Surf brands face wipe-out after falling off wave of popularity – Business – Australia News

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August 28, 2017 19:16:07

Surfing culture runs deep in Australia, but has the clothing empire built around the sport lost its way?

Key points:

  • Last year Billabong reported a $23.7 million loss, Quiksilver also struggling
  • Rip Curl is one of the few brands still making a profit
  • Rip Curl’s Neil Ridgway says “strong branding” has been key to the company’s survival in the tough industry

In the 1960s a clothing industry was born from the surf lifestyle and it rode a wave of success.

Surf quickly became a commodity, with brands including Rip Curl, Billabong and Quiksilver leading a multi-billion-dollar global market.

Julian Taylor has been running the Surfection clothing store in Sydney’s Mosman for more than 20 years.

“In 1985 there was basically nothing you could do wrong,” he said.

“Clothing was becoming more and more popular, surf clothing, all the accessories, everything was just blowing up basically and we were on a good ride.”

However, over recent years, the industry has been swimming in troubled waters.

In 2012, Billabong reported an annual net loss of nearly $300 million.

By 2013, the company announced an even bigger loss of $860 million.

Despite a modest profit in 2015, Billabong returned to the red last year with a $23.7 million loss.

Times have also been tough for rival brand Quiksilver, with too much debt and a series of failed acquisitions leading the US parent company to file for bankruptcy in 2015.

The following year, Billabong International’s largest shareholder, Oaktree Capital Management, threw Quicksilver a lifeline, buying more than 90 per cent of its shares.

“Surf is no longer this little…

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