Retailer Feature: Lucky Surf & Skate | Tsawwassen, BC
** This interview was originally featured on CUT & SHOW on 11 September 2012
This week we got a chance to ring in Sean McMillan, who is the owner of Big Wave Sales. He took us into his experience in the industry and where he started. Not only is he a veteran in this industry, but he also has compassion and love for it at the same time. That wasn’t enough, though, for this go-getter. He and his wife, Alice, now own this fun-loving community store in Tsawwassen…Lucky Surf and Skate. Oh boy, he sure is Lucky…
Many of our readers know you as the Billabong rep and owner of Big Wave Sales in Richmond. Can you tell us how you began your career in the clothing business, and why did you then decide to open your own retail store?
Sean McMillan - My career started 22 years ago as a sales rep in the ski industry. I worked for Benetton Sportsystems, which at the time I was the rep for brands like Nordica, Marker and Smith eyewear, and then I moved on to another company called Volkl . From this experience, I was approached by Billabong in 1998, and it’s been great ever since. What made me start the retail store was really my wife, who left the workforce when we had children and was just occasionally helping me here and there, and finally she wanted to get back to working again. Then, living in Tsawwassen, we felt like there was a need for a store like Lucky. We found the perfect place and went for it, and now the store has been open for 18 months.
SM -There was nothing there that was comparable, and the closest Surf/Skate lifestyle shop was in Richmond or White Rock. Then, of course, with traffic, it was not convenient for the shoppers. There was just nothing available for boys and men who like surf/skate lifestyle fashions. We focused our store on men’s and boys sizing from 2T to adult (a girls store to be confirmed in the future)
We love the name and the branding of your store. Is there a story behind that?
SM - I have a Irish family background, so I guess a little bit comes from that, but I always loved the branding you can do with the name LUCKY. I like the shamrock. I think there are a lot of different things you can do with it.
You have seen the industry from both sides of the table. What aspects of the trade do you like about each?
SM - I am not really in the store too much. Alice handles everything, but when I am there, I love having that direct link to the consumer and hearing the feedback and comments they have regarding brands and what brands they like. With our young customers especially, you get a real insight into brands they really like, why they like them, why they purchase those brands, and what they don’t like about certain brands. Alice likes it because it’s a “Community Store.” Our friends are always popping by, and our kids are highly involved in sports, so all of their friends always end up supporting the store, which she really enjoys, because even though it’s work it doesn’t seem like work all the time. Seeing her put so much work into the logistics of the store has also helped me become a better rep because now I see what retailers go through. I certainly now have a lot more compassion when times are tough.
SM - I don’t really dislike anything about it. Even though there are challenges that come with it, we look at those challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
What are some of the hot products/brands at Lucky right now?
SM - We do a lot with Landyachtz, which is a local Canadian brand we really try to support, and Rayne, which is another longboard brand we are trying to push. We also do well with a brand called Chance, which is a Canadian skateboard brand. Then there are the usual suspects like DGK and Element. As far as clothing goes, of course, Billabong, Element, RVCA, Dakine, and LRG we do really well with. For shoes, Vans is our number one shoe, and then we have Supra, Emerica, Nike SB, Etnies…etc
Do you plan to travel to any trade shows this season, or do you see all of the brands locally at showrooms?
SM - We have a buyer. I don’t get involved in any of those aspects. Anneke (our buyer) just goes to KNOWSHOW and visits the reps at their showrooms. We don’t travel anywhere.
Your website ID is great and very interactive. Do you feel that social media and an online presence have helped your business? If so, in what way?
SM - It definitely has helped our business. Kate, who works with us, has done an amazing job with our social media outlets. We have done our own research on how to utilize Facebook to grow your sales, and the best part about Facebook is that just up until recently it has been free, and all you have to do is put in some time and doing it properly. We have even found out when we should be posting and when our demographic is logging in. We have over 2,200 likes, and for a small store that has only been around for almost 2 years, that certainly shows a lot.
Last questions: Other than Billabong, what are some your personal favourite brands?
SM - At the moment, RVCA, Element, Vans, Matix and Herschel Backpacks, which has been another great NEW brand, and, of course, Dakine, which is always a favourite. We sell lots of Urban Ears headphones too.
Lucky Surf & Skate
125-1315 56th Street
Tsawwassen BC Canada