OCEAN CITY – The 78th Street K-Coast store saw a facelift of sorts recently, as the resort surf shop transformed into the new Billabong store. But while some changes have been made, the store remains locally owned and operated for the most part, with the same two surfers who opened the original store 18 years ago at the helm.
Mark Pugh and Chris Shanahan have been selling clothes, boards, surf gear and more out of the 78th Street store since 1990 when K-Coast opened. The success of the store resulted in the opening of a new, expansive, surf shop on 35th Street, leaving two K-Coast Surf Shops in town.
“This store really slowed down. We wanted to do something here, but something that wasn’t competing with K-Coast,” said Pugh of the 78th Street store. “We started the ball rolling on this in the fall of 2006 when Billabong approached us about the possibility.”
Pugh explained Billabong generally opens two types of stores, partnership stores and corporate stores. Pugh and Shananhan opted to partner with Billabong, opening a store in place of the original K-Coast, in an effort to provide something new to the town.
“This gives us the opportunity to offer stuff that basically wasn’t available in town. We felt it doesn’t compete against ourselves or other surf shops,” said Pugh.
Billabong’s massive inventory is beyond what Pugh and Shanahan could display at the downtown K-Coast. While the store is expansive and Billabong is a featured brand, there is still not enough space to feature the lines, as well as competing company’s lines, explained Pugh.
“It’s enabled us to give space to the lines we couldn’t give space to at K-Coast,” he said.
Pugh noted that the same goes for most of the surf shops in town, which couldn’t possibly present the entire Billabong inventory, specifically all of the clothing. As a result, Pugh deems the store a complement to the other surf shops in town rather than a competitor, with the store focusing solely on clothing and accessories.
According to Pugh, 85 percent of the merchandise available are Billabong family products, which include Billabong, Element, Nixon, Von Zipper and Custom Sandals. The other 15 percent of the store features “non-competing” products. For example, Electric Sunglasses are available. While they are not a part of the Billabong family, they feature a different style in eye wear than Von Zipper, which is traditionally more fashion oriented. Reef and Rainbow sandals are other non-competing products featured.
The first floor of the store is dedicated to women and girls’ clothing, shoes and accessories, with the second story featuring men and boys’ lines.
“We really have limited room for kids lines at the downtown store – even though it’s a big store we don’t have unlimited space,” said Pugh, who was excited to have the opportunity to expand the availability of kids clothing.
Some Billabong lines, not available at the downtown K-Coast, will be featured only at the Billabong store. The Honolua men’s line is geared toward the 30-and-over crowd, a line that Pugh and Shanahan now have the room to sell.
Hard goods will remain a focus of the downtown K-Coast and will not be featured at all in the Billabong store, making the store slightly different than the area surf shops.
“We will have wax and leashes, that sort of thing, but more as a convenience to the people at the north end of town,” said Pugh.
For Billabong, the chance to bring more of their merchandise to the resort was a great opportunity.
“They felt they weren’t getting enough exposure to the public with their vast line,” explained Pugh.
Although Billabong, which is featured in most of the surf shops around town, will have a specific store now for their products, Pugh doesn’t feel it will serve as competition to the other Billabong accounts, including K-Coast.
“They’re definitely not out to compete against their own accounts. In the long run, it helps them,” said Pugh.
Although the store has transformed from the locally known K-Coast to internationally known Billabong, the ownership and operation is still predominantly local.
“It’s the same ownership and its basically the same, but being partners with Billabong offers us a lot – from access to their advertising and art departments to their IT people,” said Pugh. “It’s operated just like its part of their retail division, even though it’s individually owned. There’s a little more leeway however, we adjust how we need it to the local area.”
The store debuted on Memorial Day weekend and so far customers have not been disappointed, said Pugh.
“It seems like every customer that comes in, they don’t leave empty handed,” Pugh said.
Pugh attributes the success so far to the variety and comfort of the store.
“Some people are intimidated in surf shops, but you can come in here and feel totally comfortable,” he said.