– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

Biting the hand that feeds you

Selling products online is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination as far as the worldwide internetland is concerned. Many companies sell their products through their web sites direct to the consumer in a cost-saving, cut-out-the-middleman business model, where they benefit from the retail mark-up profit as opposed to selling their product at a lower wholesale price. But what happens when a company who has built their entire business on the backbone of a network of retailers, who rely on those wholesale distribution channels for their product, decides to adopt this sales strategy? DOH!Retail outlets that range from mall chain stores to the loyal mom and pop surf and skate shops down the street from your house suffer.

There’s been a lot of talk and consternation based on a recent Transworld Business article about Quiksilver revamping its website to include direct to consumer retail sales, effectively cutting out the retail supply chain. While this is a great business model for start-ups and newer companies without a solid retail account base, it’s a swift kick in the teeth to the retailers who are now in direct competition with their suppliers, and in the case of soft goods, their main moneymaker.

You may ask why this is relevant and how it has anything to do with sustainability? That’s a little trickier and broader in scope and it’s something we’ve been wanting to delve into more – exploring underlying core business models of today’s businesses and the forward looking implications of the sustainability principles. So let’s take this latest Quiksilver model as an example.

Quicksilver has over the years developed a loyal retail force, which pushes their product and has helped them build their brand to its current multinational publicly traded status. What has driven them to decide to all of a sudden sever those ties with the same businesses that supported them and created their product base for them? Shareholders. Publicly traded companies are beholden to those who own their stock and are forced to continue to grow their bottom line numbers every year in order to produce the gains that their shareholders require of them.

The old adage applies – “if you aren’t growing you’re dying.” But when is enough enough? Quiksilver Inc.At some point Quiksilver, Inc.’s message – “Quiksilver’s products are sold throughout the world, primarily in surf shops, skate shops and other specialty stores that provide authentic retail experience for our customers” – becomes a lie. For the consumer, the “authentic retail experience” is lost by buying products direct from the company and having no interaction with a “surf shop, skate shop or specialty store” that provides the sort of context to the product that would make it a unique or compelling purchase. Quiksilver becomes just another product produced in a factory offshore. Could they be killing their own brand through unsustainable growth?

Perhaps it’s unfair to single out Quiksilver to make this point, because this is the de-facto business model for most of the larger surf wear companies. It’s just that the article provides some interesting responses from some of Quiksilver’s online affiliates whom are not too happy about the company’s decision to sell their products directly to the consumer.

One of the principles of sustainability is that growth must be controlled in order to avoid depleting resources, human and environmental. I wonder how many of the shareholders of the big surf wear companies actually surf? Do they care about my surfing experience? Do they care about my local break? Do they care about the conditions of the workers in their factories? Chances are that the answer to all of the above is a big resounding NO. The good thing here however is that we as consumers have freedom of choice. And slowly we are learning that supporting our own local economies produces benefits that affect us directly, and that we can have a positive effect in our communities by spending our money with intention.

• Category: environment, news & media,

3 Responses »

  1. You have to aks yourself.
    What are they selling that i really need?
    For me, the answer is , nothing.
    Same goes for all the “surf industry related goods”, don’t wear there billboards shirts or whatever. As a matter of fact, i frequent surfshops rarely. for a leash now and then.
    Get my wax at the hardware store. Build my own boards and fins.
    This surf wear industry has ruined surfing as it was known. I’ve been in love with the slide/glide since ’69.
    Boycott those business that are controlled by shareholders.

  2. To quote Edward Abbey:
    “Growth for the sake of Growth is the ideology of a cancer cell”

  3. Retailers are really just unecessary parasites far better to buy directly from the manufacturer online. Not that I ever buy any Quicksilver stuff, It’s rubbish.