RETAIL/LEISURE : Balboa Beach Co.'s Sales Take Plunge, but Optimism Remains

Compiled by Chris Woodyard, Times staff writer

The recession has hit one of Orange County's oldest and best-known surf wear chains like a stiff riptide.

Sales at Balboa Beach Co. this year are running 30% behind last year. But Jim Roberts, president of parent company Beach Enterprises Inc. in Newport Beach, says he's confident the chain will pull through.

Optimally, Roberts said he hopes to find an investor who can put $250,000 into the four-store chain to try to pay off debts. In the meantime, he said, the company will continue to cut costs and maintain tight inventories. To reduce costs, the company closed its El Toro warehouse at the end of 1990.

Already, credit lines are pulled so tight that the chain's stores in Newport Beach, Rolling Hills Estates and Palm Desert are short some odd sizes in their clothing lines. But Roberts said he knows his competitors are having just as hard a time. In the resulting shakeout, he said Balboa Beach can "emerge as the strongest beach retailers in Southern California."

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