Spring Break Specialty Retail Report from Florida
Florida specialty surf and skate shops will see one more big push of traffic flowing through their doors in the coming weeks as another wave of spring breakers and those traveling for Easter trek to the state.
SES checked in with several retailers this week to get a sense of what brands and categories are turning the fastest, which new lines stores are testing, and the backstories on successful businesses.
Each store drew from a different playbook, but all are looking to attract the attention of travelers and locals alike.
“It’s been good for us,” said Eric Thomas, owner of Quiet Storm Fort Lauderdale. “We were up double digits – 10% – in February. We’re up single digits right now in March.”
For retailers such as Quiet Storm, located on Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale, the spring break selling season typically begins after President’s Day weekend and runs through the week of Easter. Local stores are going up against big numbers notched in the past few years and, in particular, 2021, when Florida was one of the few states open to travel and saw business boom.
“We had a great year that year,” Thomas said. “We didn’t know what to expect because when we opened, we were in the COVID shutdown, but Florida was open. So that pushed a lot of people to come to Florida for spring break versus other places that weren’t open and I think we benefited from that. This year is one of those where we’ll wait and see what happens now that people have other options for travel.”
Island Water Sports in Deerfield Beach, about 20 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, saw newfound momentum in March this year that helped offset a more sluggish February, giving the Cottrell family a more upbeat outlook on the rest of the year.
“It’s been pretty good,” said IWS General Manager Cheyne Cottrell, who runs the business with sisters Karly and Linsey Cottrell. “February was kind of slow. We were a little nervous. But March has been great. The weather has been perfect and, right now, we’re looking for March to be like last March’s numbers.”
“There’s been a lot of traffic, a lot of people walking into the shop and wanting to shop,” added Karly, who is the IWS merchandise manager.
North of Deerfield, in Boynton Beach, Ryan Heavyside, runs Nomad Surf Shop with brother Ronnie Heavyside and wife Taylor Heavyside.
“We get a lot more families because the Palm Beach County area tends to see more of the families traveling together,” Ryan said. “I would say there’s maybe a notch more of the families that would have visited the west coast of Florida, because they got hit by the hurricane (Hurricane Ian in 2022). So we see a little more traffic. The families are really where we do well with our business because it’s not just grab and go; you’ve got the whole family shopping.”
A few trends key trends popped up more than once in some of the conversations with retailers during SES’s Florida visit:
- Bright Colors: Whether on swimsuits, tops, or shorts, vibrant colorways and fun prints are moving faster and are in more demand in the south Florida market than slower-moving neutrals.
- Private Label: This has always been important. That significance is increasing for core stores looking to offer something unique within their assortments and distinguish themselves from the competition.
- Fashion: More retailers are boosting their fashion buys on the women’s side to pad their product mix, offering complementary pieces to industry brands or, in some cases, filling holes when they can’t get their hands on items from surf brands fast enough.
- Labor: Perhaps nothing new, but the challenge of finding the right workforce is magnified coming out of the pandemic. Hiring the right people is key at specialty stores and a constant focus for store owners.
For more from our Florida spring break specialty trip:
- BC Owner on Business, Sales Trends and a Move Away from Covid Comparisons
- Maui Nix Owner Talks Labor, Pricing and “Pleasant Surprises”
- Ocean Magic’s New Owner Ramps Up Expansion Plans
- Nomad Surf Shop Mixes Rich Legacy with Fresh Business Strategies
- What’s Selling at Island Water Sports
- What’s Selling at Quiet Storm Fort Lauderdale
Kari Hamanaka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org