What’s Selling at Quiet Storm Fort Lauderdale
Eric Thomas and Jaci Schroeder’s Quiet Storm in Fort Lauderdale sits in the yacht capital of the world, on a downtown street known for good food and specialty shopping.
Their Las Olas Boulevard store, which the two partnered on with Quiet Storm owner Bill Dreibelbis, opened in February 2021 and is 5,000 square feet.
The merchandise mix includes heritage surf brands like Roxy and Billabong; mature labels in Johnnie-O and Quiksilver’s Waterman Collection; younger lines, such as Duvin Design and Chubbies; and an increasing presence of Los Angeles fast fashion.
So far, business this year has been good, up about 10% in February, with Presidents Day marking the start of the spring break selling period. It was up for March in the single digits as of last week when SES visited the store.
“We’re seeing less of the family that may come in with three kids and everybody’s buying multiple items – those large purchases,” Thomas said. “We still have them, but I would say this year we’ve seen a little less of dad just saying, ‘Hey, throw it up on the counter’ and more like, ‘Hey, why don’t you grab two things you want.’
“But I think we also benefit from being in a city known as the mega yacht capital of the world. We have a local consumer who comes down here who’s a little bit immune to the impacts of inflation. But, certainly, we’re not seeing the same frivolous spending.”
Even with a consumer shift to some frugality, the store is looking at growth in 2023, according to Thomas.
“We always look at the second year (in business) and say that, historically, you should have 10% to 20% growth,” he said. “We’re maybe just a little off that, from January to March, but we’re very close to averaging at that 10%. I think we have to be pretty realistic with what is happening with inflation right now and, in general, the economy. But if we can get 10% over last year, we’d be happy.”
Vuori: A “Shining Star”
Thomas and Schroeder, like many retailers, noted Vuori’s standout performance.
“When we first opened, Vuori was huge for us,” Schroeder said. “And this year is the first year that Vuori is absolutely taking hold of women – the age range of women buying it is 30s through probably 60s, 70s in our store. Vuori is definitely one of our shining stars. It really pulled us through holiday season.”
The same holds for men’s, making Vuori the top brand at Quiet Storm Fort Lauderdale, according to Thomas.
“We have a great, active local customer always out doing stuff,” he said. “Vuori’s just been extremely surprising. It’s being asked for by name. We always get calls asking if we’ve gotten any new shipments because a lot of people want to come back and get a second color on something they love, or a third color. They’re by far our No. 1 brand in the store.”
Johnnie-O follows Vuori as the No. 2 brand. It sells even with a higher average price point – shorts, for example, range from $90 to $104 compared to $64 for surf brands.
Faherty and Fair Harbor do well on the men’s side and also appeal to the older consumer.
Meanwhile, Chubbies and Duvin attract the teen and 20-somethings shopping Quiet Storm.
Salty Crew and Quiksilver’s Waterman Collection keep the fishing consumer happy, while surf brands attract the beach crowd.
“After (Johnnie-O), it really becomes a lot more of an even game across the other brands,” Thomas said in terms of sales performance.
Meanwhile, Quiet Storm private label in shorts, sweatshirts, and T-shirts are popular purchases.
About 25% of the store is private label and that’s growing, particularly in women’s, and could eventually become 30% to 40% of the overall mix.
Brand Social Media Driving Demand in Store
Deciding which brands to bring in or expand is constantly in flux, but there are a variety of gauges used to make those decisions, including social media.
“The biggest change is that you have consumers these days who are very, very in tune with their social media,” Thomas said. “So, the brands that are out there winning the social media game seem to be the most asked for, popular brands – especially for our younger consumers. Those are the brands that people are coming in and asking for by name. It’s one of the reasons we started playing with the mixes and looking at brands that are doing a great job on social media. They’re building a following.”
Brands such as Faherty, Melin hats, and Free Fly apparel are all relatively new to the store. Free Fly was the most recent addition following an uptick in customer inquiries for the label.
Duvin Design, based out of Orlando, is another good example with Quiet Storm fielding plenty of calls from customers asking about the brand before it was added to the store mix.
“We do feel like they’re doing a great job at their social media and their collabs,” Thomas said of Duvin. “They’re becoming a local, Florida hero brand and it’s a great complement to our younger part of the store.”
The constant brand changes are one of the reasons this Quiet Storm store does not have branded sections.
“I always laugh because I spent the better part of my life fighting for brand real estate at stores (while working at RVCA),” Thomas said. “Here, we need to stay extremely nimble and flexible with how we use our store. When we had the supply chain issues and you didn’t know when you were getting stuff from who, when, how much, it really was an advantage.”
Women’s and Ramping up Fast Fashion
In women’s, tanks are the top category followed by dresses and elastic soft shorts. OneOne and VYB are popular for swim.
“Our girl definitely likes short, tight, pretty,” Schroeder said. “She’s not a Volcom girl, or an edgy girl. If she goes edgy, it’s a really cool, fun print.”
Schroeder, who handles all of the store’s buying, said she’s increasingly turning to L.A. fast fashion labels as surf brand complements.
“That is an important part of our formula, because they really do provide more of the fashion items our girl is looking for,” Schroeder said. “I’m shifting more dollars into fast fashion. Margins are better. It turns twice as fast as any of the surf brands.”
“It’s interesting right now because I’ve had brands like RVCA, Rhythm – some of those brands that have a different aesthetic (from traditional surf), they are turning a little faster, but I’m also buying them way tighter than a Roxy or a Billabong.”
Color is popular across the board for women’s and moves faster no matter the category. That’s a byproduct of who is shopping the store, Schroeder explained. Tourists, in particular, from New York, New Jersey, Chicago, and other parts of the Midwest, are looking for options beyond the neutrals that may dominate their regular wardrobes.
“Here, if you don’t have color, you’re not doing business,” Schroeder said. “They like the color. People come here to be happy; they come to get out of their black, Chicago winter outfit.”
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
- Spring Break Specialty Retail Report from Florida
Kari Hamanaka can be reached at email@example.com.