Globe finds home in Hermosa Beach with brand’s first U.S. retail store
by Ryan McDonald
Having decided to open their first U.S. retail store in Hermosa Beach, Globe CEO Matt Hill found himself confronting one question over and over: Would the store keep the clock?
The large red, circular timepiece jutting out from the roof has long been a fixture on the Pier Avenue storefront, which was formerly home to the New Orleans Cajun Cafe. The new Globe Store, at the intersection with Manhattan Avenue, had a soft opening earlier this month. The brand has remade the site, outfitting the building in black and red, and gracing the inside with a sleek, minimal aesthetic. But, apart from removing the Creole alligator, the clock remains the same.
The decision to keep a bit of the past attached with nuts and bolts is a fitting one for the surf-and-skate brand, which employees say has been built around staying rooted.
“Our thing is, everything should have an organic basis to it. We started this business so we didn’t have to stop skating. There might be some change or new trend in the market, but we’re only going to do it if we think there is a real affinity for us,” Hill said.
That includes the decision to open in Hermosa. Globe has been in the South Bay as long as they have been in the United States.
What is now a major brand with a roster of board-sport talent and a worldwide presence began on home-made ramps and halfpipes. Hill’s older brothers Peter and Stephen started a skate team in the 1970s, which led to the three Australians founding their company, then called Hardcore, in 1985. The Globe name was born in 1994. Matt Hill came to California the next year to attend USC film school, the same year the company set up its U.S. offices, which are now in El Segundo. He has been a South Bay resident ever since.
With a wholesale presence established, the company set out to open a retail location to showcase more of the brand. John Sherwood, vice president of sales and distribution for Globe North America, said the company had been considering opening a store for about 15 years. Sherwood would receive suggestions from Hill about various locations, but nothing quite felt right.
“He would send me a text, ‘Hey check out this building in Long Beach.’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, it’s good on a Saturday, but what about the rest of the week?’ Or ‘What about this shop in Santa Monica?’ Then we’d decide against it. We always wanted to do it but it was never a mission, that we have to get a store open by a certain date,” he said. The Hermosa location, Sherwood said, “felt like home.”
Globe has a limited number of retail stores around the world, almost all of which are located in core surf locations: Torquay, Bondi Beach and The Gold Coast in Australia, Hossegor in France. For Hill, the location was critical, because it had to remain true “to the history and culture of the brand.” Opening a store on a place like Fairfax Avenue or Melrose Avenue, in Los Angeles, might have given the brand greater exposure, but could have diluted Globe’s founding ideals.
“Santa Monica would have been business decision, not a business and cultural decision,” Hill said with emphasis.
Cultivating culture is a key feature of the new store. Creative Director Herb George said the locations’s Arts and Crafts Movement-informed design was intended to create a “cabin-like” feel that would keep people in the store. The rear of the building contains a gallery space that will be filled by a rotating set of local artists. The space currently holds a trio of custom-designed skateboard decks, a collaboration with the Southern California collective Innocnts. The store will also feature periodic events, including a planned screening of a Globe surf film later this summer.
“Our intention is to always provide some kind of cultural content where people can go and check out interesting things, not unlike an art gallery,” George said.
Cultivating customers with events and added features is proving increasingly necessary to a surf apparel industry facing declining margins.
After years of explosive growth, surf brands have been in a downward spiral in recent years. Quiksilver, once the world’s largest surf brand, filed for bankruptcy in 2015. Hill said that Globe has managed to avoid this fate in part by sticking with its original, more limited vision. (Like others in the industry, Quiksilver had been expanding far beyond their original core brand, infamously spending half a billion dollars to acquire French ski company Rossignol in 2005.)
But the Hermosa store also has more local challenges. It is only a couple blocks away from Becker Surf, which is owned by Billabong. And it is in the same town as Spyder and ET Surf, both of which stock Globe gear.
Sherwood, who worked for years as a manager at Spyder, said that opening a branded store was not quite direct competition. He noted that although the store carried a more comprehensive selection of Globe apparel, it could not match the larger number of different products the surf shops had to offer. While he was helping get things off the ground during the shop’s first two weeks, he estimates that he told at least 35 people to go to another local store when they came in looking for products, like a surf leash or bikini, that the Globe store does not stock.
ET employees took a more-the-merrier attitude, saying the brand has built a good relationship with the store over the years. But Dennis Jarvis, owner of Spyder Surfboards, said the store took him by surprise. Jarvis said Spyder has been a longtime carrier of Globe products, and noted that retail in Hermosa’s downtown has become an increasingly dicey proposition, with many vendors struggling with the area’s rising rents.
“Retail in Hermosa is extremely difficult. I wish them luck. And if one of our vendors wants to send business our way, well, we certainly appreciate it,” he said.