Wave Rave Owner On New Los Angeles Store
Wave Rave, the Mammoth snowboard retailer that is one of the premiere snowboard shops in the country, is expanding to the Los Angeles area.
SES talked with Wave Rave Owner Steve Klassen about the expansion, current business trends and how supply chain challenges are impacting his shops.
Wave Rave and JR286
Wave Rave is opening the new store within a facility owned by JR286, Inc., the Dakine licensee for equipment and accessories, in the Harbor Gateway area between Torrance and Carson. JR286 describes itself as a global leader in the sporting goods industry and also is the licensee for Nike equipment and accessories.
Steve and JR286 Founder and CEO Jon Hirschberg have known each other since their college days, which is one factor why the deal came about.
Several brands will have buildouts in the new Wave Rave store, including Dakine, Volcom, 686, Vans and Jones. Volcom is going big with its section which will include artwork by snowboarding icon Jamie Lynn, Steve said. Mammoth Mountain and the Ikon Pass will also have a big presence with a photo of Mammoth taking up a 40-foot wall. The store will also have a technical and rental service.
For years, Steve has considered expanding into the Southern California region, and others have suggested it to him as well since the demise of Sport Chalet.
“My customer base is from Southern California, and after 32 years in business, we have customers all across the Southland,” he said. “So, opening a store there makes sense.”
Before the financial crisis of 2008, Steve had considered opening five stores in the region in partnership with an industry brand, but that fell through due to the difficult economic times that followed, he said.
Steve said several stores in Southern California do a great job, “But there isn’t anybody that offers the selection that we do,” he said.
The Wave Rave store will offer snow goods all year and supplement the seasonal offering with surf and skate products, along with electric bikes.
Five Wave Rave employees who have worked with Steve in Mammoth will be operating the new store, including two of his top salespeople, he said. Others from Mammoth will rotate in and out.
The grand opening is slated for Nov. 5, and the team is working to get the space ready. They have faced lots of delays because of supply chain issues with building materials, and Steve said it will take a while to get the space completely dialed from a merchandising standpoint. But the store will be ready to serve customers for this coming winter season.
Other Supply Chain Bumps
Currently Wave Rave only has about 30% of the goods it has ordered for the season. Typically, they have 70% by now, Steve said. He has seen delays for both hardgoods and softgoods brands.
Steve said he has enough product to start the season with, and always has some carry over because he likes to be well-stocked in every category.
“I don’t like to sell out of stuff,” he said. “I always have some padding.”
Carryover combined with the new product that has arrived makes him feel comfortable that he’ll have enough for customers.
“It’s not like I am going to be turning people away,” he said. “If everything shows up by Christmas, I should be good.”
Steve boosted his orders by about 50% this season, mainly because of the new store and because Wave Rave had a banner year last year.
That sales surge came even though hotels and rentals at Mammoth shutdown during the holidays because of COVID restrictions, which were more extensive in Mono County compared to many areas of Southern California.
“December was way down but when it opened back up we had a record day and then a record year,” Steve said.
The store made all sorts of COVID adjustments including limiting the number of people inside, keeping windows open and fans on and creating an indoor/outdoor zone with heaters where people could shop if they felt uncomfortable shopping inside.
Hardgoods was the star of the season.
“People wanted hardgoods more than they wanted anything else,” he said. “Boards, boots and bindings.”
More stores in future?
We asked Steve if he sees an opportunity to open more Southern California stores going forward.
“It’s possible, but first I have to swallow the risk of this one,” he said. “It’s still a question mark – can a snowboard specialty shop survive in LA? We’ll see.”
“All I know is if people want a place to hang out with a 40-foot picture of Mammoth Mountain right next to them, and feel the vibe of a snowboard specialty shop, it will be here.”