Interview by Dylan Beach
For the fourth time in a row Strapper’s Mike Di Sciascio has jumped onto the stage during the awards to accept the Vic/Tas Retailer of the year. With such success as an independent retailer in a town that hosts a vast amount of the surf industry in Australia, we thought it would be interesting to catch up with Mike and shoot through a few questions following receiving the award.
Congratulations, it’s been another big year for Strapper Surf walking away with the Vic/ Tas Retailer of the Year. What does that mean for the Strapper team?
It’s such a great acknowledgement of the good work that our team does. We try really hard to do the best job we can and keep doing it ongoing, which to be honest, can be tough at times to do and maintain. Winning it this year and now five years is awesome, all our team are stoked!
What have you felt are the key focus points you have concentrated on over the last year that have kept being successful in Victoria as an independent retailer?
Strapper has quite a list of objectives that we have been working on last year and in fact for a number of years ongoing, aiming at improving what we do and also keeping us on point and relevant as we go forward in a fast changing market. Key is refocusing and elevating our basic retail disciplines especially customer service. We are stoked with the results that we are achieving but need to keep striving for better and to be appropriate for market; it’s an endless objective, as the market/target keeps moving!
Just talking to you on the beach during the tag team event, it was obvious that you are engrained deeply in all elements of surf in Torquay and Victoria. How important is this to you? Do you work hard on this involved with the community in such a ‘surf industry town’?
I’ve always had the view to be a contributor and not just a taker. Surfing, the surf industry and the Torquay surf community have given the Strapper Surf business and I a great life and level of success and I feel it’s important to give back and not just take as I said. It could be as simple as cooking the snags at the Boardriders club barby, being Club president or a surf industry group committee or chair or simply helping one of the surf grommets out. We are really proud of the contributions we have made over 40 years and also being able to share our passion and have heaps of fun doing it!
You were also runner up this year in the Shop Fit Out of the Year Award with your store in Aireys Inlet, which looked amazing. What was that process like transforming a vision into reality?
Hard work!….The Aireys shop ended up being quite a bit more work and more complicated than we had hoped. The building was built in 1952 so we “discovered” a whole lot of issues every time we touched the building. We ran 6 weeks late and over budget but It did end up being possibly our best store fitout so far, so we are super stoked on it. It’s really modest and homely/country feeling but modern and slick at the same time with a great mix of boards and wetties as well as softgoods. Best part is it has a small apartment attached that we use, it has a skate park 50m away, surf 200m away and a creek that is epic to SUP 25m away…Oh and a pub, bar and three restaurant’s within 500m as well. It’s a great store in a great town that we love who have welcomed us.
The surf and boardsports industry is in a really interesting space at the moment with independent and online retailers all going through their ups and downs. Do you think things have improved for the industry over the past couple of years and how do you see the outlook moving ahead?
The industry has been in a state of turmoil for quite a few years now and I think there is definitely more adjustment to come. That provides lots of opportunities though and that’s why we are also seeing some great new brands, products and experiences being offered and that are performing really well. The surfs been pumping here and everyone is stoked on surfing so I am optimistic for the industry and future, even though it’s a challenging market.
What about your own business? How do you see the future and what plans do you have?
Strapper Surf operates in arguably one of the most competitive markets in Australia. We have some of the most surf industry damaging retail activity in Australia happening in our trade zone as well as being effected by surf industry bad, online promotional activity yet we have been able to navigate our business through and survive for 40 + years! We plan to be around for a lot longer and are focussed on being a genuine “surf shop” that listens and responds to our surf community and customers with a curated multi brand offering of soft goods, amazing surfboard and wetsuit brand selection and well as being committed that “we make surfboards” ourselves.