Big Kahuna Sport Co.
Gordon Querin started Big Kahuna Sport Co. in 1998 in Vancouver, and today the company leads the way in providing Canadian institutions with sporting goods such as equipment, apparel, uniforms and footwear. Big Kahuna also carries a wide range of corporate apparel and promotional products, outfitting businesses with affordable and practical clothing and promotional products.
With its success in western Canada, over the past 15 years the company expanded eastward, with eight locations in Victoria, Surrey, Kelowna, Edmonton, Calgary, Burlington (the Greater Toronto Area), Montreal, and Halifax.
“We are in eight cities, with five brick and mortar locations, and 52 employees,” says Querin and continues, “As an institutional sporting goods supplier, we cater to schools, universities, sports organizations and corporate business. Our sales force is what makes us different. Our people offer clients an incredible tool kit that helps them to choose the right products and the right design for their needs.”
The Big Kahuna supplies more than 60 teams and partners in Canada. The company is affiliated with national sport organizations such as Gymnastics Canada, Field Hockey Canada, and provincial sport organizations Athletics Alberta, Basketball Alberta, BC Athletics, and BC Rugby.
The company is also partnered with Canadian Interuniversity Sport, Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association, British Columbia Colleges’ Athletic Association, Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, Ontario Colleges Athletic Association, RSEQ (Network for Student Sports in Quebec), and Atlantic Colleges Athletic Association.
To give back to the sporting community, Big Kahuna partnered with Athletes Against Bullying Alliance. AAB focuses on educating about bullying, teaching students that bullying is completely unacceptable in school and on the field. “There has been a strong push in the society and from the sports communities across the country against bullying, and we fully support this cause. The youth is the environment where we operate, and the athletes represent the vehicle of leadership in these communities. So it’s important to get the message out and support those who are bullied,” says Querin.
The sporting goods and products continue to change with more sophisticated technologies and more advanced fabrics entering the market. According to Querin, even the ways athletes train continue to change.
“The training practices shifted and started to focus more on agility, core strength, and speed. We have seen athletes becoming more creative in their training and the industry adjusted to this with new tools, and a whole new range of products used in training. What used to be jump ropes and sit ups, refocused on a wide range of resistance training equipment,” says Querin.
This business continues to focus on service to its clients and value provided by quality brands. As for the quality of products that the clients are receiving, Big Kahuna is a lead partner of many top brands including Adidas, Under Armour, Russell, Schutt, Mizuno, Baden, Spalding, 360 Athletics and many others. While the quality in all of these brands are exceptional, according to Querin, Adidas remains the leading brand and the lead partner of Big Kahuna for team apparel, accessories, footwear and uniforms. For customers, Adidas’s three stripes continue to epitomize athletic achievement, and the brand remains one of the biggest and most visible brands in the world. Whether it’s at the grass roots or professional level, Adidas is every athlete’s brand.
“These are all quality brands, and the size of our business provides us with the buying power that’s giving us the best advantages in the business. We may not be the cheapest in town, but we offer great quality and service that our market requires the most,” says Querin.
The institutional sporting goods market follows a very seasonal business model, where the back to school season sees exponential number of requests for the product. This has been creating significant cash flow challenges even with tight financial management at Big Kahuna.
“This seasonal nature requires us work closely with our suppliers, making them understand the seasonality of our business as well, so they can provide us with that leeway that can stretch their credit with us. Our suppliers are starting to understand more and more our model, and we continue to build good relationships year after year. However, as we gain a prominent place in the institutional sporting goods, we are beginning to create a situation where we can manage this on our own,” says Querin.
Big Kahuna has established itself as a serious contender in the institutional sporting goods niche, but Querin says that the growth path has not yet been clearly determined for the company. The business remains focused on organic growth but also remains opportunistic if the right form of aggressive growth may arise.
“We want to make sure that we keep the stress level of our organization at a minimum, but all the while we continue to grow and push the envelope. So far, we haven’t had any major issues with our growth. It comes natural to us due to the fact that our people are extremely good, and we support them in their success.”
To play the numbers game in terms of growth, Querin expects the company’s organic annual growth between 10 and 20 per cent in the upcoming years, and that’s even without contemplating any more aggressive growth modes. The plan is to continue to penetrate new markets geographically, gaining more ground and presence in the Prairies, Quebec, Ontario and Maritimes. Besides geography, Querin also wants to expand with additional sporting categories in other sports.
“We are currently the leader in football, basketball, volleyball, track and field, and rugby, and we are just dipping our toes with sports like soccer, baseball, and hockey, and I would like to see us within the next 10 years as a leader in these sports as well,” concluded Querin.