Rick Zappone is a legendary Florida sales rep who has worked with Quiksilver, Reef, Olukai, Rusty and Hurley.
Most recently he has represented Quiksilver but is retiring due to a back injury.
Retailers talk about him so well, so we decided to ask him about his career in the industry and the key qualities a good sales rep needs.
We also asked him about his future plans.
How did you become the Quiksilver sales representative?
Rick zappone: There was a mash up of representatives in Florida that led Chris Payne to take the South Florida territory for Quiksilver. This left North Florida open.
At the time, I was a sales manager for Olukai and was exhausted from travel. I wanted to start representing again and I was always a huge fan of Quiksilver, so I threw my name in the ring. Before Olukai, I spent 27 years with Reef, 11 years with Rusty and three years with Hurley.
What do you think are the most important qualities for a salesperson?
Rick zappone: There are a lot of good reps there. For me, I have always viewed my accounts as business partners. So being able to form that relationship and being a good partner is the most important aspect of being a representative in my opinion.
I never wanted to let go of my accounts and wanted to make sure they always felt like they could trust me for their business. Because I’m TOC, I tend to over-analyze things, so here’s what I focused on as a rep:
- Buyers’ habits
- The main selling seasons of the store and ensuring that the appropriate orders correspond to those seasons
- Learning the rotations of each account and expected margins
- Appropriate product mix for maximum sales
- Always push to get orders quickly for maximum incentives, but more importantly, orders placed early get a better distribution of products on the go
- I tried to get to know the staff on the floor – they are the ones selling my product
- Take responsibility for my mistakes and the company’s mistakes and do my best to correct them
- Be impeccable with my word
- Do not over-sell and / or over-distribute an area
- Under the promise, over deliver.
What are some valuable lessons you’ve learned from retailers over the years?
Rick zappone: The industry was very young when I started. As the industry grew, I was able to grow and learn with my retailers. I watched and learned as they created purchasing plans, increased headcount, moved from manual systems to point-of-sale systems, walked through several growing categories and how to buy and market them.
After all these years, there are a few retailers that stand out:
Dave and Nancy Macri of Blue Sky Surf Shop were the first store owners to buy from me as a representative and helped me see that I could build a career in the business.
John Sabo when he was at Ron Jon in the mid 90’s. The depth of his buying plans and what he wanted to generate in category sales was very impressive. Few of the retailers I worked with at the time were dissecting trading this way. This has set a bar for buyers in my territory.
Susan Wallace of Aqua East and her ROI. She really pushed me to know all aspects of my business, my account affairs, and never come to a date unprepared. She always pushed me.
Keri Peterson at Sunrise, which is a walking, talking point of sale system. I have always admired his ability to buy fringe pieces and sell them by the piece. She showed me what a well-trained housekeeping staff can do.
Ed Leasure (former owner of Quiet Flight) taught me not to choose too much. Focus on the key styles, dig deeper and understand what is selling to maximize my dollars per square foot.
Gail Velardi from MTB Surf and Skate Emporium who has the ability to look at the line and pick what always ends up being the major retail styles. When I was with Rusty, it was always my first date.
How has the industry changed during your time as a sales representative? What are the good changes and which are the worst?
Rick zappone: I have watched the industry mature and become an extremely strong industry, providing a lot of people with great careers and opportunities. As businesses have grown, they have become more skilled in sourcing, producing and shipping products. Companies have broadened product categories, which has given retailers the opportunity to increase their sales and customer base. Large companies have been able to sponsor professional surfers and competitions, providing the surfing community with a professional outlet. Not only for athletes, but also for coaches, team leaders, announcers and event coordinators. This is what essentially drove surfing to compete in the Olympics last year. Basically, the industry has grown into a big business and this growth has benefited everyone involved, not just businesses.
However, with this growth come challenges, which I think are not unique to the surf industry. Surfing went from a basic industry to an industry in no time.
With this growth, many businesses have lost the agility they once had and have been forced to make decisions that don’t always keep specialty stores at the forefront. Most companies have moved production overseas, which has reduced production times from 90 days to 180-220 days. Designers had to design so far in advance, which makes it harder to find trends.
With the growth of the industry, some businesses got so big that they became too difficult to run and were eventually sold to companies outside of surfing. Some of them thrived, and some struggled.
For me though, I think the industry as a whole has done an incredible job over the past couple of years navigating a global pandemic. Yes there are a few issues, but when you look at the big picture it could have been a lot worse.
Why did you decide to withdraw?
Rick zappone: About 10 months ago, I had a chiropractic adjustment that went horribly wrong. It left me in a very difficult situation and made it extremely difficult to hit the road. Quiksilver has been very supportive of me and has looked at many options to make me stay. But, after eight months, I was not recovering and had to make the difficult decision to quit. I loved working for Quiksilver and quitting was really bad. Since leaving the road, my recovery has accelerated and a full recovery is looking really good.
What’s next for you?
Rick zappone: Currently, Quiksilver has hired me as a Territory Consultant for the next six months. In addition to counseling, my family and I launched a surf shop in St. Augustine Beach in 2019 called The Surf Stop. The store is home to our family brand, Where Salt Meets Soul (WSMS). My daughter Kayla manages the retail business, carefully organizes the space, and creates a community platform of over 30 local artists and brands.
The WSMS brand is a great collaboration between Kayla and my son Alec. All designs are made in-house by both and printed locally. The boutique and the brand support surfers, creatives and those looking for a moving connection with nature. We believe the community fosters unity and aims to inspire the next generation of surfers and soul seekers.
My son Alec also runs youth surfing programs all year round in the store, with a focus on creativity and self-expression. So I am delighted to be able to come in and help out at the store where I can in the coming months.