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Boardsports brands deny claims sector has dived

Boardsports brands and retailers have hit back at claims from Blacks Leisure chief executive Neil Gillis that the sector has “had its time”.

Last week, Blacks Leisure blamed the poor performance of its Freespirit and O’Neill boardsports stores for dragging down overall group performance. The group is planning to convert 10 of its Freespirit shops to its outdoor fascias.

However, UK boardsports brand Animal, which has 52 stores as well as 500 wholesale stockists, said its like-for-like sales were up by double digits on last year. Chief executive Kevin Keaney said: “We’re planning to open 12 stores this year and we’re launching our first 
ecommerce site this summer.”

Rip Curl, which has six stores and about 400 wholesale stockists, said that although some of its wholesale stockists had closed, the boardsports market remained healthy.  UK general manager Paul Copson said: “We’re only down 5% like for like. The market has evolved and we have been introducing more commercial styles.”

However, department store chain John Lewis has dropped surfwear brands Animal, Rip Curl, Quiksilver and O’Neill this year. Fashion buying director Peter Ruis said: “Those are great brands, but our customer has moved away from them. Brands such as Fat Face and White Stuff have a more casualwear focus which is better.”

But Adam Creasey, menswear trading director for Debenhams, said it would be adding Billabong, Rip Curl and Hot Tuna to its boardsports offer. He added: “Our boardsports offer appeals to mid 30-somethings, and we have our own brand Mantaray which complements the other brands. The problem for some boardsports retailers may be that they are selling what has become a more lifestyle offer in too much of a niche environment.”

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