Should I open a Surf Shop?

inter_webz's picture
inter_webz started the topic in Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 2:38pm

Hey all, I've been debating opening a surf shop for a while now. I grew up in a coastal town, and most of my part-time jobs through school and uni were in surf shops. After moving to the city after uni and having a corporate job for a while, I am in a position to invest money into opening a surf shop.

I understand that running a shop is not all glamorous, but I am up for the challenge. I am just looking for advice from seasoned veterans about things I should look out for, and what advice would you give a new starter? I can navigate my way through setting up a business, commercial leases, customer services, etc ...

I am finding it difficult to reach out to various suppliers and get a response. It seems like the suppliers in the surf industry are a murky "who do you know?" type of situation, or am I wrong?

I would highly appreciate any input, comments, or advice. Also, what kind of surf shop would you like to see?

Cheers!

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 5:19pm

Bump

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 5:34pm

Get reliable supply of Pagey's Cream wax and a good supply of hard-ware.

Make customers regular and feel like they are invested.

Good luck.

What region?

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 5:52pm

If I can offer any advice it would be to steer clear of a commercial lease. And I say that from experience.

If there is anyway you can buy your property freehold then I would look into that.

Personally, I think bricks and mortar retail is a hard slog these days. Sad to say you've got people coming in, trying on your gear, picking your brain, squeezing rails and then walking out to go and buy the stuff online cheaper. And at the end of the day, you still gotta come up with the rent. Rent money is dead money imo.

If I was going to do it, first and foremost I'd be looking at my region and if there is enough local and passing trade to sustain a surf shop and what competition you're faced with. In addition, you have to factor in all the other associated costs of owning a business- compliance etc.

Third, I'd look at adding value by doing something like a cafe or coffee shop or something like that to add another revenue stream. There's good margins in coffee, cake and sangas.

Finally, service. Always give great friendly service. Make anybody who walks through your door feel special, without exception. Build your customer base.

And to end, don't expect to make money straight away. If you do, good luck to you but I reckon it takes a couple of years to build and establish a business that starts offering you a reasonable ROI.

Good luck mate from someone who has been there and done it (not a surf shop though).

inter_webz's picture
inter_webz's picture
inter_webz Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 6:16pm

You definitely gotta have some Cream wax!
Sydney's northern beaches

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 6:19pm

Keep a fully stocked rack of Webster Desert Storms next to the Cream wax

inter_webz's picture
inter_webz's picture
inter_webz Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 6:20pm
zenagain wrote:

If I can offer any advice it would be to steer clear of a commercial lease. And I say that from experience.

If there is anyway you can buy your property freehold then I would look into that.

Personally, I think bricks and mortar retail is a hard slog these days. Sad to say you've got people coming in, trying on your gear, picking your brain, squeezing rails and then walking out to go and buy the stuff online cheaper. And at the end of the day, you still gotta come up with the rent. Rent money is dead money imo.

If I was going to do it, first and foremost I'd be looking at my region and if there is enough local and passing trade to sustain a surf shop and what competition you're faced with. In addition, you have to factor in all the other associated costs of owning a business- compliance etc.

Third, I'd look at adding value by doing something like a cafe or coffee shop or something like that to add another revenue stream. There's good margins in coffee, cake and sangas.

Finally, service. Always give great friendly service. Make anybody who walks through your door feel special, without exception. Build your customer base.

And to end, don't expect to make money straight away. If you do, good luck to you but I reckon it takes a couple of years to build and establish a business that starts offering you a reasonable ROI.

Good luck mate from someone who has been there and done it (not a surf shop though).

Some invaluable tips there @zenagain! I'd love to have a cafe of some sort within the shop, I was actually planning on having a coffee machine and sell flat whites to customers haha

burleigh's picture
burleigh's picture
burleigh Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 6:30pm

If you want it, do it.

Loads of online content is essential. Invest in this correctly and you will succeed. (Social media content)
Along with online quality content, digital marketing will also be essential weather you want to target the local area or broaden your horizons with online shipping. Social media advertising/google ads based on location and certain interests.

It won’t be easy, many have tried and failed, but you must think bigger than your own bricks and mortar store and word of mouth.

What’s your target market? I would build 5 - 6 ideal customers (age, ability, income, location) Understand this and build your shop around it.

Create a community.

inter_webz's picture
inter_webz's picture
inter_webz Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 6:52pm
burleigh wrote:

If you want it, do it.

Loads of online content is essential. Invest in this correctly and you will succeed. (Social media content)
Along with online quality content, digital marketing will also be essential weather you want to target the local area or broaden your horizons with online shipping. Social media advertising/google ads based on location and certain interests.

It won’t be easy, many have tried and failed, but you must think bigger than your own bricks and mortar store and word of mouth.

What’s your target market? I would build 5 - 6 ideal customers (age, ability, income, location) Understand this and build your shop around it.

Create a community.

I will definitely invest in online content, I have worked at various companies over the years both selling physical products and software products and online content marketing is a must these days! And I will be offering online shopping, it is so convenient that you can't go without it! Especially if you want your surf essentials delivered through the year like wax, sunscreen, repair kits ...

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 7:04pm

Ive had two good mates go down this avenue both had worked in surf shops for years prior, both very charismatic, good with people with a good business head and of course passionate surfers.

My mate with the most experience failed the other still has the shop and is killing it.

The difference between the two was.

The one that failed set up shop where i live now but there is heavy competition, three well established surf shops of over 30 to 40 years that own their own premises and have loyal customers.

While the one that has had success started his shop in a decent sized town with crappy waves but there was only one other surf shop that was more a clothing shop and not run by surfers, he has been so successful the competition has closed up shop.

So yeah i think being realistic and analysing your competition is really important on how successfully you may be, i think in areas with very well established shops with loyal customers especially if they own their own premises it would be really hard.

flollo's picture
flollo's picture
flollo Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 7:00pm

As with any business I strongly suggest you allocate appropriate time for analysis. And then multiply it by 3 and keep analysing. Very saturated market, I would spend huge amount of time studying my competition and finding gaps in the market. Walk into every single shop, try to get insider information about who’s supplying who and at what terms. That’s where I would personally start, I wouldn’t worry about shop itself in the early stage.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 8:39pm

I created product and stocked this environment when younger. I was successful and hit a niche, and had a supportive relationship with retail, supplies, etc. Focusing on difference and striving for quality improvement, I was able to find my way with prices and find where the market value for the product sat. It was a great experience.
As Burleigh said, know your customer, but also know what affects your customer. I did this in a time of increasing interest rates, and there was a point in cycle in this area where discretionary spending just vanished. At that time, I pondered if having a stripped down, cheaper product might help sales for my retail connection; but things moved faster and they were sent out of business. It was a sad process to view from just outside. In particular, I remember their problems with suppliers near the end - they treated the retail horribly, imo. I lost a little stock in this ending and was recompensed as best as they could.
Overall though, being young and ambitious (and not invested with capital in the retail), I'm stoked with that experience and can draw from it.

Optimist's picture
Optimist's picture
Optimist Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 5:02am

What indo said was very good and I have a few tips for you as beside being a tradesman, I was asked to manage two stores in different towns that I lived in.
The first thing is, if there is a successful store in that town and it sells boards as well and the town is not that big, don’t do it as you’ll just create a problem for the other shop. They were there first.
If the market is there, find your store and if you have some money then buy the premises and pay it off. You can always sell it if you fail. If you are on limited money lease a store and make sure you put a 30 days notice escape clause into it in case you go belly up. You’d be surprised how many owners will go for it if they have been sitting empty for a while. Sell boards, if your not going to sell boards you are a fraud. Use a good local shaper to consign his boards and sell two popular brands as well. Have boards for old guys, you’d be amazed how many shops have 6 6” as their biggest board and the old crew have all the money….sell 6 8” and up performance boards as well as the usual. Learn about shaping, rocker, concave ,vee , rails…you’ll sell 5 times more boards if you can surf and know your stuff. There are a lot of clothing brands so just find the ones you can sell in your region and all the reps will come to you. E.G . you can’t sell rip curl if there is another shop doing it etc. ..find some new clothes as well that are cool and different. Invite some young local surf girls to help you choose stock…Have a loyalty card for locals that gives them 10% off boards and 20% off clothing and accessories. If not , half your stock will be sold at 50% off on sales anyway so why wait, get rid of it now and turn it over. Make it a cool place to hang out and the coffee idea is good if you have the room. Have a consignment rack for any decent looking 2nd hand boards and charge 20% commission. Put them on gumtree and Facebook when they come into stock and build a reputation for secondhand boards that cost nothing to stock. Even secondhand customers buy leggies and covers etc etc. ….remember too, that your building yourself a prison to be in 7 days a week so be sure it’s what you want to do. Find some clever young local staff to give you a break …teach them about boards as well.
The most important thing of all, is love your customers…if you just see money you will fail…if you see community, friendships, people of all characters you will do well.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 7:14am

Good advice Optimist especially regarding looking after the locals and old guys .....local store/s here dont give locals a discount so guess what i dont go there anymore and old guys are mostly cashed up and need larger equipment.....also dont forget the women ..seems to me they are fast becoming the biggest market.

Optimist's picture
Optimist's picture
Optimist Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 8:01am

Simba your right about the women, that’s why you have young women pick your clothes lines. They are the only ones who really spend up big on clothing while their boyfriends walk around in rags but have excellent quivers….ha…Priorities eh….the tourists like their brand tees and shorts etc and are the biggest holiday market so cater for them…lots of size L and XL men’s is a must.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 9:52am

Surf boom is over - decades ago. Shop based retail is in decline. Prime shop in prime location can still do well but a new start up, in marginal location, not so much.

Kids buy online and don't care about brands nearly so much as they did in the 80s and 90s. Spare money goes on mobile phones, apps, crypto etc not on expensive logo products so much.

Brands do not always support a new shop if competitors are nearby, so you end up with the crappy brands.

Kids will try on the wettie, shirt or shoes in your store and then walk out and buy it on line.

Rent - often clauses have a compound escalation clause - shopping centres love to ease you in at a low starting rent, then (if they survive) the 5% or 8% per annum clause kicks and over time they suck out your profits knowing you are locked in.

You most likely wont be surfing much unless the store is really good (some become set and forget - most are not) - serving, ordering, hiring, firing, managing, pricing, worrying etc. Surf shops are quite complex little businesses - fashion, hardware, shoe store etc combined - you have to be an excellent in tune buyer to get the mix right. These days you need point of sale systems, bar codes on every item - must enter all stock in the computer - who does that data entry? You, or pay someone to do it? System or computer problems and you have a headache.

In marginal stores the owner is trapped behind the counter and in the store room doing as much as possible to avoid paying staff often 6 to 7 days a week. Retail can = jail. Not much surf freedom.

Profits? Often 90% of the year is break even then all the profit is made at Xmas in 3 weeks. Worry 90% of year. Smile for 3 weeks. Except in Covid lockdown.

Other than that it is a great idea...

burleigh's picture
burleigh's picture
burleigh Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 10:19am

Yeah the more I think about it the less I think it’s a good idea.

mickseq's picture
mickseq's picture
mickseq Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 6:15pm

I have been in business for many years in a very competitive industry and I can tell you that you should take other peoples opinions including mine with a grain of salt. The fact that you are thinking about doing something like this, you should take note of, maybe not a surf shop but what else?, maybe this question will lead to something else, start researching day by day. Many projects I have started have ended up leading to something different, maybe start and see what happens. But what I would recommend is always offer high quality in every single area of your business, even if your price point doesn't command it, be particular about this. If your looking for some "original" inspiration such as a "Surfing website etc" really think out side the box so for eg, do a surfing website search in countries like : Norway, Mexico, Sweden, Israel, etc this may seem silly, but people often think differently about the same things we think of in different countries, thus, leading to different designs, shop fronts, products, marketing etc. I spend alot of time overseas and this is where almost all of my inspiration comes from, good luck