The Body Glove Low-Down
Body Glove VP of Marketing Scott Daley on new NSSA partnership, company sales, & being privately held
How is Body Glove doing?
The brand is going through a bit of a revival in the core and especially in California, and it’s been fun to see it happen. We took everything we were doing and started over. We have a new marketing team that is changing what people know of Body Glove and are bringing back traditions of what we were known for when Bill and Bob Meistrell created the first wetsuit in 1953. We moved back to the original Dive N’ Surf location that Bill and Bob first built, and the brand’s headquarters are now directly upstairs from the flagship shop. We’re starting to see the results at the register.
Dedication to the ocean and product innovation is what this company’s DNA is made up of, and we’ve gone back to that. We’ve also gone back to using our #FitsLikeAGlove original slogan that Bill and Bob Meistrell first used when they founded Body Glove and designed the very first wetsuits.
Our products across men’s and women’s categories are also better than ever. We still have a lot of things in the works for 2016 and beyond.
What about sales?
Our sales around the world are growing. Since 2006, we have had a 7% average growth-rate per year in worldwide sales.
Our focus right now is really on the core, and sales are up in this channel. Having a strong connection with specialty retailers has always worked for the brand. Core surf wetsuit sales are up. We have been trying to educate ourselves with core retailers to find out what they know and have heard about the brand so we can plan our attack. Having a strong connection with retailers has always worked for the brand.
In February, we took five of our key retailers to Hawaii during the Volcom Pipeline Pro Contest and had them stay at the Body Glove House right on the beach at Off The Wall. Usually we rent a separate house for staff and retailers, but this year we had the groms, the pros, BG staff and retailers all in one house and everyone loved it. It was definitely chaos at times, but Body Glove has always been about sharing the experience of our lifestyle. When Bob and Bill started the company it was never about being rich. It was about getting people in the water and doing what they love. This was one extension of that, and we plan to do more grassroots events with retailers like the Hawaii event.
What’s new product-wise?
Product-wise, on the men’s wetsuit side, our Vapor X Red Cell wetsuit is the most innovative and warmest suit in the market. The suit uses a high tech material that literally traps infrared heat in the areas you need to stay warm and keeps you in the water longer. We brought only a limited run of them in last year and they sold through fast so we are bringing it back in a bigger way for next fall. This suit will keep you warm all winter long
The Prime series of wetsuits have also been incredibly popular. The Prime utilizes our Evo-flex (short for evolutionary) rubber composite that makes it one of the most flexible, Gumby-like suits on the market. Guys are loving it.
On the women’s side, the Topaz suit has been said by retailers to be the most technically advanced female wetsuit that’s also the easiest suit to get into and out of. One retailer told me a woman broke her finger trying to get into and out of a competitor’s wetsuit, so we are pretty happy with the response about the Topaz. It’s a great looking suit and really comfortable and functional.
All the suits have great fit and comfort. One of the things Bob and Bill did when they first designed suits was to offer a custom fit. They also were the first to offer colored suits, mostly in nude for Hollywood actors who had to do water scenes and didn’t want to be cold. Getting color right back then was pretty challenging.
Today, you can get a custom color wetsuit on our website. It’s not something we have marketed heavily, but it’s a fun product we offer.
We also have a wetsuit designer, John Federoff, who has been designing wetsuits for over 30 years, and has worked with all the top brands. Rather than sending line drawings to somebody in China to interpret, John creates 3-D patterns in the USA.
Beyond wetsuits, in boardshorts, our designer, Junior, has done an amazing job. Junior is the son of the founder O.P, and no one knows boardshort history and design more than him. We are getting a lot of success in boardshorts. We just sold out of our own inventory of Jamie O’Brien’s signature shorts.
How about your athletes?
The athlete team is top notch. Besides having some of the biggest chargers like Jamie O’Brien, Tatiana Weston Webb, Anthony Walsh, and Alex Gray, we have a stable of young kids coming through like Nolan Rapozza and Imai Devault.
This is the first year we have had an athlete on the WSL. Female rookie Tatiana Weston Webb is going to be a game changer for the brand on the women’s side. Someone told me she’s like a cross between Carissa Moore and Alana Blanchard. She’s currently ranked number three on the CT and number one in the world on the QS.
Its fun to look through the archives of so many people we work with in the surf industry that have been a part of Body Glove in some way. From Hobie Alter, Herbie Fletcher, Joey Buran, Gerry Lopez, Larry Bertlman, Peter Townend to Jeff Booth, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Vince De La Pena, Kelly Gibson, and Ted Robinson – just to name a few, these guys have all worn the Body Glove hand logo at some point in their careers. It’s fun to see them either running companies or still making a living from surfing in a major way.
Tatiana is in a lot of your swim ads. Can you talk about swim?
In swim, our line is performing better than ever. We’ve expanded into cross over items like funky paddle suits and swim capris. We’re continuing to grow at retail stores like Diane’s, Swim ‘n Sport, and 500 independent shops throughout the Americas. A great thing about Body Glove swim we offer a huge range of coverages, 13 solid colors, and 20 prints, and in a range of sizes that’s deeper than most brands. Giving independent retailers so many options is the key to our success.
We’ve been hearing a lot about the new Breathe line. How is that performing?
Breathe by Body Glove, our new women’s activewear line, has been one of our biggest wins this year. Products were placed at accounts like PacSun, Urban Outfitters, Sun Diego, Diane’s, Nordstrom, and a whole range of yoga studios, and independent retailers.
The idea behind Breathe is to offer the active customer something other than the typical yoga and athletic lines. We’re inspired by our own love of the oceans, mountains, and everything in between. We’d rather “paddle out” than “work out” and we’ve found that the Body Glove girl feels the same way.
We just finished putting the 2016 line together and we’re very excited! We’ve made some tweaks, added a ton of prints and bright colors, and we’re offering a more expansive line.
Is there anything that hasn’t been working?
One thing we have not done a great job at over the years is telling our brand story, and it’s been confusing to customers at times. We have some new blood in the office, and they are working to bring back some of our stories and key heritage pieces as well as better telling the stories of those who live the Body Glove lifestyle today. Bill and Bob were the ultimate watermen They lifeguarded and dove and cleaned Redondo beach city pipes underwater to fund Dive N’ Surf where they built the surf wetsuits. Then they took people diving and taught them how to dive safely, which launched into a huge dive school for us. They were the first to build wetsuits in surf and they helped pioneer the surf industry and sponsored some of the biggest surf events over the years. These guys along with others helped create what we know as the current surf industry. We haven’t felt the need to boast about all that, but I think it’s okay to embrace our heritage and talk about what we are doing now outside of the South Bay and in our office.
You have a new retail store below the office.
It’s not “new,” but one of the greatest things we have done is a year ago we remodeled the original Dive N’ Surf shop and moved our office upstairs.
We’ve received a lot of recognition for the store layout and design. There’s a dive pool in the back, and every piece of gear you would ever want for surfing and diving without a lot of branding. It’s clean, it’s creative and its really inviting to customers. No matter what watersport you participate in, we have product to outfit you! We also offer lessons for those who want to learn how to dive, surf, SUP and sail. And two boats that you can charter for fishing, diving or just sight seeing here in the South Bay.
We have also received a lot of recognition from the City of Redondo Beach, not just for the store, but also for the brand’s commitment to the South Bay. The city built a bronze statue in honor of our founders just down the street from the office. It was designed by one of Body Glove’s original team riders Chris Barela, who originally designed the statue for last year’s winner of the Body Glove Mavericks Invitational. Chris is being inducted this year into the South Bays surfing walk of fame.
Body Glove has been known for going into the sporting goods stores before any of the brands. Can you talk about this?
Since we started, we have always wanted all consumers to have the experience we can give them in the water. We have always maintained a commitment to segmenting our products so that we offer the core something special, but also offering quality products for all water enthusiasts. What’s interesting is everyone is now in the sporting goods channel, and many in a bigger capacity than we were ever, mostly because they are publicly traded. The sporting goods channel has been a great channel of distribution for us to continue to provide the consumer with a quality product and experience. We hope everyone can enjoy the lifestyle we promote.
You guys are still privately held. Any plans to sell?
We are one of the last privately held family owned companies in the industry. We have a lot of family members who work for the brand today as well. When people work here, they stay a really long time, like forever, and that’s been a real blessing. That being said, we also have a few new people in the office who have challenged the way we have always done things and it brings a great mix to the office environment.
Also, because we are not private, when the surf is good, we surf. When the visibility in and the waves are flat, we grab lobsters at lunchtime during lobster season. It makes for a good work/life balance. When we post jobs on Malakye, it gets a little nutty. People want to work here.
As far as selling, I think we would have sold by now. We have had a lot of offers. Right now, no plans to sell.
Body Glove sells some random items, like Water filters. How does this relate to the brand’s overall strategy and image?
When we started, the mission was to be the ultimate water sports brand. We have brought on products that only make sense for us. Water filters was a good fit for the brand because we have always been committed to preserving and protecting the ocean, with the Keep Your Ocean Blue campaign that started in the early seventies. Water filters are part of our contribution to helping eliminate single use plastic bottles.
Are we running an ad with water filters in Surfer Magazine? Probably not, but we hope surfers use them. And Surfrider Foundation endorsed this product when we first came out with it.
What happened with Maverick’s?
We love this event, and had big plans to be a part of it again this year, but our contract was disregarded by event organizers. There were other brands involved as well. It’s unfortunate, but we will continue to support big wave surfing and surfers in a major way.
What else is new?
We just signed a deal to sponsor the NSSA. From helping create the Bud Pro Surf Series that ran in the 80s and 90s to sponsoring the NSSA for two decades from 1989-2009, as well as sponsoring and starting numerous local and international surfing events from local grom competitions to big wave contests like Mavericks, Body Glove has always been a big supporter of competitive surfing. Half the marketing team competed growing up, and the NSSA is where it all starts. Getting back to the fundamental idea of teaching kids how to compete and progress in there lives is really important to us as a brand because we know first hand what the sport of surfing has done for our lives. Our goal is to help the betterment of the organization and recognize people who commit their entire lives to teaching kids how to compete and getting an education while doing so. We would encourage other brands to step up and support the NSSA as well as others who do the same.
We now have 62 plus years in this industry. It’s what we do and what we love. The surf industry as a whole has grown a lot over the years, and a lot of people have come and gone. We’re happy to still be here, not just surviving, but thriving. 2015 is going to be a big year for us and I am personally very excited about the future for this brand and our commitment to our customers. Anything else? Well if we are done with the interview, the waves are good, so let’s go surfing!
Read more at http://business.transworld.net/features/body-glove-vp-marketing-scott-daley-new-nssa-partnership-company-sales-privately-held/#4ZtXDVG7iEVMAMl8.99
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