August 29, 2007 by Colin
“Op is a youth brand focused on the surf lifestyle,” said a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. “It will help expand the range of our apparel offering as we leverage the brand equity to address this growth lifestyle.” (Women’s Wear Daily)
That’s right. Wal-Mart has entered into a distribution contract with the holding company that now owns the Ocean Pacific brand. If you were holding out any hope that your rainbow-coloured board shorts and windbreakers, originally bought in 1982, were cool – forget about it. Unless you live in Japan. Don’t ask me to explain the Japanese retail market. Please.
In the rest of the world, Ocean Pacific’s old position as market leader in the “scruffy yet cool surf wear” market segment has been sucked out to sea by Hollister.
Still, some retail experts are holding out hope for Wal-Mart – if they handle the launch and the brand management right:
“It’s an incredible opportunity for Wal-Mart,” [former OP CEO Dick] Baker added. “To have a brand like this, a true American lifestyle surf brand, as part of their stable is great. … My only issue is if you look at the landscape of mid-tier and mass retailers, there’s been a lack of execution with these brand deals over the last 10 years. The good [deals] have been Mossimo and Target because there was a lot of product and brand strategy that went into it, and the Candie’s strategy with Kohl’s. Other than that, there’s a lot of roadkill of brands that attempted to fit into the retailer’s domain.”
Roadkill. Ouch. How about a rope-a-dope metaphor:
“… Harry Bernard [who] worked on research for Op’s repositioning by Baker … called the deal “a fascinating combination of totally different cultures. Wal-Mart has been hit across the bridge of the nose enough times to figure out they can’t do it on their own …
“They’re going to make it what they want to make it,” Baker said of Wal-Mart’s handling of Op. “If I were them, I would put a lot of time and effort into positioning and strategy. It’s an iconic American brand. If they do it incorrectly it will be an injustice.”
A final note: at Dick Baker’s house it seems that the easy and laid back nature of the surfer is not appreciated. This from an O.C. Register article about his wife’s otherwise very stylish redecoration of their house:
“…No eating on the couch: Key thing in my house: We only eat in the eating areas. If you are hungry in England or Italy in the middle of the day, you go to the kitchen, you have tea and you have a sweet, and look at a magazine. Or, if someone is there, you chat. You don’t zone out in front of a TV. Also from a cleanliness standpoint, you get kids and pizza and popcorn and a sofa, you’ve got a disaster.”
[tags] Wal-Mart, Ocean Pacific, OP, surf, Hollister [/tags]