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Hot Site Gets Hotter

If it's hot and all the cool young dudes and chicks are wearing it, Pacific Sunwear sells it. Pick any trendy brand name--Roxy, Billabong, O'Neill, Vans, Flojos--and chances are its products are available from the Anaheim, Calif.-based retailer.

In an era when America's youthful consumers would just as soon spend their discretionary income on the latest in video game or music-related electronics gear as clothing, Pacific Sunwear has become one of the stellar successes in the so-called "lifestyle" retail marketplace. With more than 900 stores in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, as well as an increasingly successful e-commerce Web site, the company reported sales of $1.04 billion in the 2003 fiscal year, up nearly 25 percent from the previous year.

Pacific Sunwear has ridden the wave of popularity enjoyed by two widely disparate teen subcultures, the skate-and-surf crowd and the hip-hop set. It sells the types of stylish and trendy fashions favored by 12- to 22-year-olds, who prefer the casual look of baggy shorts, halter tops, hats, and sweats, according to the company's e-commerce site,

Even though Pacific Sunwear has yet to put its hip-hop brand, d.e.m.o, online--that will happen in 2005--e-commerce sales still made up more than $13 million of the company's revenue in 2003, up almost 80 percent from 2002. Sales continue to grow significantly this year, says Ron Ehlers, Pacific Sunwear's vice president of information services. As Dwayne Russell, the company's director of technical services, puts it, the company's e-commerce operations have become a sort of "build it and they will come" situation.

That is, each time Pacific Sunwear has increased bandwidth into and out of its self-hosted Web site, more visitors as well as buyers would come. (The company operates and hosts its site in-house for several reasons, including to maintain centralized control of all its e-commerce operations and to take advantage its strong IBM iSeries server and WebSphere knowledge base.) With its Web operations becoming increasingly critical, Pacific Sunwear had to shore up the performance of its e-commerce operations.

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