Forget the famous surf brands and the iconic surfy logos. The truth is that the wetsuit market leader is the Sheico Group. But why?
The Sheico Group was founded by Pi-Goong Shiue on the 20th July 1965, in Taiwan. In less than four decades, the company took over the complex world of neoprene gear. Step by step, and while simultaneously investing in research and development, the firm grew into a multinational tentacle.
They started producing raincoats and rubber boots but, with time, their expertise expanded to include neoprene boots and gloves, and wetsuits. Today, the Sheico Group rules the world.
Although they might not be the most recognized wetsuit insignia in the globe, they're the worldwide OEM leader in second skins for surfers. Yes, Sheico contract-manufactures for Quiksilver, O'Neill, Billabong, Rip Curl, etc. Surprised? Well, that's life.
The Taiwanese conglomerate knows that technology, neoprene expertise, and supply chain mastery will likely extend world domination. And figures never lie. The Sheico Group controls 65% of the global wetsuit market. In other words, the company sells 4.5 million wetsuits and 3.5 million rashguards per year. Impressive numbers, indeed.
In a recent blog article, Andrew Park and Alex Wang, founders of handcrafted, custom-made wetsuit brand Carapace, discussed the consumer's illusion of freedom and choice, when choosing a new rubber skin.
"Because there is really no difference, the 'technology' companies have no choice but to use flowery wording - like FreakyPsychoButterHeatStroke - to differentiate themselves. And instead of allocating budget towards true innovation, budget is being spent on just that, 'marketing.'"
So, we're not usually told that Quiksilver, O'Neill, Billabong, Rip Curl and friends don't manufacture, produce or develop wetsuits. They do have a word in design, models, and few materials, but their primary goal is to effectively market wetsuits.
Will there ever be a wetsuit brand named Sheico? Probably not. But if you've tried all classic wetsuit brands, and you're not happy with the results, maybe it's time to give the custom-fit alternatives a chance.