It looks like we still have some way to go before the end of the Corona pandemic. In March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic in Europe, we spoke with Alex Hasch from Duotone and other brands about the difficulties they faced in the beginning of the pandemic. Now, 1,5 years later it looks like this coronavirus is here for the long haul and we decided to catch up with Alex again to speak about the effects of the Corona pandemic on Duotone and the windsurfing industry in general.
Continentseven: It is the second season everybody is dealing with the Corona pandemic. How is the current situation for Duotone?
Alexander Hasch / Duotone Sales & Marketing Manager: The demand for individual sports has been given a mega boost by the pandemic, which has also had a very positive effect on the demand for windsurfing in general. Unfortunately, it is currently very difficult to satisfy the high demand because, as is known from other industries, there are quite some bottlenecks in the supply chain of the whole windsurfing industry at the moment, which cannot be reacted on, too quickly. With the elimination of events, our team riders have developed very well in content creation and social media work in general. For some riders it was already their daily bread, others still had room for improvement. With the help of professional trainings, as well as control and analysis tools, the riders can now take themselves to a whole new level. This will certainly also help them to market their outside sponsors better and thus gain additional sponsors.
Did the supply chains and the distribution change a lot? Which problems are you facing right now?
Some of the supply chains have come to an extreme standstill due to bottlenecks in raw materials and severe delays in shipments. Freight prices have skyrocketed, especially from China, which will of course have an impact on prices. At the moment, we are still struggling to increase production capacities in order to catch up with the backlog and satisfy the high demand. Those who can currently deliver well are directly gaining market share, no matter which brand.
Does the windsurfing industry work together to find solutions how to get best through the Covid crisis?
Yes, we were trying to be in line a bit better with launching dates which suit the market demands much better than in the past like e.g. Freeride launching in spring and not autumn.
Do you have enough products in stock to supply the stores and in the last instance the customers?
We have a good stock for most of the products but we were lacking a bit at masts and Freeride sails.
How did the R&D process and product cycle change? Is there less R&D or even more because there is more time because of less competitions?
For our new 2022 wave range we had more than one year time for development, the first time in history, since our test riders were not busy with events. So the outcome of the new wave sails is based on a very long R&D time and therefore very satisfying. So there was definitely more R&D than before due to better availability of test riders.
Do you have to reduce team riders due to the crisis?
Since the good demand for windsurfing is still there and we also expect this to be going on until end of 2022 we will not face any severe cost cuts. That’s why at the moment we are positive that we can stick with our current riders. We have a great team spirit at Duotone and both parties are extremely happy with the current sponsorships. (Editor’s note: Adam Lewis announced that he will leave Duotone/Fanatic)
Events were an important part in the marking mix for many brands in the past. Right now with almost no events, how did the marketing mix change and how important are events right now for Duotone?
The marketing mix has definitely changed a lot towards social media activity to keep people informed and also entertained despite the lack of events. Duotone’s own content production has been massively increased and the team riders also produce much more content during the times without events. Events, as well as any one-to-one contact with customers on the beach, still play a very important role. Because as important as social media has become, the need for any personal contact with the brand is higher than before. Whether it’s at a test event or simply during an equipment tech talk with team riders or opinion leaders directly at the spot.
Will the sail prices increase in short term due to increased shipping costs? Or will you reduce marketing costs and R&D costs and balance the expanses?
The strong cost increase for raw materials and freight costs cannot be swallowed 100% by the brands. However, we try to swallow part of the costs and keep the price increases moderate. Compared to other industries, we are still in an absolutely good position here. Marketing & R&D are still driving forces for Duotone but at the moment the key is availability, nearly no matter at which price.
Foiling, wind foiling, wing foiling, foil surfing, kite foiling. These are all new styles of water sport. Will windsurfing shrink in the near future?
That’s a typical question for the crystal ball. We hope that Windsurfing and Foil Windsurfing will stay strong. For sure some windsurfers and kitesurfer will switch to foil winging or maybe just foil wing additionally. It’s depending a lot on the spot and conditions. But it’s definitely hard to predict how this will influence the windsurfing and windsurf foiling market. Windsurf foiling will maybe replace pure freeride windsurfing one day.
When you have a look on the Social Media accounts of some of the famous windsurfers, you see around 80% foil pictures (wing or windsurf). These riders used to be the windsurfing idols for some people. Do you think this will help to market windsurfing?
That’s a rhetoric question 🙂 of course this is not beneficial for marketing pure windsurfing. Especially when you see just foil winging and no foil windsurfing. But you cannot fight against natural movements or trends. Be smart, live with it and keep on pushing in all areas with loads of enthusiasm for windsurfing to stay market leader.
How important is windsurfing for Duotone compared to wing foil and foil windsurfing?
Very important. We see up to 30% more demand for windsurfing and foil windsurfing sails in these days where individual sports see a huge push. It is precisely our greatest task to meet this mega demand.
What do you wish for the future? A return to past situation before March 2020 or a re-start with fresh concepts?
Fresh concepts, ideas and spirits are always positive. Many things changed and will not be back to where they were. But one thing keeps the same: our passion and enthusiasm for the best sport in the world, windsurfing.
Thanks a lot for your time and we wish you and the whole Duotone team a good start into 2022!!