Surf’s up for Patagonia spin-off

Not more than 100 yards from Ventura, CA-based Patagonia’s headquarters is one of the premier right point breaks on the California coast, if not the entire Pacific. So it’s fitting that the manufacturer/marketer of outdoor apparel has launched a catalog dedicated to surfing clothing and gear.

The 44-page Surf catalog mailed in April, primarily to a subset of Patagonia’s house file with a history of purchasing surf-related products. Director of merchandising Kevin Churchill says about 23% of the catalogs went to prospects, ages 35-40, who may live in a metro area but travel to surf.

The spin-off sells a range of products for water activities and adventure travel, such as $45 Wavefarer board shorts, a $75 10-ft. surfboard bag, and a $190 lightweight R4 jacket. Response has exceeded projections by 10%, Churchill says.

Although Patagonia sells its core product line to retailers as well as to consumers, its surf products are available only through the Surf catalog, the Patagonia Website, and Patagonia’s own stores, says Churchill. A store in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA, dedicated to surfing products opened two weeks after Surf mailed. The company plans to add wet suits — currently available only in stores — to the next Surf catalog. It also plans to include surf items in the main Patagonia books by this fall.

Catalogs, Websites get makeovers

Patagonia also recently redesigned its Website and other catalogs. The new catalog format takes a stronger storytelling point of view, with more action photos, such as a picture of a climber scaling the Langtang Ri mountain, on the border of Tibet and Nepal, that will “stop you in your tracks,” Churchill says. The catalogs also include more detailed technical product information and editorial space about ocean preservation. The company lowered product density by 10%-15%, a callback to Patagonia’s early days, when the merchant offered fewer products.

A major goal of the Website redesign, which e-media marketer manager Chris Todd says was a year in the making, was to better showcase Patagonia merchandise. Shopping is easier because products are merchandised multiple times throughout the site — for instance, by product category as well as by fabric and by sport — and customers can update purchases directly in the dynamic shopping cart and checkout process.

Landing pages now include large, eye-catching pictures — absent from the previous version of the site — to emphasize the environmental and technical efforts of Patagonia. The new site includes a robust dealer locator that incorporates Google Maps API technology; product information in a dynamic dialog box that overlays the page; and a product comparison feature.

The redesigned site went live in early June. Response has been positive, Churchill says, with conversion rates holding steady — which is atypical for a Website redesign. Conversion rates usually drop immediately after a redesign, especially among regular customers, because shoppers are unfamiliar with the new navigation and taxonomy.

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