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Global Surfin’ Safari: Quiksilver Rides Wave In Europe and Far East

Quiksilver has taken Europe by storm and plans to open stores as far afield as Eastern Europe, Poland and China.

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ANGLET, FRANCE — Forget about just Surfin’ USA.

Surfwear has the potential to make waves across the globe, according to Bernard Mariette, president of Quiksilver, and his company is out to capitalize on the growth.

“Europe is a motor for the sport,” said Mariette, in France earlier this month to launch a retail concept in this small coastal village near Biarritz. “[Quiksilver] has its roots in the United States, but it is a global brand now.”

Mariette disclosed plans to open stores as far afield as Eastern Europe, Poland and China. Immediate plans call for 15 new units expected to roll out over the next three years. The company is set to enter Poland in 2006, where the surfwear market is riding its first waves of success, and China, as early as 2007.

Proof that surfing is a compelling sport for consumers everywhere, Mariette said Quiksilver’s two-year-old flagship in the middle of Times Square did $10 million in its first year. He predicted its two-floor flagship that will open on London’s Regent Street in October has the potential to generate even higher sales volume.

Quiksilver has equally big plans for the concept unveiled in Anglet, hoping it can be transported to new markets.

“Anglet is the ideal location for an outdoor sports laboratory,” he said during an interview at the unveiling of the store earlier this month, which was attended by world champion surfers including Kelly Slater and Lisa Anderson. “Europe’s diversity of cultures puts the concept store to the ultimate test.”

Sprawling over 22,600 square feet, the unit has two stores, Quiksilver and Andaska, the multibrand outdoor specialty chain Quiksilver acquired in July 2004. Each boutique has its own entrance, but the two are connected via the Cafe Ono, a healthy fast-food restaurant created by the Quiksilver team.

“It’s a store that [allows] shoppers to experience the outdoors while indoors,” said Mariette, as two young girls on in-line skates whizzed by, heading for the skate park inside the Quiksilver shop.

The Anglet store is yet another example of Quiksilver’s growing international focus. In 2004, its European revenues increased 29 percent to $496.3 million, with figures translated from the euro. The company operates 160 Boardriders Club stores in Europe, 69 of which are in France. Quiksilver’s overall sales were $1.27 billion in 2004. Worldwide, Quiksilver operates about 400 stores, with some 80 units in the U.S.

The company’s aim is to grow even more in Europe and farther afield. The European surfwear market already tops more than $1 billion a year, according to the European Surf Industry Manufacturers Association. Quiksilver already dominates, with about a 45 percent share. The French coastline near Biarritz resembles southern California, with the European headquarters of not only Quiksilver, but also O’Neill, Billabong, Rip Curl, Ocean Pacific and Volcom all based here.

The new store here is designed to encourage athletic — and other — activities. For example, shoppers can exit the fitting room and take a twirl on a wooden catwalk, or swing by the “shaper” shack to have a specialist put finishing touches and wax on their surfboards. Visitors also can hang out on a wave-like bench embedded with television screens broadcasting surf images, or groove to the in-house DJ.

As for the merchandise, Quiksilver’s women’s sportswear brand, Roxy, offers a range of lifestyle looks such as denim and colorful tops, accessories and swimwear, while boardshorts, a T-shirt vending machine and accessories highlight the men’s department.

While house music hums across the Quiksilver sales floor and spills into Cafe Ono, nature sounds are the soundtrack in Andaska. The store’s vertical garden, replete with a bamboo waterfall, gives the store a decidedly outdoorsy feel.

“It’s as if the exterior was the interior,” said Andaska founder and general manager, Gildas Guillerot. To wit, there’s an indoor climbing wall, a rock path that lets hikers put their footwear to the test and even rock-studded benches that allow customers to test the comfort of mats and sleeping bags.

“We cover all sectors of the outdoor sports category, such as climbing, hiking, skiing, biking, running and traveling,” said Guillerot.

Andaska stocks more than 80 brands, such as The North Face, Columbia, Eider, Oxbow, Salomon, Lafuma and Timberland. Quiksilver’s brands — which include Rossignol, Dynastar, Quiksilver and Roxy — already account for 11 percent of sales at the store. With Quiksilver’s recent acquisition of Rossignol, Guillerot expects that number to increase to 25 percent over the next few years.

Quiksilver projects the retail trio of Quiksilver, Andaska and Cafe Ono will bring in annual volume of 8 million euros to 10 million euros, or $9.6 million to $12 million, per unit.

With the acquisition of Rossignol and the flagship and retail concept, Quiksilver, based in Huntington Beach, Calif., is clearly committed to the European market. “It takes a European [consumer] to understand the Rossignol culture,” said Mariette, who plans to give Rossignol’s apparel a lifestyle injection with a “French touch.”

“California has a beach culture; in Europe, [sports] culture is more diverse, so we can learn from Rossignol’s 100-year-old experience,” Mariette said.

Meanwhile, Quiksilver is slated to give Roxy a makeover in Europe, where the brand skews older. A new-look Roxy unit is slated to bow in Montpellier, France, in July, followed by another in Lyon. Maritxu Darrigrand, marketing director for the Roxy label, said the design would be “more sophisticated” to appeal to the Roxy girl — and her mother.

European sales for the surfer-girl brand reached 105 million euros, or $126.6 million, in 2004, accounting for 27 percent of Quiksilver’s business in Europe. To continue to increase Roxy’s recognition in Europe, Quiksilver recently purchased the sailboat that swept the Vendee Globe title, one of the most prestigious sailing events in the world, and will be the official sponsor for the boat and the women’s sailing team.

“Sailing is a part of the ocean, like surfing. It’s a huge market that remains relatively unexplored,” said Randy Hild, vice president of Roxy marketing. “We are always looking for a bigger and better image.”

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