Business at Bora Bora

By Tiffany Montgomery of Shop East Surf LLC I wanted to check out some stores while I was in Puerto Rico at the Board Retailers Association Summit so I asked Luis Santori if he would take me to see a Bora Bora store. Luis is the vice president of merchandising and marketing for Bora Bora, which has seven stores in Puerto Rico. On the drive over to Bora Bora’s 5,500-square-foot flagship, left, at the upscale Plaza Las Américas shopping center I asked Luis how business is going these days. “Retail is tough, the economy is tough,” he said. “In Puerto Rico it has been tough for the last couple of years.” Company-wide, Bora Bora is planning for a double digit same store sales decline in 2008. The tough times makes you sharper, Luis believes. “It makes you a better retailer,” he said. “You make adjustments. We watch what the competition does, but really what we concentrate on is our own business.” Increased competition Mostly, Bora Bora’s mall-based stores cater to locals rather than tourists. When Bora Bora started in 1992, it was the only cool teen retailer in the mall. As the years have gone on, competitors have arrived, including American Eagle, PacSun and Macy’s. “Our biggest advantage is they focus on the national level, and we focus on the local Puerto Rico level,” Luis said. That means carrying special products that work just for Puerto Rico. For example, during back to school, Bora Bora carries backpacks that are much smaller than a typical backpack found in the national chains. That’s because at Puerto Rico public schools, the books...