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PPR Invests in Electric Brand’s Revamp

After 13 years in business, Electric has rethought its logo, merchandise mix and distribution with the support of parent PPR.

Electric changed its logo.

LOS ANGELES — Electric is recharging.

This story first appeared in the January 28, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

After 13 years in business, the San Clemente, Calif.-based sunglass and snow-goggle specialist has rethought its logo, merchandise mix and distribution with the support of parent PPR, owner of Volcom Inc., which acquired Electric in 2008. While Volcom is strong in apparel, the changes are meant to underpin Electric’s position as the action sports accessories pillar in PPR’s sport and lifestyle division and catapult its sales.

Last spring, PPR shifted the organizational structure at Electric so that the brand’s chief executive officer, Bruce Beach, reported to Todd Hymel, chief operating officer of PPR’s sport and lifestyle division, instead of Volcom ceo Richard Woolcott. With PPR behind it, Beach said Electric had the wherewithal and confidence to take a hard look at the brand and position it for sustainable growth. To help it get there, Electric brought back Eric Crane as chief commercial officer of the brand, where he’d worked from 2000 to 2003 prior to heading to Ocean Pacific and Nixon.

“We looked at what would be the opportunities for us to really redefine our brand and elevate the existing categories that we are in and actually look at new and exciting categories that we had always looked at doing,” said Beach.

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Added Crane: “The company has to broaden in order to grow. It has got to get out from underneath the core-only distribution in order to really be impactful in the marketplace.”

Crane views everything at Electric today through the lens of it being a “premium, global sports and lifestyle accessory brand.” The brand’s lightning-bolt logo wasn’t living up to the “premium” part of that description, and Electric decided to tweak it. The revamped logo is “a very cleaned-up version and, in my opinion, it now speaks to definitely a broader audience. Its application will be very relevant as we expand into new products. It has a definite stature. It can sit and anchor itself on a product or a page,” said Crane. “It has become the symbol for the change within the brand.”

Electric also is adding to its assortment. Currently, sunglasses constitute about 50 percent of the company’s sales; snow goggles, 30 percent, and apparel and other accessories such as caps and beanies, 20 percent. Electric is carried at 3,000 points of sale, including Sport Chalet, REI, Zumiez, Tilly’s and PacSun.

Beach realizes the company has to diversify both its distribution network and product selection to boost sales. “The whole category [of action sports eyewear] is hitting the ceiling. You have a bunch of guys getting their butts kicked by bigger guys like Oakley and Ray-Ban,” he said.

Electric will introduce watches priced from $200 to $1,500 for holiday. Crane outlined that Electric will distribute the watches first to the top 20 to 30 percent of its existing retail base and expand in year two to fashion department stores, lifestyle boutiques and premium sporting goods stores. “We think that the watch category will become, in terms of size, as big as the eyewear category, but we also think that it will have somewhat of a pull effect on it,” said Beach.

Electric is also delving into snow helmets priced from $100 to $250 starting this week, and elevating its small leather goods accessories offerings for spring 2014, taking them from prices around $30 to about $80 to $150. Snow helmets could eventually generate sales amounting to 50 to 60 percent of Electric’s take for snow goggles.

The upgraded small leather goods could play a role in widening Electric’s retail network. Crane said the brand is aiming to push beyond core action sports retailers to lifestyle boutiques initially, followed by department stores such as Barneys New York and Nordstrom.

All the adjustments at Electric are intended to position it not just for growth for the U.S., but for robust growth abroad. Laurent Claquin, head of PPR Americas, argued there is an enthusiastic audience outside the U.S. for Electric and action sports goods as a whole. “We think that outdoor and action sports is one of the fastest-growing segments and will continue to be one of the fastest-growing segments,” he said. “The market worldwide used to be mainly [in] the U.S., Europe and Japan. It was 800 million people and now it is 3 billion when you add China and the BRIC countries. There is a very strong appetite for these brands.”