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STOREFRONTS: Surf and turf

Influenced by board sports, Pacific Sunwear remains a success by integrating an active lifestyle into all aspects of its brand.

Kickflip, nollie, heelflip. Varial, blind 360, 720. Off the lip, noseride, aerial 360. Though these skating, snowboarding, and surfing terms may seem like foreign vernacular to most, the patrons of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Pacific Sunwear (PacSun) make use of this sport-specific jargon every day. Geared toward active girls and guys between the ages of 12 and 22, the look and lifestyle of this retailer's apparel is obviously influenced by board sports and the brands associated with them. The opening of stores up and down both coasts proves this company is making waves across the country.

What began 20 years ago as a small surf shop in Newport Beach, Calif., has blossomed into one of the most recognized youth clothing chains in the country. With 600 stores — 480 PacSun; 53 PacSun Outlets; and 82 d.e.m.o., its hip-hop inspired concept — in 48 states and Puerto Rico, the company assumed aggressive expansion plans during the past two decades. “PacSun continues to expand as 125 stores are slated to open this year and the next,” says Shelley Smith, senior vice president of real estate.

PacSun prefers sites in regional malls, which makes sense. This is where most teens and young adults spend their free time — when they are not catching waves, curbs or slopes. PacSun also found success in open-air retail environments with a strong focus on retail and secondary focus on entertainment, says Smith. With these site specifications, a youth-oriented co-tenant mix such as Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters and Gap, as well as music stores and movie theaters, is highly desirable. Keeping in mind a young person's appetite — for french fries, burgers and pizza, 24/7 — close proximity to a food court makes for a valuable location.

Whether visiting a shop in California or Florida, continuity in design furnishes customers with a comfortable, familiar shopping setting. However, the company continually upgrades its fixture and lighting packages to maintain a fresh and contemporary look, says Smith. The changes incurred are enough to enhance the store's image without making customers feel they've entered foreign territory.

In addition to an ongoing process of updating interior elements, PacSun recently enlarged the size of certain existing stores, through expansion or relocation, in order to accommodate new merchandise categories. It anticipates expanding or relocating approximately 40 smaller sites to larger prototype formats in fiscal 2001. Today, a typical PacSun spans 4,000 sq. ft., while d.e.m.o. measures 2,200 to 2,500 sq. ft.

“The combination of unique apparel, private brands, hip accessories and exciting footwear … sets Pacsun above and beyond the competition,” says Smith.

So what makes PacSun so desirable in the eyes of today's sport-bound hipsters? The company believes it is differentiated by a carefully edited selection of popular and emerging brands, making it the key resource for fashionable wardrobe. “The combination of unique apparel, private brands, hip accessories and exciting footwear — with brands such as DC, Etnies, Vans and Hawk — sets PacSun above and beyond the competition,” says Smith. As long as there are waves to ride, docks to jump and curbs to tackle — along with the cool clothes associated with them — PacSun will have a bright future.

Contact: Shelley Smith, senior vice president of real estate, 714.701.4063 or (F) 714.701.4297.

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