simon Anderson national club of the year at the Surfing Australia awards 2 out of the last 3 years. We have an amazing club with a lot of really great people involved. I believe the culture in our local surfing community is 2nd to none and our club is hugely a contributing factor.
Lyndall: In addition to the local support, Coopers sponsors a bunch of athletes as well. How important are your athletes to Coopers and what value do they add to the Coopers Family?
Linz: Yeah we are stoked to help out any promising up and comers along with some of the local legends we have as brand ambassadors. Anyone that is part of our team is looked up to and are leaders in their age groups. It’s all part of creating the right culture in our community, giving back and in turn they help promote our brands/products and drive foot traffic into our stores.
Lyndall: Coopers has a strong presence on social media, how is this run within your business? Have you got a specialist taking care of this, or is it team effort?
Linz: Yes I have a specialist within our business looking after it. We source most our content from our supply partners. Our store managers are empowered to provide content from various brands/products from within their stores also, and also to provide lifestyle shots too if they wish. We all live and breathe the beach/surf lifestyle.
Lyndall: When did Coopers start trading online? Have you found that your vacation customers use this channel to shop with Coopers throughout the year?
Linz: We only really started at the back end of last year and are working on growing it moving forward. A lot of people who grew up here and tourists have always asked when we are opening more shops in other town/cities. Through our online store it is a way they can continue to support us. We are slowly gaining traction and looking to further expand in a premium type model going forward. If all the current season discounting by the various players was to slow I believe we could offer a platform that would be mutually beneficial to both Coopers and our supply partners.
Lyndall: In everyday Coopers Life, what are the priorities for you as a retailer?
Linz: We try and keep it pretty simple.
Source the best most relevant products from the best most relevant suppliers for our business.
Provide knowledgeable friendly customer service.
Support our local community where financially viable.