It’s not just you. Tommy Bahama beach chairs are everywhere


This tropical kitsch brand, which started in 1992 selling men’s silk Hawaiian shirts and then ventured into far-flung areas like furniture and restaurants, is pretty much anywhere by the ocean these days. , from Florida to California via New Jersey.

« Tommy Bahama is a lifestyle brand and the beach chair helps reinforce that idea of ​​sun and vacation, » said Edward Yruma, retail analyst at Piper Sandler, which covers the brand owner. Oxford Industries (OXM). « You see them everywhere on most major coastal beaches during the summer. »
The brand has conquered American beaches thanks to a licensing strategy with a key manufacturer of outdoor products, access to more than 60 million Costco members and new features on the chairs since their debut in 2009, such as backpack straps and extra pockets to hold sunscreen and smartphones.

Tommy Bahama sales are also benefiting from the « return to leisure and vacation travel and the permanent migration of so many people to warmer climates » during the pandemic, Oxford Industries Thomas Caldeco said in an earnings call Thursday. .

Tommy Bahama does not manufacture its chairs and beach items. They are made by ShelterLogic Group, a leading manufacturer of outdoor and beach products, which also manufactures the RIO Beach brand of chairs, as well as other cabanas, tents and lines of camping equipment.

Instead, Tommy Bahama licenses its name and design for beachwear and receives royalties from sales at retailers. This licensing strategy means that Tommy Bahama can increase customer exposure to the brand without incurring production or advertising costs.

The beach chairs themselves are an « incredibly powerful marketing tool, » Yruma said.

« Better to be lucky than good »

There is no public data on market share for beach chairs, but Rob Silinski, president of ShelterLogic Group, estimates that Tommy Bahama controls 80% of the market for chairs over $30.

This is an unexpected achievement for Tommy Bahama.

The man who oversaw the launch of the chairs in 2009, nearly two decades after the company started, never imagined customers would buy them.

« It’s better to be lucky than good, » said Doug Wood, the brand’s then president and now CEO. « I had no illusions it would take off like this. »

At the time, Tommy Bahama was struggling.

Its founders positioned the brand as a fashion line for men who belonged to country clubs. They were « Ralph Lauren aficionados, » co-founder Bob Emfield said of the brand’s target audience in a podcast this year.

They were looking to create a design that evoked « sunbelt and dress up, » Emfield said, and were determined to use the name of an island near the American mainland.

« Hawaii had been beaten to death, » he said. So they came up with « ‘Tommy Bahama’ because I liked how the two words sounded together. »

The founders had recently left the company and the country was suffering from the Great Recession, which led to a drop in sales for Tommy Bahama.

“We were a silk-based company known primarily for its flowers men’s camp shirts,” CEO Wood said. “We had swimwear in the line. No one considered us a beach brand. We were more dressed than that. »

So when a Tommy Bahama executive presented Wohaod with the idea of ​​working with SimpleLogic to sell licensed chairs at Costco, Wood never thought it would work.

But the brand needed the cash, and Costco immediately guaranteed around $250,000, so Wood reluctantly agreed. « It took off, » he said. « It continues to sell at an incredible rate. »

After its success at Costco, Tommy Bahama expanded distribution to other chains such as Amazon and Walmart. Now, Tommy Bahama releases a new chair each season and emails subscribers when it debuts.

Richard Galanti, Chief Financial Officer of Costco (COST), said « we sell crazy amounts » of Tommy Bahama chairs in stores. « It’s a year-round product. »

The brand does not detail company sales, but Tommy Bahama sells up to two million chairs a year and 700,000 umbrellas, Galanti added.

Tommy Bahama's most popular chair.

Its most popular product is the $89 « Wavy Marlin Deluxe » navy blue aluminum reclining chair with a built-in cooler, padded backpack straps and a neck rest. Costco, Amazon, and other chains sell more basic versions for around $40.

In recent years, ShelterLogic has expanded the Tommy Bahama line to include children’s chairs and taller ones designed to make it easier for older people to get out of the seats.

Due to the popularity of chairs, Tommy Bahama has developed a whole new business around beach gear and more recently has branched out into women’s swimwear, coolers and t-shirts.

“It allowed us to build businesses that we didn’t have,” Wood said.

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