December 11, 2013

Billabong Presents Turn Around Strategy – Brands To Go

New Billabong CEO Neil Fiske presented his vision to shareholders yesterday for the future of the business. There’s going to be a few brands cut – RVCA, Element and Billabong were the winners selected, all others will be looked at for potential and if it isn’t there, they’re gone. That means some goodbyes to be said at Von Zipper, Honolua Surf Company, Kustom, Palmers Surf, Xcel, Tigerlily or Sector 9.

Fiske will look to focus the company on single branded retail stores (which is an odd choice to me – I just can’t see myself shopping at an Element or Billabong store, over a multibrand store) and to grow their online presence.

There will be a 25 – 30% cut in products being created. Fiske wants to focus on doing fewer things, much better which is a great idea. He did say that they “have great design”, something that could be argued over as the brands are perceived as outdated, primarily due to design.

Another choice quote from the session was “I am convinced that it will become cool again among 18 to 24-year-olds — we have great athletes and great ambassadors, we can get the next generation in”. I love the confidence but it might come across as a hope more than a possibility.

The brand needs to be bold and fearless in its moves for a few years, weather the inevitable bad publicity, and it can come out in good shape. But a safe course that avoids controversy and conflict will leave them no better off than they are now. I’d love to see them back unknown riders in a big way, rebuild their entire aesthetic from scratch and involve their audience in the process (see Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo design month) put out some epic and unique videos (their own That’s It That’s All), create some new and innovative competition formats in great locations… And ditch everything that they’re involved with which is sub-standard. Be ruthless about what’s good enough to exist with the brand and only leave the grade A work.

And finally, something that has plagued Billabong for years, pay properly for talent. Here I’m talking about the reps, marketing folk, designers, managers, etc. To get the level of person they need to improve, they can’t rely on the ‘lifestyle’ anymore – they need to pay above market rate and attract the absolute best to come on board.

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by Dave