Core Careers: Debby Martin of L*Space
Debby Martin is well known in the swim world from her long tenure as head of wholesale sales and retail marketing for industry leader L*Space.
But, as we find out in this Core Careers piece, Debby has a background in snow and skate as well.
We asked Debby about her path in the industry, key lessons she has learned along the way, and about the good and bad parts of pandemic work life.
How did you get started in the business?
Debby Martin: I was snowboarding at Mt. Hood with friends and stumbled upon the best crew – the 686 snow crew. The friendship stuck. I was riding a lot, working on the mountain at Big Bear, and started making connections within the industry.
An opportunity came up to work with Steve Rocco, who owned World Industries/Dwindle Distribution. I took it. I went from receptionist to customer service, to key account assistant, to working with rep teams, and then finally landed an assistant sales manager role. I gained incredible knowledge there – it was a great journey.
I then started my venture with Paul Carr and Dac Clark at Rusty as the sales manager in the junior’s division. This helped me learn a lot about brand building. I was able to work closely with the merchandising director and found my love for sales management and retail marketing.
After that, I had a short stint with Billabong, heading their key account business until the knock on the door came about a small brand that was thriving called L*Space by Monica Wise. And here we are 13 years later.
What were some of your key roles at L*Space? Any key lessons you have learned along the way?
Debby Martin: One key role is managing our entire wholesale division to ensure our path in retail fosters strong distribution and growth in sales. Supporting leadership within our rep teams is essential. Retail marketing plays another key role in supporting the retailer as a destination for the brand.
There have been many lessons during my journey, some learned the hard way. But a few key lessons I learned in sales are the less knee jerk reactions the better, one solution to a problem is never the answer, build adaptability and accountability, and always let passion and product lead.
You have worked in swim for a long time now. How have you seen the swim industry change during that time?
Debby Martin: Wow, I’ve seen the swim industry change a lot in my 13 years. I love the dedication and loyalty that comes from this endemic group which is filled with veterans.
The biggest change for me was when swimwear started to break through the barriers of just being in the “swim bucket.” It shifted the balance in how swim could hold floorspace at retail more than four to six months out of the year. It became a category that melded with fashion.
I remember when the fringe trend hit like it was yesterday, it was the worst and most remarkable time at L*Space. The entire industry boomed on and off the beach. The potential of what swim could mean at retail and to the consumer was discovered.
How has the pandemic changed the way you work? What are your favorite pandemic work changes and which ones don’t you like?
Debby Martin: My favorite work pandemic change is the three-day work in office week! For us, Mondays and Fridays are now work from home, in-office is Tuesday through Thursday. It’s given our teams time to balance and realign their energy into the work we’re all creating.
I have a love/hate relationship with the other pandemic work changes. We have had both “happy accidents” and “I’m over this” moments. We did discover how resilient our teams were. We had to pivot quickly in taking what was a very in-person industry in terms of trade and propel that into a digital era.
We had to adjust how we spoke about the line in a virtual format. For example, “it feels buttery soft” doesn’t go a long way when the buyer isn’t in front of you. I’m sure I gave retailers a good laugh many times as I tried to use different facial expressions to convey how great a garment was.
On the other hand, becoming more efficient and productive in meetings was one of our “happy accidents” with Zoom. It also forced us to find new ways to show the collection without samples and travel. Time management was streamlined and we spent more time communicating between the platforms and sources such as Repspark and our virtual in-house tools. It allowed us to integrate video, create merch displays and accelerate sales though the B2B services.
Dac and Paul have worked in the industry a long time. What is the best thing you have learned from them?
Debby Martin: To be honest if I answered openly, I feel like I would be giving away trade secrets. But the main things are numbers don’t lie, you must run an honest business, you need to be diligent in your choices, and leadership is key.
Any advice on how you juggle it all – emails, meetings, travel, etc.?
Debby Martin: I think I’m the last person to lend advice in how to juggle it all. I have a Tile (Bluetooth tracking device) on almost everything I own, and I’ve run out of space on email too many times to count.
But what I do know is, you simply can’t juggle it all. That’s why I’m so grateful to have a solid team working with me. My advice is to know what your strengths are and what your team’s strengths are. Common goals go a long way. More importantly always leave time for the good stuff – friends, family, and fresh air!