Surfing is no longer only a sport for beach bums. In the last 20 years or so, surfing has developed into a multi-billion dollar industry and a staple of our culture. Similarly, Pacific Sunwear or "PacSun" has grown from a little California surf shop established in 1980 to one of the top names in teen fashion with nearly 900 stores in 50 states. 

As it's grown, PacSun's focus has remained on staying true to its roots in youth culture and "offering what's next now." Employees follow the PacSun mission of waking up every day inspired and filled with passion to stoke the spirit of California that lives in us all. Yet keeping employees inspired throughout the day had become a challenge for the company as its store portal technology was created before most of its employees - members of the millennial youth market -were even born.

To avoid a wipeout, PacSun turned to Microsoft and Microsoft partner Neudesic to outfit employees with the resources and speed needed to maximize sales opportunities and stay engaged. Using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and related technologies, PacSun built a new web-based company portal, called PCH for the Pacific Coast Highway, which is hosted on the point-of-sale terminals throughout the chain.

Now, PacSun uses the PCH portal to promote its youth-market culture and drive its business. By offering a touch-sensitive web interface along with access to the PacSun website and social media tools, advancing the company culture to its store employees has been a breeze. Innovating with the latest technology has also had some very practical consequences, according to PacSun's Senior Director of IT Project Delivery Bill Bieluch.

"An 18-year-old sales person intuitively understands a web-based tool and how to use it," says Bieluch. "That cuts down on training time, which is important given average turnover rates in retail. But it also helps to cut down on turnover, because it increases employee satisfaction. We don't maintain figures on this, but feedback from employees on the tool has been a unanimous rave."

The company has also vastly enhanced the communication with its stores to improve operations - receiving 3,400 pieces of feedback yearly by giving employees a familiar, Twitter-like communications channel. PacSun also captures new sales with an online shopping mechanism built into the portal; and employees spend less time on administrative tasks, giving them more time to devote to sales.

"We used Microsoft technologies to turn our portal from a drag on sales to a contributor to sales," says Bieluch. "It's the same stores, the same employees, the same merchandise ─ the difference is that now we're empowering our store employees with a tremendously powerful tool for selling."

For more information on Pacific Sunwear's web portal development, view the case study here.