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I met with several executives at Reef during ASR and heard an update on Reef men's apparel, Reef Girls, footwear, an update on Miss Reef and how business is going in the tough economy.L to R: Lindy Williams, Reef Girls marketing director, John Wilson,
President John Wilson told me the company made improvements in the line for spring after spending a lot of time and effort studying who the target customer for Reef apparel is, and defining Reef's "DNA." The company also worked hard to better merchandise the line.
Reef Vice President of Product Brett Savage told me the U.S. region has embraced some of the more colorful, bolder designs coming from their Reef counterparts in Australia. About 40 percent of the line is shared globally with Reef Australia, the U.S. and Europe, he said.
The look is younger and fresher than before.
I asked Brett how retailers have responded.
"Incredible," he said. "Many retailers are saying, ‘Finally.' "
The boardshorts and T-shirts are also better merchandised, he said, so that there are more T-shirts that match boardshorts.
John said the company has been very happy with Reef Girls, which launched in spring 2008.
"We're very pleased with the sell through," he said. "We really appreciate the support retailers have given us."
John said retailers are allocating more open to buy dollars for Reef Girls.
Reef Girls is sexier and designed to appeal to a more sophisticated and slightly older young woman than a typical juniors brand. That gives the girls line a great point of differentiation, John said. The dress category has been very successful.
For spring 2009, there will be no change in direction. Rather, Reef Girls will try to build upon its success.
Reef Girls National Sales Manager Tandi South said a key piece for spring 09 includes an apache print dress, left.
Reef Girls is also building on its momentum in denim from fall with four denim styles.
The best performing are the trouser and skinny styles.
Another strong category at retail has been fashion fleece.
Reef significantly revamped it sandal line for spring, John said, and 60 percent of the styles are new. There is also lots of color and fashion and the response has been "insane," he said.
There's also new Fanning and Redemptive styles for spring.
Reef has worked to cross merchandise sandals with sportswear more effectively as well.
The thong-wearing Miss Reef girls were missing from the Reef booth. John told me the company has been broadening its marketing message for awhile to include a wider range of images as the company has evolved from a sandal company to a global footwear and apparel company.
While Miss Reef is still an important part of Reef's DNA, the company has put a heavy emphasis on marketing its athletes and products and is thus rounding out its marketing approach to include other elements, John said.
For example, Miss Reef is still on the company's website, but is not the centerpiece.
John said the company sees the economic woes out there and he believes holiday will be challenging.
For the year, Reef is trending to meet its forecast, he said.
John believes Reef has a great foundation in place and he urges his team to focus on what it can control. He wants to make good business decisions now that will also benefit the company when the economy gets better.
The most important thing is to keep employees pumped up. At the end of the day, those who work in this industry get to experience a lot of fun and exciting things, and "it's important we don't lose site of that," John said.
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