By Aimee Chanthadavong
“Fewer, bigger and better” is what surfwear retailer Billabong is aiming for over the next 18 months to three years when the company focuses on turning around the business, which has been drowning in debt for the last few years.
At the company’s annual general meeting, Billabong International's new chief executive Neil Fiske, who replaced Luana Inman, said the key to turning the business around and reconnecting with the youth segment is simplifying the focus down to three pillars: authenticity, heritage and aspiration.
“We have been trying to do too many things — and none of them particularly well,” said Fiske, who has only been in the role for 12 weeks and formerly held the head role at US retail group Eddie Bauer.
“Building global brands take one skill. Running regional multi-brand retail is something totally different. And being a pureplay multi-brand e-commerce business is another thing altogether.”
There are seven parts to the turnaround strategy: brand, product, marketing, omni-channel, supply chain, organisation and financial discipline.
Fiske expects to revamp the company’s product offering so there will be at least 25 per cent fewer lines that will have higher margins and greater turnaround — a similar strategy currently used by other major international retailers, such as Zara.
“Our lines are too wide and too shallow…we turn our inventories only 2.4 times,” he said.
“With a strong merchant front end, we will focus on fewer, bigger, better styles that turn faster, have better margins and drive top-line growth.”
Its social media, digital marketing and global supply chain functions will also be beefed up to ensure there is clear distinction between its three major brands: Billabong, Element and RVCA.
Over the next six weeks, the final details of the strategic plan and its scheduled rollout dates will be finalised, with details expected to be shared early on in the New Year.
"The changes we will make will be fast-paced," Fiske said. "They will not be easy. But they will return Billabong back to what it does best."