Rusty's U.S. plans under new licensee

All photos courtesy of Rusty


We followed up with the new Rusty licensee in the U.S., Happy Shovel, to find out more about the recent changes and plans for the brand under the new leadership team.

Until this fall, the La Jolla Group had the license for Rusty in the U.S.

The replies below are from Rusty North America CEO Charlie Setzler, Rusty consultant Michael Tomson, and Geoff Backshall, the CEO of Vegas Pty Ltd, owner of the Rusty brand worldwide.

Why switch Rusty licensees in the U.S.?

Rusty is such a great brand that hasn’t reached its potential.  And in order to do this, we want to be a brand driven company not a sales driven one. 

Our agenda is long term and we believe if you elevate the brand, the sales will come.  It was time to bring the brand in line with Australia and the rest of the world.   

What is the vision for Rusty going forward – in design, marketing, distribution?

Is this the part where we say “we want to be the leading global youth apparel brand while maintaining our core focus allowing for individual expression, creativity and passion…”?

Well, that’s not us. We want to keep it simple – make good boards, good boardshorts and take it from there.

From what I understand, Rusty has higher visibility and penetration in Australia. Why do you think that is?

The short answer is because they are good!   Their success is well documented.  They make great product and have a point of difference. 

For example, their women’s collection has been voted brand of the year in Australia’s version of SIMA and they are very well known for their bottoms business as well.  They are trend leaders in their market.

Who are the investors in Happy Shovel?

We have the global brand owner, an industry icon, and a heavy hitter from the music business, a guru from the production/sourcing world, an experienced brand builder and someone who knows a thing or two about sales.

Who will run the company, and who is in the key positions?

Charlie Setzler is CIO, CJO, CMO, CFO, CAO, CBO and lastly CEO.

For marketing, Mitch Hayes has come over from Australia where he was previously global brand manager for surfboards and heavily involved in the brand over there.  Great surfer too! 

MT (Michael Tomson) is involved as well.  He’s been a part of the brand for many years as a consultant for Rusty globally and will be hanging around the office lending his experience and creativity.

Beyond that…we’re hiring!

Do you have the funding you need?

Based on our plan, we are very well funded. 

See Page 2 for some changes on the way

With the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding some of the big brands, do you see increased opportunity in the market for Rusty?

Yes.  There is always opportunity for the right product and brand story.  The question comes down to whether retailers will broaden their mind on opportunities for the future. 

There is a lot of dependence on the big brands with securities in place that protect the retailer’s bottom line.  Ultimately, the consumer wants newness and the consumer will prevail.  

What is the first season Happy Shovel will be responsible for?

Officially, Happy Shovel will begin shipping Rusty Spring 2014 in January.  Fall ‘14 will be the first season that we’ve designed and developed which we will present at Agenda and Surf Expo in January. 

We’re beyond excited to debut the girls collection.  And we will be presenting a more broad and elevated men’s collection and full accessory line. 

Are there any major changes planned for the brand in the U.S.?

Yes and no. We have some exciting things planned on the product and marketing side.  However, operationally, we will not skip a beat.  We are working with an industry veteran on our back end, including customer service and will ship spring on time.  Our sales force and management have not changed and we will continue to service our retailers as normal.   

We will change the perception of the brand here.  We plan on elevating the brand presentation, which includes the (re)introduction of the girls brand, increasing our overall product assortment and synchronizing our efforts better with surfboards.

With that, we have no need to open up our distribution.  It has been extremely clean since the middle of 2012 and we can grow organically in the stores that we sell.  Our goal is to be a great brand for our retailers.  

Why is Rusty relaunching girls and when? Also, have you hired a women’s staff to lead that effort?

We believe there is a great opportunity in the women’s market if the product is right.  We will be launching with Fall ‘14 at both Agenda and Surf Expo in January with the first delivery in June.  We’ll be working closely with Australia for the launch.

Will the men’s and women’s lines be globally designed or are you hiring a design staff in the U.S.?

Both.  The women’s line will be 100% from the global line.  The men’s line will be a combination of global and domestic design. 

Have you explained all these changes to retailers? If so, what has been the reaction?

It’s kind of funny as there’s been a rumor over the last few years that Rusty was leaving the La Jolla Group.  So, a lot of retailers either felt like they knew or were not surprised that it actually happened.  There will be some extensive traveling to speak directly to the retailers. 

Tell us about the Happy Shovel name?

Happy Shovel is a model of Rusty Surfboard.  It’s a really fun board, easy to surf, really versatile and  a favorite board of Josh Kerr and Noa Deane – and it’s up for SIMA Surfboard of the year by the way! 

Ultimately, we wanted a name for the company that was light and fun – not so serious. And we wanted the name to represent the brand.  Since surfboards are the heart of Rusty, Happy Shovel was the choice.


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