Gary (left) and Mark Timperley in the Billabong Store in Byron Bay.
Gary (left) and Mark Timperley in the Billabong Store in Byron Bay.

Billabong buys Byron surf shops

They started with just one surf retail store in Byron Bay almost 30 years ago.

Since then brothers Gary and Mark Timperley have opened three more surf shops - Big Kahuna, S-cape Byron and Billabong- cementing their place as one of Byron Bay's most successful businesses.

But that ‘empire' came to an end last week with the news that surf giant Billabong has purchased all four stores.

However, the sale does not signal the end of the brothers' association with the surf shop business they founded in 1984.

It will be business as usual for Gary and Mark, who will stay on as store managers for at least two years and will retain the existing employee base.

“I think these are always difficult decisions, but the fact we are selling to one of our original customers and then remaining in the business in a management capacity makes it a little easier,” Mark said.

“When we started to talk about selling the businesses we realised we hadn't stopped working since we left school in Fourth Form (Year 10).

“We are proud of what we have built and I think we are both comforted to know that an authentic surf brand will now help us build on those foundations.”

The Timperley brothers and their family have a long history with Byron Bay.

Gary and Mark founded the landmark surf shop, Bay Action, in November 1984 on a site in Jonson Street that has been in the family for 75 years.

The site is today still known as ‘Timperley's Corner'.

Their grandfather purchased the land in 1935 and developed it into a service station, which he operated with his son Graeme.

Both later died at a time when Gary was emerging as one of the world's leading surfers.

By the early 1980s, with Gary's competitive surfing career coming to a close, he teamed up with Mark to open Bay Action.

The brothers started to expand the business a decade later, with Big Kahuna opening in November 1994; S-cape Byron opening in September 1999; and a Billabong licensed store opening in October 2005.

Mark said the sale of the four shops to Billabong had happened very quickly.

“Gary and I had been talking about how we could get out of the businesses and we had a very casual conversation with Billabong,” he said.

“Three weeks later we signed the deal.

“Right from the start we were working with Billabong and Quiksilver, and a few of the other leading brands of the day.

“The industry has evolved so much over time and I'm happy to say that Billabong has always shown us great loyalty.

“So teaming up with them is a nice way to ensure the business we founded continues well into the future and our staff is afforded every opportunity to grow.”

Gary said that even though it was an end of an era, he wasn't sad.

“Mark and I are proud of what we have built up and now there's an opportunity to grow the stores even more,” he said.

“We've both worked really hard for nearly 30 years, with early starts and late nights, and that's probably not going to change.

“It's going to be a new learning curve for both of us, but we are looking forward to the challenges.”

John Mossop, a spokesman for Billabong, said Mark and Gary had been great supporters of Billabong and fantastic retail partners over many years.

“We now have the opportunity to work closer with them and we look forward to growing the business well into the future,” he said.

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