Promotional Avenues

There are countless ways to build your shop’s business.

Word of mouth continues to be a valuable endorsement, but more and more shops are starting to experiment with other ways they can attract new customers and promote skateboarding in their areas.

“Our first few years with the shop we had to beg for any kind of P.O.P. to promote our brands. Custom racks and window displays aren’t cheap to make, and most companies aren’t ready to send these out to a shop that only spends a few-hundred dollars with them a year.”

¿Joe Gieseking of Fobia in Minneapolis, Minnesota

As skateboarding continues to grow, shops tend to be doing better on the whole. Most shops have traditionally spent little on marketing and promotions outside of local contests and pro demos. Word of mouth continues to be a valuable endorsement, but more and more shops are starting to experiment with other ways they can attract new customers and promote skateboarding in their areas.

As a shop owner, you have at your disposal an extensive list of options when it comes to marketing and promotions. The more traditional in-store signings, local contests, and on-site pro demos continue to play an important role, and companies are often willing to help with ideas and resources for in-store displays and events.

Local video premieres are the option that has seen the most growth in recent years. Many angles can be worked to arrange a successful event and strengthen your ties with suppliers. After all, promoting their videos is a clear demonstration of your confidence in and dedication to their brands.

Other avenues to look into are manufacturer-sponsored clothing racks and window displays, co-op advertising with manufacturers, skateboarding programs through local schools, participation in local fairs or festivals, production of a shop ‘zine or newsletter, shop stickers and T-shirts, direct mailings, mass e-mailings, radio promotions, and the development of a formidable shop team.

It’s not realistic for many shops to have pros ride for them, but just having the top local rippers on your team can do wonders¿especially if one of them turns out to be the next Mark Appleyard. Nocturnal, Pit Crew, SkatePark of Tampa, FTC, Network 17, Eastern Boarder, Pacific Drive, and Active are just a handful of shops that have done an excellent job of utilizing their teamriders to promote their stores.

Start building a Web site if you haven’t already¿it’s no longer the wave of the future, it’s the here and now. Even a simple site that presents contact information and directions to your shop can help deliver customers to you. Skateboard Market in Ft. Collins, Colorado has a basic but effective site (skatemarket.com) that includes news about the local scene as well as information about the shop. “We communicate with many skaters all around the world on our message board, and we can update our customers with new info on events and videos,” says Owner Marcus Valdez. While customers may not cross international borders to visit your store, an inviting Web site can attract customers who may be visiting or passing through your town.

As more communities realize their citizens are interested in skateboarding, there will be more and more opportunities to promote the sport¿and your shop¿through local newspapers and television. Ryan Clements from the SkatePark of Tampa recently visited an elementary school during career day and gave a presentation on managing a skatepark and other career options in the skateboard arena. “It was a good way to hit the kids directly and show them that careers are possible in the industry for those without the talent to be a professional skateboarder,” he says, adding that the teacher who called him reported that most career day speakers are “boring for the kids.” The teacher also managed to line up the local news to come out and film the preesentation.

Eric Obre from Street Machine in San Diego, California, says once his store reached a certain status, companies were willing to help promote their image there. In his case, Sole Technology built an amazing shoe tower for their brands. Individual display sections for clothing can also be relatively easy to build and dramatically increase a brand’s visibility in your shop. With the right approach, you might even be able to get companies to foot the bill through store credit. Many companies have attractive P.O.P. devices ready to ship for qualified accounts. Gabe Clement, sales manager at Podium Distribution, offers his established customers the Daewon Bench, a small replica of a school-yard bench for a shop’s shoe area.

Securing attractive displays from manufacturers isn’t always easy; strong ties with your sales reps are essential. “Unless the company is familiar with your shop and your numbers, some of this stuff simply won’t happen,” says Joe Gieseking of Fobia in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Our first few years with the shop we had to beg for any kind of P.O.P. to promote our brands. Custom racks and window displays aren’t cheap to make, and most companies aren’t ready to send these out to a shop that only spends a few-hundred dollars with them a year.”

Nothing helps a shop more than having a safe local place for customers to skate¿a place where they can use the stuff they buy at your shop. Laura Alire at Cowtown in Glendale, Arizona has been instrumental in getting skateparks built in the Phoenix area. Without her relentless efforts and the product donations of many manufacturers, Phoenix’s Desert West Skatepark would not have been built. A sick local skatepark with your blood, sweat, and tears all over it will earn you the gratitude of the skaters who know what you did for them. Desert West Skatepark helped put Phoenix on the map of places pro skaters are sure to visit, and there is no shortage of famous faces coming through the Cowtown shops.

Figuring out how much to budget for promotions is no easy task. “I wouldn’t approach advertising and promotional expenses as a percent of sales,” says business consultant and SKATE Biz columnist Jeff Harbaugh. “I’d start by asking what the shop wants to accomplish through advertising and promotion. The percentage issue only comes into play as part of the overall budget.”

After some quick math, Ryan Clements at SkatePark of Tampa figured they’d spent three to four percent of their gross sales on promotions. For shop contests and events, some companies will donate product equaling up to two percent of a shop’s annual purchases from that brand. Every bit helps, so get what you can from wherever you can, and make the most of it by making your shop’s events rewarding for your customers.

The bottom line is, whatever you can afford to do to get people to come into your store¿do it. If you have good relationships with your vendors, use them. Ask your rep if they can help out with a window display or send their team down for a demo or autograph session. Success in this industry often depends on effective networking. Get to know your sales reps and see the benefits. “Companies have budgets set up for promotions,” says Ken Lewis of Hanger Eighteen in San Diego, California. “Use them.”

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