By  on July 7, 2011

LOS ANGELES — Active men in their 30s and beyond are a growing customer base — one that Quiksilver Inc. wants to hold onto.

And so the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based outdoor sports apparel company is raising the profile of the Waterman Collection, its offer to lure maturing Gen-Xers and spry Baby Boomers, by embarking on a retail push. The first Waterman Collection store is opening this month at the Fashion Island shopping center in Newport Beach, Calif. It will be the first of what the brand expects to be two to three stores this year.

“Over the last couple of years, there has been significant growth in the [Waterman] brand,” said Steve Wilson, senior vice president and general manager of the Quiksilver brand. “We thought the opportunity was good right now to be able to show all our product in one location.”

Designed internally, Waterman Collection stores will be 1,200 to 1,300 square feet and located mostly in street locations. Tropical areas are a geographic focus, and Honolulu is expected to be home to the next Waterman store. Wilson noted that Waterman locations would be evaluated independent of other Quiksilver stores.

Wilson wouldn’t discuss the ultimate goal for the number of Waterman Collection stores, but said, “We won’t just open a store for the sake of opening it up.” That careful approach to Waterman Collection stores is in keeping with Quiksilver’s overall retail strategy. The company has relied primarily on wholesale to drive its business and hasn’t aggressively spread its stores in the U.S., where there were 126 locations — 20 of which were licensed — at the end of the company’s last fiscal year on Oct. 31.

An evolution of Quiksilver’s play for older male customers that started with QuikSilver Edition and Quiksilver Men’s, the Waterman Collection differs from most Quiksilver merchandise in its price and materials. The bulk of the Waterman Collection is priced from $50 to $69 at retail, although jackets can rise to $70 to $100. According to the annual report, Quiksilver’s apparel products range from $20 for a T-shirt and $43 for shorts to $190 for a snowboard jacket.

Wilson explained that the Waterman Collection uses finer fabrics to make clothing softer. For example, he mentioned that there are Waterman shirts manufactured from polynosic fabric for a “better hand feel.” “It is not something the younger kids are wearing,” he said, adding that elastic waistband shorts and Hawaiian and Aztec prints in the Waterman Collection are also aimed at an older demographic.

In a given season, Quiksilver adds 25 to 30 woven styles, 20 to 25 walk short styles, 10 to 15 knit T-shirt styles and 20 to 25 boardshort styles to the Waterman Collection. Wovens are the biggest sales category, followed by walk shorts. In the future, Wilson said the Waterman Collection will increase its cold weather merchandise such as jackets, fleeces and sweaters.

The Waterman Collection is available in more than 1,000 wholesale doors, including Nordstrom, a mere sliver of the some 11,500 store locations where Quiksilver products can be found in the Americas. Brands competing with it in the older male customer segment are Billabong-owned Honolua Surf Co.; Hobie, which Hurley acquired the license to in May; Tommy Bahama; Toes on the Nose; Patagonia, and Tori Richard.

In the Waterman Collection’s marketing imagery, surfing is part of a broader sports culture that incorporates stand-up paddling, windsurfing, fishing, bodysurfing, canoeing, sailing and free diving. In a Web video to promote its spring 2011 collection, Quiksilver-sponsored athletes and Waterman Collection spokesmen Mark Healey, Shayne McIntyre and Jamie Mitchell throw themselves into a variety of ocean activities. At the end of the video, Healey describes a waterman as “somebody who can show up to any ocean on any amount of notice and not only survive, but adapt and thrive in that environment.”

“As the surf industry has grown, this guy has grown up with the [Quiksilver] brand and still wants to continue to wear it, but he has moved into a slightly different phase of his life,” said Wilson. If Waterman engages this customer, he concluded, “Over the years, it could grow exponentially.”

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