Kayaking, Partying & Profits
Whereas the sales growth curve for Surf to Summit is fairly flat and steady, the more dynamic growth curve for After 5 has States’ closer attention. And in a recent interview at the company’s headquarters in an industrial park on the outskirts of posh Santa Barbara, he was much more interested in telling the After 5 story. Both books contribute roughly the same amount of revenue.
“I learned how to cold call in the real estate business,” he says, “and got tired of that. But I figured I could sell stuff to anybody as long as I could come up with a good product line.” After 5 carries party-related T-shirts, Hawaiian shirts, novelty drinking glasses, cocktail shakers and cocktail party games, among other things. Surf to Summit offers kayak seats and seatbacks, anchors and hardware. (The corporate name of the two catalogs remains Surf to Summit. See SurftoSummit.com and After5catalog.com.)
“It’s impressive that he’s able to run the two businesses under one roof,” observes Mark Gallo, a friend of States who’s been a close observer of After 5. Gallo is CEO of Magellan’s, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based cataloger of travel gear. “And he continues to see success with the Surf to Summit business, even though more of his creativity and energy is spent on After 5.”
After 5 Evolves
After 5’s product line has evolved considerably since day one. “We wanted to be a mini Williams-Sonoma at first, because we had a number of kitchen items,” says States. “We even used the Williams-Sonoma list at first. But then I thought, ‘Who would you buy from: big, fat Williams-Sonoma or us?’ So we expanded to become more of a gift catalog, and listened to what customers wanted.”
Some gifts abound, but the keyword here is party novelties. Among the bizarre product lines that have done well for the company in terms of both sales and margins are rolls of yellow barrier tape typically used by police to close off crime scenes to the public; except the tape After 5 sells says “Caution: Party Zone.”