Core Careers: Legendary Florida Sales Rep Rick Zappone
Rick Zappone is legendary sales rep in Florida who has worked with Quiksilver, Reef, Olukai, Rusty and Hurley.
Most recently, he represented Quiksilver but is stepping down due to a back injury.
Retailers speak so highly of him, so we decided to ask him about his career in the industry and about the key qualities a great sales rep needs.
We also asked him about his future plans.
How did you end up becoming the Quiksilver sales rep?
Rick Zappone: There was a shuffling of reps in Florida which had Chris Payne taking the South Florida territory for Quiksilver. This left North Florida open.
At the time, I was a sales manager for Olukai and had become burnt out on the travel. I wanted to get back into repping and have always been a huge Quiksilver fan, so I tossed my name in the ring. Prior to Olukai, I spent 27 years with Reef, 11 years with Rusty and three years with Hurley.
What do you think are the most important qualities for a sales rep to have?
Rick Zappone: There are a lot of great reps out there. For me, I have always looked at my accounts as business partners. So being able to form that relationship and being a good partner is the most important aspect of being a rep in my opinion.
I never wanted to let my accounts down and wanted to make sure they always felt like they could trust me with their business. Because I am OCD, I have a tendency to overanalyze things so here is what I focused on as a rep:
- Buyer habits
- The store’s key selling seasons and making sure the proper orders matched those seasons
- Learned each accounts’ turns and expected margins
- Proper product mix for maximum sales
- Always pushing to get orders in fast for maximum incentives but more importantly orders placed early get better product allocation down the road
- Tried to get to know floor staff – they are the ones selling my product
- Take responsibility for my mistakes and the company’s mistakes and do whatever I could to fix them
- Be impeccable with my word
- Don’t over sell and/or over distribute an area
- Under promise, over deliver.
What are some of the valuable lessons you learned from retailers over the years?
Rick Zappone: The industry was very young when I started. As the industry grew, I was able to grow and learn with my retailers. I watched and learned as they created buy plans, increased staffing, switched from manual to POS systems, navigated multiple growing categories and how to buy and merchandise them.
After all these years, there are a few retailers that stand out:
Dave and Nancy Macri from Blue Sky Surf Shop were the first shop owners to ever purchase from me as a rep and helped me see that I could have a career in the business.
John Sabo when he was at Ron Jon’s in the mid 90’s. The depth of his buy plans and what he wanted to generate sales wise per category was very impressive. Not many retailers that I was working with at that time dissected the business like that. It set a bar for buyers in my territory.
Susan Wallace of Aqua East and her ROIs. She really pushed me to know all aspects of my business, my account’s business, and to never come to an appointment unprepared. She has always pushed me.
Keri Peterson at Sunrise, who is a walking, talking POS system. I’ve always admired her ability to buy fringe pieces and sell them to the piece. She showed me what a well-trained floor staff can do.
Ed Leasure (former owner of Quiet Flight) taught me to not over assort. Focus on key styles and go deep, and understand what is selling to maximize my dollars per square foot.
Gail Velardi at MTB Surf and Skate Emporium who has the ability to look at the line and pick out what always ends up being the key retailing styles. When I was with Rusty she was always my first appointment.
How has the industry changed during your time as a sales rep? What are the good changes and what are the not so good ones?
Rick Zappone: I watched the industry mature and grow into an extremely strong industry, giving a lot of people great careers and opportunities. As the companies grew, they got good at sourcing, producing and shipping products. Companies expanded product categories which gave retailers the opportunity to grow sales and their customer base. Larger companies were able to sponsor professional surfers and contests, giving the surf community a career outlet. Not only for the athletes, but also coaches, team managers, announcers and event coordinators. This is what essentially led to surfing being in the Olympics this past year. Basically, the industry matured into a big business and that growth benefited everyone involved, not just the companies.
With that growth though, comes challenges, which I don’t believe are unique to just the surf industry. Surf went from being a core industry to mainstream in a short period of time.
With that growth, many companies lost the nimbleness they once had and were forced to make decisions that don’t always keep the specialty shops at the forefront. Most companies moved production overseas, causing production lead times to go from 90 days to 180-220. Designers have had to design so far in advance, making it more challenging to hit trends.
With the industry growth, some companies have gotten so big they became too hard to manage and eventually sold to corporations outside of surf. Some of these have thrived, and some have struggled.
To me though, I think the industry as a whole has done an amazing job these last two years navigating through a global pandemic. Yes, there are some issues, but when you look at the big picture it could have been way worse.
Why did you decide to step down?
Rick Zappone: About 10 months ago I had a chiropractic adjustment go horribly wrong. This left me in a very difficult situation and made it extremely painful to go on the road. Quiksilver was very supportive through this and looked at many options to get me to stay. But, after eight months I was not healing and had to make the difficult decision to resign. I loved working for Quiksilver and resigning really sucked. Since stepping off the road though, my healing has accelerated and a full recovery is looking really good.
What is next for you?
Rick Zappone: Currently, Quiksilver has hired me as a territory consultant for the next six months. In addition to consulting, my family and I started a surf boutique in St. Augustine Beach back in 2019 called The Surf Stop. The shop is home to our family brand, Where Salt Meets Soul (WSMS). My daughter Kayla runs the retail side of things, carefully curating the space and creating a community platform of over 30 local artists and brands.
The brand, WSMS, is a rad collab between Kayla and my son Alec. All the designs are done in house by the two of them and printed locally. The shop and brand support surfers, creatives and those seeking a soulful connection to nature. We believe community promotes unity and aim to inspire the next generation of surfers and soul searchers.
My son Alec also runs youth surf programs year-round through the shop, focusing on creativity and self-expression. So I’m stoked to be able to hop in and help at the store where I can in the coming months.