Hi-Tech Owner on Business Trends Since Hawaii Opened Up
Retailers in Hawaii have begun to open up, so we checked in with Kim Ball, who owns the important core account Hi-Tech Surf Sports on Maui.
We asked him if demand is coming back, what shoppers were buying, and how his stores are adjusting to the new normal.
How many of your stores have reopened?
Kim Ball: On May 11, we re-opened our three Hi-Tech stores in Kahului, Paia, and Kihei; our mall store, Shapers, in Queen Kaahumanu Center; and Stoke House in Lahaina, a store that is a partnership with Paul Naude.
What are the government restrictions in place?
Kim Ball: Stores must be clean and sanitized. Everyone must wear face coverings, including both customers and employees. Everyone must also maintain social distancing, and no physical contact is allowed.
Are customers coming back? How does demand compare to pre-COVID times?
Kim Ball: Yes, customers are starting to come back. We have a loyal local following who were tired of being under house arrest. Fortunately Governor Ige and Mayor Victorino never closed the ocean.
What are people buying? Any interesting trends or changes compared to what was selling most before?
Kim Ball: Our customers are buying what we are known for, which is boards. Sales of surfboards, bodyboards, and skateboards have been really strong.
Clothing sales have been weak except for men’s boardshorts and women’s swim. Wetsuits and slipper (sandals) sales have been about average.
How have you modified stores?
Kim Ball: We have installed some shower curtain sneeze screens at our cash wrap areas. We have also placed social distancing floor stickers at the cash wrap counter and every six feet thereafter.
We had SafeHandles installed on our door handles. We have an ample supply of cleaning and sanitizing supplies at each store. My wife, Cindy, has a new hobby making sanitizers for the stores.
How are you handling forward orders with brands? Have you delayed, canceled or reduced orders?
Kim Ball: We were closed for 51 days, which included a normally busy spring break, so we pushed back everything and canceled some.
We didn’t cancel hardgoods, though. In fact, we have re-ordered.
Have your landlords worked with you on rent relief?
Kim Ball: The jury is still out if the landlords are willing to being part of the solution in helping us get back on the board again after a 10-wave hold down.
Did you receive PPP funds and if so, how is that making a difference to your business?
Kim Ball: The PPP loan helped us re-open as soon as the Mayor gave us the “all clear” sign. We already were paying our employees, only now instead of surfing, they had to come to work.
Any advice for other industry retailers who may be opening soon?
Kim Ball: I would suggest stores not be too promotional and that they encourage their vendors with company stores not to be too promotional.
Many of us have locations where our vendors also have stores, and if vendor stores go off-price, we’ll all be off-price and not really selling any more product. We’ll just be selling the same amount of product for less.