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Why Skate & Surf Teen Retailer Zumiez Is Kicking Competitors to the Curb

Zumiez (ZUMZ), purveyor of all things skate- and surf-inspired for young trendsters, is at the top of teen retail heap with strong net sales and traffic for February. The month was a bright spot for stores of many stripes, but rocking a rad balance sheet when your customer is between the fickle ages of 12-20 is reason for others to take note.

Total net sales increased 18.3 percent to $32.7 million but Zumiez' comps are the more impressive stat, rising 12.8 percent versus an 11.2 percent gain last year. Double-digit comp jumps for two years in a row show that Zumiez is building sustainable sales rather than relying on of-the-moment boosts.

Easy, but not cheap

Casual, comfy, and logo-laden, the tees, tanks and shorts Zumiez peddles are all from covetable brands well-known among the skater girl/boy set (think Billabong, Volcomm and Hurley). Which also means they aren't the cheapo, flimsy wares flogged by other fast fashion chains.

Even Zumiez' tees for younger boys start at $15. Contrary to popular belief, teens will pay more for quality threads, as long as they carry the brand bling they love.

How low can you go?

Unlike its mall neighbor Aeropostale (AERO), Zumiez doesn't undercut planned sales prices with deeper promotional discounts. This helps the retailer maintain its margins -- most important when selling an assortment of branded merchandise.

Pass on the trends

By eschewing licensed gear from flash-in-the-pan flicks and TV shows, Zumiez is avoiding the plight of another competitor in the teen arena, Hot Topic (HOTT). The junior goth emporium hit the skids last year when Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga merchandise (complete with the seductive gaze of Edward Cullen, teen vampire) failed to the lure swooning masses into buying more t-shirts, movie paraphernalia, even boxes of bandages over the long haul.

Zumiez keeps stocking street-worthy threads and kicks for guys, girls and pre-teen boys in (dare I say it?) classic styles. That strategy handily sidesteps the problem of building a business based on the trendiest of trends.

Hot Topic's runaway train of success ended in a screeching derailment thanks to the whims of 14-year-olds. By sticking to a steady diet of tried-and-true basics, Zumiez is kicking it old school to the sound of ka-ching.

Image via Zumiez

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