Ten Shops, One Question January 2001

Damn it’s cold outside!

Once upon a time, the traditional U.S. skateboarding market used to be affected by inconveniences such as winter weather. Production of skate goods ground to a halt, even in sunny climes such as Southern California, because the bulk of our nation was covered in snow. But that was before the foot soldiers of skatedom started the current skatepark boom. And we thought covered parking garages were cool! I even recently saw a sponsor-me video starring a kid bundled head to toe in some sort of polarfleece–hey, if it works, I’m not gonna knock it!

This volume we chose seven successful shops from the contiguous U.S., one from U.S. Commonwealth Puerto Rico, and one shop each from Canada and Germany to pose an industry-related question to each issue. The variety of responses has been most enlightening, and should prove helpful to both retailers and manufacturers.

If you have any questions or comments for our ten shops, please address them to: Ten Shops, One Question, 353 Airport Road, Oceanside, California 92054; FAX: (760) 722-0653.

This issue’s question: Do your customers buy apparel based on style and brand, or are they most concerned with quality and features?

 

Jose Luis Melendez Martinez at Lokomalik Surf Skate Shop in Cidra, Puerto Rico

“My clients look more for brands–the kids look at what’s going on new. Volcom is going good now. Some customers are looking at the details: buttons, the stitching. Mostly my boys look for brands–T-shirts and shorts where you can see the name brand.

“I carry all name brands–I don’t carry the more inexpensive stuff in my store. This is a specialty store–in my town I’m the only store that carries these items. It’s a matter of prestigio honor/prestige, you know? The kids know what they want. And selling the other brands doesn’t help our industry.

“For me, the skate designers’ brands have special details a few customers want, but mostly T-shirts are T-shirts, and everybody copies everybody else. Like the convertible cargoes are even at Kmart now! Skate business starts it off, and then everybody starts copying! Skaters are much pickier than surfers about clothing.”

Alexander Bonk at Titus Roll Sport in Münster, Germany

“The way I see it, there’s a big difference between the buying habits of skateboarders and non-skating customers. Skateboarders are shopping for their favorite brands, while the non-skating customer is basically buying by the looks. This doesn’t mean skateboarders don’t want their gear to look fresh, but someone who buys a 151 board is not going to buy World Industries T-shirt the next day. As far as quality of production goes, people seem to care a lot less about quality than they care about style.

“An exception to that would only be parents who accompany their kids shopping. Due to a very high exchange rate from dollar to deutsch mark right now, clothing by U.S. skate brands sells for amounts way beyond value, and it’s getting harder to explain why the stuff is so expensive. That’s reason for us to carry non-American brands that are more valuable a better value. When it comes to skateboard hardware, though, the U.S. brands are not replaceable.”

Chris Mitchell at Brave New World in Little Silver, New Jersey

“It’s 50-50. You’ve got people coming in here looking specifically at features: stitching, fabric, stainless steel–all that good stuff. The rest is driven by brand–pros, team, peer pressure, ads, videos. But I’d say the kids are not looking for as many features as the adults.

“Honestly, our skate clothing is really limited. We don’t offer any pricepoint skate clothes, but we do offer surf brands at lower prices, and some of that has similar styling.”

Dylan at Tazmahal Skatepark in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

“I would say the brand itself anthe styles will attract the customer; if he knows the brand, he’ll go toward it. Then he’ll look at that brand and the different models they have to choose from. I try to mix it up on the rack–one brand name and then some not-so-known product with good quality. Fortunately we’ve gotten some good stuff in with low prices–not a brand name. It does create a certain effect on the customer. But if you discount something or advertise at a low price, people ask what’s wrong with it!

“A lot of the brands do not really design clothes–it’s not their main market. They the apparel are often more expensive due to all the people involved in between–crew knits for 69 dollars, say. I wouldn’t stock all my shop in brands, that’s for sure. The trends change so fast–one week what’s hot may not be the next week. Skate clothes are still very expensive–a lot more stuff would move if they companies could adjust their prices.”

Aarington Davis at Triple A Skate ‘n’ Snow in Florence, Kentucky

“I think it’s more if they like the brand–but it depends on the age group. Younger kids like a lot of World Industries, older kids are more into the style. Girls are shopping for bargains. We carry strictly skate clothing brands. There’s no faking the folks around here. Everything’s real, and everything is the best quality–no wackness.

“We mostly stick to Chocolate and all the Girl clothing lines–the top-notch stuff, dope clothes. People who don’t know what to do with us, kids just starting out, might complain about the prices. But not the folks who know what’s up.”

Mark Loebe at Boardroom of Jackson Hole in Jackson, Wyoming

“In the T-shirts and sweatshirts, it’s all brand-name driven. Then with pants, they’ll buy whatever based on if it’s what they want. Most of the time the pants brand label is covered by the T-shirt anyhow.

“The cargo thing’s been around so long, I think everyone’s looking for a change–that’s maybe why the zip-off hip-hop-style long pants work so good here. As long as the fit is what they’re looking for, I don’t think it matters. If the pants fall between the 60 to 65 dollar cost, then it’s fine with me. For the most part, people have a little more cash here–it’s a resort town.

“It’s pretty simple: T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, and pants. We’re all waiting for ‘em to do something different!”

Mike Pooley at Bill’s Wheels Skate Shop in Santa Cruz, California

“It’s mainly brand shoppers here. I’ll point out good features on clothing from companies that aren’t as popular, but they won’t buy it because it doesn’t say the cool name on it. That’s mainly the under-eighteen crowd. The older shoppers appreciate those little touches, but the kids don’t give a rat’s ass if there’s triple stitching in the butt.

“I think clothes sell better because of the name, but we know if they do their own cut-and-sew, and let people know. We only carry skate brands, but we do carry pricepoint in those brands to help counteract the high prices–like Element and Black Label. We also keep our eyes open for clearances from skate companies.”

Troy Asher at Dusty’s Board Shop in Kennewick, Washington

“I think I’m noticing more with the older people, their attention is more on the functionality, where the young people are more into the graphics and what’s hot–what companies are the hot companies. Over the last five years I’ve noticed that some of the kids who bought for the brand name are now buying for functionality and durability, especially in shoes.

“We carry a few lines of clothing companies like Rip Zone and Counter Culture to cover pricepoint and general needs. We carry pretty much everything that people want. Quality craftsmanship is the key thing to selling clothes.”

Rod Smith at White Chocolate Experience in Hays, Kansas

“I think it’s a little bit of both. I know price is really important to most of our customers–in apparel, shoes, and skate goods. We have a lot of customers who don’t have a lot of money. Sometimes even our better customers will buy jeans somewhere else cheap, and come in here and buy a patch to slap on ‘em!

“Skaters are looking for a lot of the features, especially in pants, like the roll-up feature on the cargoes. At the same time–as owners of the shop–we know they want it, but they’re not gonna buy a lot of that because of the cost. We sell a lot more Ts and hoodies than pants. We’ve done good with jeans like Volcom–we try to find something that’s quality but pricepoint–not with all the bells and whistles.

“When we look at the catalogs, we try to toe the line between the technical side of it and whether we’ll be able to sell it at that price. We’ve done well with NHS apparel, and Innes, and we carry the less-expensive Alphanumeric apparel. DC apparel is pretty solid stuff at good pricepoints. We’ve had good luck with our own shop-brand Ts, sweatshirts, and decks, so we’re even thinking of doing some basic White Chocolate pants we can sell at like 35 dollars.”

Sandie at Scottsdale Sidewalk Surfer in Scottsdale, Arizona

“They’re strictly into brand name and style. They very seldom balk at the prices for skate-brand clothing. The parents used to, but the stuff really lasts well. Element’s first in shop sales, Four Star’s second, and other than that I think it all depends on what comes out and what looks good. I do Alphanumeric, TSA, and Matix also.

“I don’t try to carry cheaper non-skate brand pricepoint clothes because they just won’t sell. Our customers won’t even buy stuff on sale! They figure it’s no good. I order pants or shorts a few pairs in each size, and if I get a lot of calls for ‘em, I’ll reorder. In T-shirts almost anything with skateboard names sells. Independent T-shirts and hats sell better than any other, but I don’t sell a lot of Independent trucks! I also sell a lot of skateboarding T-shirts to older guys who don’t skate but used to.”

really important to most of our customers–in apparel, shoes, and skate goods. We have a lot of customers who don’t have a lot of money. Sometimes even our better customers will buy jeans somewhere else cheap, and come in here and buy a patch to slap on ‘em!

“Skaters are looking for a lot of the features, especially in pants, like the roll-up feature on the cargoes. At the same time–as owners of the shop–we know they want it, but they’re not gonna buy a lot of that because of the cost. We sell a lot more Ts and hoodies than pants. We’ve done good with jeans like Volcom–we try to find something that’s quality but pricepoint–not with all the bells and whistles.

“When we look at the catalogs, we try to toe the line between the technical side of it and whether we’ll be able to sell it at that price. We’ve done well with NHS apparel, and Innes, and we carry the less-expensive Alphanumeric apparel. DC apparel is pretty solid stuff at good pricepoints. We’ve had good luck with our own shop-brand Ts, sweatshirts, and decks, so we’re even thinking of doing some basic White Chocolate pants we can sell at like 35 dollars.”

Sandie at Scottsdale Sidewalk Surfer in Scottsdale, Arizona

“They’re strictly into brand name and style. They very seldom balk at the prices for skate-brand clothing. The parents used to, but the stuff really lasts well. Element’s first in shop sales, Four Star’s second, and other than that I think it all depends on what comes out and what looks good. I do Alphanumeric, TSA, and Matix also.

“I don’t try to carry cheaper non-skate brand pricepoint clothes because they just won’t sell. Our customers won’t even buy stuff on sale! They figure it’s no good. I order pants or shorts a few pairs in each size, and if I get a lot of calls for ‘em, I’ll reorder. In T-shirts almost anything with skateboard names sells. Independent T-shirts and hats sell better than any other, but I don’t sell a lot of Independent trucks! I also sell a lot of skateboarding T-shirts to older guys who don’t skate but used to.”

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