The Surf Industry Manufacturer's Association(SIMA), which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, is perhaps most notable for its annual "surf summit," during which they hand out awards for such industry standards as "boardshort of the year," "surfboard model of the year," and more. Priding itself on what they call "uniting the tribe," the Association plays a powerful role in determining and reinforcing the surfing world's attitudes on things like fashion, finance and fundraising.
Earlier this month, the highly coveted "Retailer of the Year" awards both went to local Orange County surf shops.
Huntington Surf and Sport, better known today as the ubiquitous HSS brand, recieved SIMA's award for Women's retailer of the Year, while Surfside Sports in Costa Mesa won Men's Retailer of the Year. Both stores are huge powerhouses of surf industry product, to the extent that Surfside has even been accused of being too big, like a Tilly's or Old Navy of sorts for the surfing world. HSS might carry alot of local history and an awesome location at a famous beach break, but they too have been criticized by the ultra-cool for their large size and massive movement of product. When kids from the Inland Empire go coastal in search of coolness, equipment or clothes, they're likely to make a stop at one of these spots.
But seriously, these are retail stores. If their job is to sell product, these two do their job well, and everyone knows it. Local coutercultural criticism of a shop's level of authenticity is hardly the point of SIMA's sought-after awards. According to their website, SIMA gives the Retailer of the Year Award to "specialty retailer[s] that feature the best selection, product mix and merchandising."
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Employees at Surfside seem to agree they deserve the award. "I think we deserve it, because alot of times kids in the industry are cool, but not customer oriented," says Aaron Mendoza. "Here, there's an effort from the owners down, to genuinely help people. Here, you're not just like a human information kiosk...we'll walk over and get involved with people."
Walk into surfside and you'll see why they're an award-winning retailer. The employees aren't just knowledgable about the products. You can see they use the stuff. They surf every day, take trips to indo, break their arms skating, and snowbard on their college team. They are athletes and consumers themselves, and no doubt that's what helps give the place its effective sales environment.