Ice the middle man and y'got high-end wetsuits for under two c-notes, tech trunks for under a fifty…
A few months ago, BeachGrit reported on a surf biz called Need Essentials that was selling high-end 4/3mm wetsuits for $A200 ($US140) apiece. Made in the same Taiwanese factory (read about the amazing Sheico Group and how they stole the wetsuit market away from the Japanese here) as Quiksilver and the rest, but without the team riders, without the execs, without the marketing, labels and swing tags.
The difference? The 100-percent markup.
The surfer behind Need is Yamba-based surfer Ryan Scanlon, the former Senior Vice President of Global Products for Quiksilver. Ryan has a sharp eye for detail, as his former job would imply, and he knows the surf biz.
Back in June he told me: “I try to live a pretty simple life (he lives on a yacht) and Need is a reflection of that. I wanted to create something that I wish existed but didn’t. A supply chain where you didn’t have to pay for all the excess. You just pay for what you… yeah… Need.”
Anyway, his biz, which is just over a year old, has since gone nuts. He sells out every run he gets made and ‘cause Ryan’s a one-man show, he keeps the runs tight so he doesn’t fall into the trap of most businesses where they grow too fast, borrow a ton of cash and… yeah, you know the rest.
‘Cause I wrote the last story about I’ve become a conduit for surfers wanting to know about Need and to field complaints that no one could get in quick enough to get a suit. It doesn’t hurt that the all-black no-graphic or logo suits have a Dior-esque feel about ‘em.
On this run, Ryan has added a technical surf trunk. It’s basic black, medium of length, has a slim silhouette and feels exactly like a $200 pair without the gimcrackery. What’s the hit? Forty five Australian dollars.
This kind of biz has the power to shift the established consciousness. High-end flavour with a price that is Costco.
As you can tell, I’m unduly impressed by Need and was delighted to lash our website with his branding. I recorded this interview with Mr Scanlon a few days ago. I know, I know, it sounds pure advertorial but this is a brand that is real in the way Quiksilver, say, was back in the seventies. Small company, great gear, a price that didn’t hit you in the nuts. Who wants to be screwed?
BeachGrit: A lot of people I spoke to were dying to buy Need but couldn’t get a piece. Y’still got stock?
Ryan: Yeah, we have a heap of summer stock. We are a little light on with steamers but there are more arriving in the next couple of weeks. We’ve whipped up our supply now that we know we have a great product that is well tested.
BeachGrit: Those trunks are pretty wild for 45 bucks.
Ryan: Yeah, we tried to create the perfect boardshort so we got the best fabric on the market got the best board short factory in the world to make it and priced it for $45. People are pretty stoked on it!
BeachGrit: What else y’got?
Ryan: Okay, this is how we work. We don’t release a lot of new products. We just try and continually improve our essentials. We don’t revise our products every season to make them look fresh in store or in a marketing campaign. That way we can slowing improve our products with every production run and by not always changing we eliminate the risk of mistakes and faulty materials or technology. We have a few new products lined up for the new year that really focus on colder water. People in cold climes have to spend so much on rubber every year and we want to help them out with new options. We have an epic hooded 5/4/3, boots and gloves that we have just finished testing in July and August in the south island of New Zealand that we are really happy with.
BeachGrit: Tell me about the design of the suits. Do you design? Are they picked off the rack?
Ryan: Yup, we design all our suits. We don’t skimp on the quality of fabric, components or manufacturers. That’s the foundation of how Need works. Best materials in the market, best manufacturers in the world and best components. What we do eliminate are all the things that add cost that don’t make a difference to the function or comfort in the wetsuit. By foregoing retail mark-ups, branding, swing tags and packaging, athlete royalties, expensive marketing campaigns and fads in trend and technology we can make a world-class wetsuit at a fraction of the cost.
BeachGrit: You don’t call yourself a company, but rather a supply network. Talk me through that?
Ryan: We are pretty different to other surf brands! We don’t see ourselves as a brand but more a supply network. We don’t do fashion or fads, we just focus on surfers genuine needs. We understand that most surfers just need a great product that keeps them warm and is built to last but they don’t want to pay top dollar for all the extra noise.