Arts Events Leisure | People and Places | The Business
29/10/2021
Lockdown triggers a surprising year for surfing brand
by Melissa Laurie, MP Business Social

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Paul and Phil Trigger as kids on the beach in 1964.

Paul and Phil Trigger – founders of iconic Australian surf, ski and skate brand Trigger Bros – are self-taught craftsmen. Opening their first store in 1968, what started as a passion for surfing has led to some of Australia’s top surfers choosing to ride Trigger Bros boards and a major business deal with Billabong.

But it hasn’t all been calm seas. “A lot of people think how successful Trigger Bros are, but we’ve had some real tough times,” Paul said.

Trigger Bros has shops in Point Leo and Frankston and has created more than 30,000 surfboards – that’s about 566 a year. At one stage there were five Trigger Bros stores across Victoria, including an outlet on Prahran’s popular Chapel St shopping strip that they closed after two and a half years. “Every day we opened the Prahran store, it ended up costing us $800, and some days, due to miserable weather, we would end up only making $290 in sales,” Paul said. “We were losing money.”

Paul and Phil with Phil Newman, who oversees the store management. 

The business struggled as debt started to increase and it came to a point where both Phil and Paul had to make a pivotal decision: the Sorrento store was profitable but it became necessary to sell it to Billabong to be able to stay in business. Despite the setback, the brothers ploughed on. “Phil and I have never gotten really down,” Paul said. “We just move on and don’t dwell on stuff too much.”

Paul described last year as the brothers’ “worst and best year ever”. “With lockdown, no one was buying snowboards. This meant we were stuck with a lot of extra stock.” But while some sports were off-limits, Victorians were still able to surf. “We saw people that surfed once a year now surfing all the time, and people taking up surfing for the first time.” Then once restrictions eased, there was a surge in Victorian families holidaying on the Peninsula and taking their kids to the beach. “In September we made the most number of surfboards for that month since starting the business in 1968, and achieved record sales.”

The success of Trigger Bros is not only due to the quality of its products. “We have built a profile with top surfers, especially in the sporting industry. We hire people that surf, snowboard and maybe ride a skateboard so that our customers get the advice they’re after and know they made the right purchase.” One example is Paul’s daughter, Hannah, who competed at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in snowboarding and works at the Trigger Bros stores.

Paul with his daughter, Hannah.

Paul Trigger.

 

Paul and Phil host a vintage surf day in November that sees close to 1000 vintage surfboards on display in Point Leo Park. It’s just another way they are bringing the community together.

Creating and nurturing a loyal customer base is part of their success, which comes from their passion for surfing and sharing their product knowledge with their customers. 

Paul will be one of the guest speakers at the next Mornington Peninsula Business Social Night, which at this stage is likely to be held in early 2022. All ticket proceeds go directly to local charities, so keep your eye on Mornington Peninsula Magazine for more details.

AFL coaches with the Triggers Bros boards that were created to raise $42,000 for charity.

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