Compared with other sporting industries, stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is a very small sport with a short, seasonal window. That explains why it is mainly driven by passion. It is that passion; however, which has led the sport of stand up paddleboarding to experience a surge in popularity, allowing for new entrants, board innovations and appeal to landlocked consumers that may have overlooked buying a paddleboard in the past.
One such fairly new entrant to the scene is POP Paddleboards. Created in 2012, POP Paddleboards noted the existence of strong, competitive brands in the space, but also realized room for innovation and providing customers with other choices. The larger brands include Bote Paddleboards, SIC Paddleboards and Starboard Paddleboards, which continue to breathe refreshing innovations into the growing industry. Despite the brand equity attached to those names, POP Paddleboards felt that there was an opportunity to exploit.
“The buzz in the industry is there is not much room for any new board makers because we are seeing more of them leaving than coming,” explained POP Paddleboards creator Nick Lanfranco. “New brands do seem to emerge once in a while, but unfortunately we see them immediately moving towards a liquidation mode rather than a brand-building mode. We see POP’s opportunity in the consumer experience side of the market like retail shops, rental outfitters, tours and lessons. This is where the opportunities are wide open to enter this exciting business. We feel it’s also a great way to start out and have a good pulse on what the true potential for stand up paddling is in the action sports industry.”
The financial graphs in the industry show a bell shaped curve where 75% of a paddleboard company’s inventory moves within 90 to 120 days. The industry is experiencing enormous growth in the number of accessories and gadgets available for paddleboards, including seats, lights, ice chests, beer holders, fishing rod holders and rowing systems. Many paddleboard companies are adding these line extensions to their brands.
POP is carving its own path, which is a commitment to making stand up paddleboarding accessible to the masses by backing up each board with what the company claims to be unmatched customer service. Its use of a fun, colorful retro style with its boards certainly seeks to set it apart from the competition.
Lanfranco has received no financial backing to date and admits that his company continues to run very lean while constantly improving efficiency — spending dimes like dollars. 50% of POP’s revenue goes to manufacturing and supporting its growth. Marketing makes up about 15% of the budget, advertising is 10% and operational costs are 25%.
“Thanks to our talented crew of SUP ninjas we are able to internalize virtually every role demanded by our business,” added Lanfranco.
The 5-year model for POP Paddleboards is to focus on wholesale to retail partnerships. It is removing the direct-to-consumer influence on its website and creating a strong alliance with new and existing retail partners. In the interest of growing these relationships, POP will no longer be selling direct on its website.
“Taking one step back in this critical time will forge the relationship behind the driving force of our brand – the retail shops selling our brand,” said Lanfranco. ”Whether you’re a distributor ordering a container of boards or a rental outfitter starting a new business, we extend our knowledge, resources and support to make our partners successful. Growing our partners’ businesses is how we grow ours.”
The key for growth of the industry as a whole will be to turn people outside of California and Florida into passionate paddleboarding participants.