Jason Steris (Volcom): "We are readying for a launch in Asia and South America”
Kering-owned brand Volcom combined skate, film and music at an event in Paris last weekend which was not only a chance to reach out to board sport enthusiasts, but also to bring together to company’s teams and distributers from all over the world. Jason Steris, CEO at Volcom, and second-in-command of the sport and lifestyle division at Kering, Todd Hymel, spoke to FashionMag.com about the company’s future ambitions.
FashionMag Premium: This event is the first of its size that you have held in Europe. Why did you choose to host Volcom Stone in Paris?
Todd Hymel: When Kering acquired Volcom in 2011, we were particularly interested the brand’s ability to engage with clients. The brand is very strong in the United States and Kering wanted to maintain this and extend it on an international scale, thanks to a strategy that Jason is currently working on implementing. Paris seemed like a logical choice as a launch pad for Volcom’s international development.
Jason Steris: The event is a chance for us to premiere our film, True To This. We are going to introduce the film to all of our markets. It pays homage to Alive We Ride, which was made 20 years ago and really epitomizes Volcom’s board sport identity, being the first brand to incorporate all three elements. True To This really reflects our current day strategy as we continue to forge our way in these three veins. Through this set-up, we are able to sustain activity throughout the year and adapt to any trends. Surf allows us to be in Hawaii and at the same time we can be in Canada with the snow. Art and music also enhance the brand image.
FMP: Kering took over the brand almost two years ago and changes were made to management within the first few months. Is the transition complete?
JS: First, we tried to focus on the product. We recruited in this area and now have a very strong design team for the men’s side of the business. We previously had a few unisex pieces in our menswear collection but now we have an entire team dedicated to womenswear, with our first collection due to be released next autumn. We have a footwear manager, as well as product developers, and have allocated resources specifically for marketing.
FMP: What new developments does Kering have in mind in for Volcom?
TH: In terms of the footwear collection, Volcom has benefited from Puma’s expertise. We also sent the Volcom design teams to many of the runway shows to get inspiration. Managers take part in meetings with those from other labels in the group, which allows us to exchange ideas. But it is also a two-way thing: Volcom will gain sourcing, logistic and operational knowledge from the group, whilst other brands in the portfolio will benefit from Volcom’s ability to engage with its clientele.
JS: Being part of a group like Kering allows us to focus on our product offering and on a long-term vision for the company. For the past five or ten years, we had based Volcom strategy on our image and influence in the United States, which allowed us to carve an image internationally. Now we are really focusing on increasing our footprint on a global scale. We have worked on our retail concept and our sourcing and we are always looking for ways to take things up a notch. In the United States and in Europe we are developing the retail side of things (editor’s note: Volcom’s online store went live in the U.S in 2012 and is expected to launch in Europe in 2014). Though already present in Asia and Latin America, we intend to increase our presence in these markets in the next three to five years. We will be able to call upon Kering’s legal and real estate experts to help us push forward with that.
FMP: What are you store-related projects?
JS: We recently opened a store at Queen’s Market in Hawaii, marking our fifth boutique on the island. We are also gearing up for an opening in Santa Monica, California (editor’s note: Volcom has around 60 stores across the world, 11 of which are in Europe). On average, we invest in spaces that are around 160m², either directly owned by us or via partners. We are considering stores in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong as our next international moves.
TH: We don’t have a precise number of openings in mind. The ambition is to secure great locations in important cities. We will be keeping a close eye of the group’s real estate opportunities.
FMP: After putting focus on lifestyle line Volcomunity over recent seasons, Volcom starting to shine the light its board shorts again.
JS: We are very happy with Volcomunity, which initially was a success in Europe before we exported it to other markets. As for the board shorts, it is not a major line in Europe but in other markets, it is very crucial. We strengthened our team, rethought our products and this line is probably the best we have ever produced.
FMP: It’s a move back to your core clientele. What is your view on the action sports sector?
JS: It is the end of an era. Over the past six years, our product offering was very homogenous. At the moment, we are really working on getting back to the brand’s core identity. We have the opportunity to really focus on creating our best products ever.
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