More than 100 people gathered Friday morning at The Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach to hear Neff Founder and CEO Shaun Neff talk about the history of the company, keys to its early success and where the youth accessories company is headed next.
Since the launch of the company in 2002, Neff has experienced tremendous growth, especially in the last three years as it has tallied consecutive 200% year-on-year sales growth.
The privately held company is now carried in over 2,000 stores across the U.S. and is poised to record approximately $100 million in sales at retail, Shaun said.
Shaun, 33, was born in Southern California. An avid snowboarder, he went to Brigham Young University in Utah where he put in 135 days on the mountain. Since he was a kid, he wanted to start a brand.
Besides focusing on the accessories niche, which Shaun said most larger companies include as an aside to their main business model, Shaun attributes a variety of factors to the brand’s success.
First, being young and naïve, Shaun said he had no idea how much it took to run a business so just “went for it.”
He was also the same age as many people who worked at the shops he sold products to, so became friends with retailers rather than just business partners.
Having his father, Joe, a retired PricewaterhouseCoopers partner to assist and offer advice, also allowed Shaun to focus on the creative aspect of the company.
Shaun said he also hired strong sales reps right out of the gate including one key rep that also sold Burton goods.
“You have a guy who spends five hours showing a retailer a line that does almost 20% of that store’s revenue, then on the way out, shows them this beanie, they’re going to bring on the beanie.”
Another key to the company’s success has been its distribution strategy.
While the brand sells to some of the big players, it doesn’t yet sell to all the big retailers. “I think it’s a testament to our brand that we haven’t jumped for the dollar,” said Shaun.
“Our biggest focus is core shops because we have high turning product with good margins that are accessible. Neff is firing at retail right now.”
Rather than growing by opening doors, Neff has grown by offering new products.
Today Neff not only sells beanies, but they also watches, gloves, eyewear and in three weeks it will launch ear buds.
Neff delved into watches seven months ago with zero marketing, and has already shipped over a half million units.
The watches are affordable at retail, one of the keys to their success, Shaun said. He talked about the fact that kids, who are so impacted by fast changing social media and other quick-moving influences, probably don’t want to look at the same watch for an entire year.
“I just think of that 15-year-old kid who just got $30 from mom, and that’s the kid we are going after. Our best selling watch is a $35 watch with a two-year warranty. For that price he can buy several of our watches instead of just one of another company’s.”
See Page 2 for more highlights from the Neff Executive Roundtable