Ten Shops, One Question April 2000

How do retailers provide a service and make a profit?

The skateboarding industry’s softgoods boom creates a quandary: softgoods have a larger markup and therefore a higher profit margin, but without hardgoods there is no skate industry!

Our ten shops make the same sorts of decisions retailers everywhere make every day–what items to carry and in what amounts, how to display product, and how to keep inventory fresh.

The shops are from various locations around the U.S., and we also have one shop each in Canada and Australia. Every issue we contact these same ten shops to ask a question that pertains to the magazine’s theme as well as to the industry in general. All these successful shop-folk are enthusiastic, bright, and interesting–their comments are certain to shed a little light on the many vagaries of doing skate business, and can help both shops and manufacturing businesses.

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

This issue’s question: How much of your shop is dedicated to hardgoods versus softgoods?

Nick Halkias at Westside in Tarpon Springs, Florida

“Forty percent of our shop is hardgoods–you definitely make a lot more money on the softgoods, but it’s really important that we support the sport by carrying hardgoods. The skate-shoe companies and clothing are doing well because so many people are dressing like skaters these days, but we want to remain a ’core skate shop. That’s our main focus–a good selection of decks, trucks, and wheels, all the different sizes and makes they offer. We hang each board up individually–kind of a catalog effect–all the Supernaut boards together, et cetera. We have a lot of wall space. Softgoods make us a lot more money, but pushing hardgoods is good for skateboarding.

“We’re not that sophisticated–in the front we have two couches and a TV. We’re the neighborhood shop where you can hang out. I don’t think either of us Nick or Owner John Montessi has given store layout that much thought. We’re not very scientific about it!”

Matt Sickels at Milosport in Salt Lake City, Utah

“I’d say as far as floor space goes, we’ve pretty much put all our softgoods on one side. We’re selling down our snow clothes, so right now we fill racks as they become available with skate softgoods. We’re probably 35-percent skate clothing/skate-related apparel. Shoes probably take up about ten percent of the shop. Our actual skate wall and counter are about 25 percent of floor space. We don’t have a really strong skate-shoe department, but we did build up a skate-shoe space–like a ramp–to facilitate the shoe wall. As far as moving stuff around goes, we keep all the skate goods toward the back–it’s to draw people into the store; they can see it from the door.

“Especially now with all the new skateparks in town, we try to go big in skate clothing. That’s something that’s really changed in the store–the presence of a lot nicer skatewear, not just T-shirts, but nicer shirts and stuff. We got lucky and picked up Alphanumeric through rep Stacy Dye; she’s really helped us with merchandising and skate softgoods, so we have a good mix of stuff. People are still wearing out their decks this winter instead of putting them in storage. We used to downsize in winter to a very small amount of skate stuff, but this year we’ve had to keep up with it hardgoods. A lot of kids went from ‘I skate in the summer and snowboard in the winter,’ to skating year round.”

Aaron Costa at Krudco in Rochester, New York

“Percentages are always hard for me to figure out! I’d say its about 50-50. One side is all clothing and shoes, give or take a bit. With the jeans we just got in it might weigh heavier on the softgoods side–60-40. That flip-flops in the summer. We push boards outta here at an alarming rate in summer. We have one wall of decks–stacked singularly, but sometimes we stack ’em a couple deep from the same company. You can see 36 boards at one time.

“We’ve gotten more softgoods over the years, especially pants. I’m trying to keep the pants prices down, and they always sell on sale. We became more specific about what brands we sell as far as clothing goes now, too. We’re very picky, and we’ve started to pick up particular brands: Elwood, Fuel, Element, Innes–which is something a little classier, what I call ‘tavern style.’ And we carry some mesh stuff. But we can’t sell some brands because we can’t sell a pair of jeans for 79 dollars! Elwood and Fuel always do well for us, and they Fuel just came out with a girls’ line that kills it! I’m jealous; I love the cargoes they have for girls! More socks, backpacks–the markup is so much better.

“We don’t really make money on hardgoods, but we’ve done our own decks before and they killed it, and we just came out with a new logo deck. Our T-shirts always do well. It’s like a giveaway! Seven bucks and they wear our logo! We’ve increased videos and magazines as well–the best video selection in the city, for sure.”

Ted Okamoto at Vanguard in Redondo Beach, California

“I can’t really give you an exact number percentage, but I guess that softgoods demand more space than hardgoods just by the nature of the product. We display individual deck graphics and backstock the rest–we probably show 60 at a time, and that includes longboards.

“For us the softgoods staple will always remain T-shirts and pants. Button-downs’ appeal is always there, it’s just the price! Skaters do want to dress better, however their budget will not accommodate it. My observation is that if a kid wants button-down to look nicer, they’ll go to Ross or something to save money. But if they like the cut of a certain pair of pants or cargoes, they’ll buy the skate brand. Vice versa as well–if they like a certain skate T-shirt, they may buy the pants somewhere else cheaper. It’s mix-and-match economics.

“We have display windows that are enclosed–so you can’t see in the store. We put shoes in the most well-lit, accessible spot. Other shops may have to, but we don’t need to do that pull people in with product placement.”

Melanie Loveland at Daddies Board Shop in Portland, Oregon

“I’d say we’re 70-percent hardgoods and 30-percent softgoods. It could be because of the layout of the shop–we just move a lot more hardgoods than softgoods. I’ve talked to other shop owners, and I know the markup on softgoods is better, but oh well! We’ve got a good little niche here.

“With softgoods, it’s hard to compete with someplace like Ross on cargoes. We do far better in hardgoods. Our sales are due to the brands and lines we carry in hardgoods–and of course it’s just how darn nice we are that gets people in the shop!

“We’ve gotten better at merchandising and displays, but we’re very limited by the size of our shop. We always like to have the shop look a little different, though, so we change it around about once a month to make it look fresh for when people come in. Their perception of the store is important.”

Bill Wilson at Full Tilt Board Shop in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

“I’d say we’re probably 50-50. You can see most of the deck graphics–we have special holders that fit into the slot wall.

“We’ve kind of got it set up so the whole middle of the store is clothing, and the longest wall is all decks. Shoes have their own room. We’ve changed the layout of the shop probably three or four times, and usually it’s the softgoods that pushed it. Softgoods are what caused the growth into three sections–we’ve knocked down walls to take over our neighbors. We have a lot of softgoods here, but I always like the hardgoods to be the major presentation, then the shoes, then softgoods. I want people to come in here and be blown away by our hardgoods.

“The secret to store layout? Organization–neat. And always change it so it’s fresh.”

Chuck Mitsui at 808 Skate in Kailua, Hawai‘i

“With our floorspace, probably 35 to 40 percent is hardgoods. When the shoe market started picking up, that changed how we arranged the shop. Everyone buys shoes, even people who don’t skate.

“Our whole setup is geared to get everyone to check out the whole store. The regular shoe display is up front–people looking in the window see the shoes, and it brings ’em in. Then we put sale shoes in the back so it brings them back there, too. It also helps separate our inventory.

“We try to show all the boards we carry–we hang them flat on the wall so you can see them. As far as marketing goes, letting folks see the graphics is what it’s all about. We also keep them separated by company, and put similar companies together–like Girl and Chocolate. Most of Dwindle we keep together, Deluxe, things like that. A lot of people are brand-name oriented. We have a glass case that runs almost the length of the store–stickers, videos, accessories, keychains, wallets, wheels, trucks, and mounting hardware. The case is big because we want it not to seem crowded in there–easy viewing.

“A couple shops here tend to carry more softgoods, but I think they’re targeting the tourist market. We try to stay true to skateboarding.”

A.J. Qureshi at Liquid (new store name) in Houston, Texas

“We have the same owners, and we just changed the name and image of the shop previously Point Break, now Liquid. We kept all the old stock and got a bunch more. We’re doing a lot more club and rave-y stuff, and we’re going to carry music and more alternative-type goods as well. We’re going to still carry skates, of course.

“I’d say right now what we’re aiming for is more hardgoods percentage-wise. The skate stuff has been doing well; it always has. The last location for the shop was too big, and we’re now in a smaller space. We have whatever skate shoes we got from Point Break, and we’re working on getting more stuff. We’ve got shoes toward the front to attract people, and we have front windows with displays and mannequins and complete board setups.”

Justin Ryan at Subsect Skateboards in Des Moines, Iowa

“We’re probably 60-percent clothing and 40-percent hardgoods. We have to display each company’s sweatshirts and what have you, and that kind of adds up. We have 50 slots on the wall for decks, so two out of four walls are all decks. We have an inventory of about 75 decks and keep rotating them in to keep it fresh.

“It was never really a question of where to put stuff when we were new. A lot of shoe companies were reluctant to deal with us. We started out with one line of shoes, which took up no space at all. Over time we picked up Sole Tech, DC, and Adio, and since we added those we had to move them from the back of the shop to up front so we’re not running back there all the time. We’ve only had one shoe theft in three years–someone trying on shoes who sent us back for the next size up and disappeared.

“We started out really small–30-perc> “We’ve kind of got it set up so the whole middle of the store is clothing, and the longest wall is all decks. Shoes have their own room. We’ve changed the layout of the shop probably three or four times, and usually it’s the softgoods that pushed it. Softgoods are what caused the growth into three sections–we’ve knocked down walls to take over our neighbors. We have a lot of softgoods here, but I always like the hardgoods to be the major presentation, then the shoes, then softgoods. I want people to come in here and be blown away by our hardgoods.

“The secret to store layout? Organization–neat. And always change it so it’s fresh.”

Chuck Mitsui at 808 Skate in Kailua, Hawai‘i

“With our floorspace, probably 35 to 40 percent is hardgoods. When the shoe market started picking up, that changed how we arranged the shop. Everyone buys shoes, even people who don’t skate.

“Our whole setup is geared to get everyone to check out the whole store. The regular shoe display is up front–people looking in the window see the shoes, and it brings ’em in. Then we put sale shoes in the back so it brings them back there, too. It also helps separate our inventory.

“We try to show all the boards we carry–we hang them flat on the wall so you can see them. As far as marketing goes, letting folks see the graphics is what it’s all about. We also keep them separated by company, and put similar companies together–like Girl and Chocolate. Most of Dwindle we keep together, Deluxe, things like that. A lot of people are brand-name oriented. We have a glass case that runs almost the length of the store–stickers, videos, accessories, keychains, wallets, wheels, trucks, and mounting hardware. The case is big because we want it not to seem crowded in there–easy viewing.

“A couple shops here tend to carry more softgoods, but I think they’re targeting the tourist market. We try to stay true to skateboarding.”

A.J. Qureshi at Liquid (new store name) in Houston, Texas

“We have the same owners, and we just changed the name and image of the shop previously Point Break, now Liquid. We kept all the old stock and got a bunch more. We’re doing a lot more club and rave-y stuff, and we’re going to carry music and more alternative-type goods as well. We’re going to still carry skates, of course.

“I’d say right now what we’re aiming for is more hardgoods percentage-wise. The skate stuff has been doing well; it always has. The last location for the shop was too big, and we’re now in a smaller space. We have whatever skate shoes we got from Point Break, and we’re working on getting more stuff. We’ve got shoes toward the front to attract people, and we have front windows with displays and mannequins and complete board setups.”

Justin Ryan at Subsect Skateboards in Des Moines, Iowa

“We’re probably 60-percent clothing and 40-percent hardgoods. We have to display each company’s sweatshirts and what have you, and that kind of adds up. We have 50 slots on the wall for decks, so two out of four walls are all decks. We have an inventory of about 75 decks and keep rotating them in to keep it fresh.

“It was never really a question of where to put stuff when we were new. A lot of shoe companies were reluctant to deal with us. We started out with one line of shoes, which took up no space at all. Over time we picked up Sole Tech, DC, and Adio, and since we added those we had to move them from the back of the shop to up front so we’re not running back there all the time. We’ve only had one shoe theft in three years–someone trying on shoes who sent us back for the next size up and disappeared.

“We started out really small–30-percent clothing and shoes. We didn’t take out any money at first, but clothes are the better markup, so it’s good to be well stocked on that. We just had an excellent Christmas, and everything’s coming along real well.”

Hannah Baird at Skateboards Only in Burleigh Head (Gold Coast), Australia

“Hardgoods would be about 60 percent, and 40 percent is softgoods. We’ve always carried around the same amount of clothes, but we’ve gone up quite a bit in shoes–before it would have been about 75 percent hardgoods.

“We don’t try to cram all the decks into a small space–sometimes we have two boards on top of each other, but we try not to. We have two and a half walls covered with decks, and on the floor in front of the counter we have some cheaper decks–those past a few weeks or whatnot.

“We used to have shelves going into the shop, but it was harder to see, and we don’t have electronic security. Now we have roof-to-floor racks, and it’s really helped. Small sizes are stocked toward the ground, and bigger sizes go up the rack. Shoes we keep right at the front, but when you walk in you can’t see them, you have to turn around. We have a little bit of a window display–big windows. In fact, our windows got smashed a lot when we first moved in! We put in metal mesh on one side to cover the window and protect people from getting in. On the other window we’ve got a huge neon sign of the Alien Workshop soldier–we had that made up at a sign shop. The two side windows have white neon Deckhead signs–that’s an Australian brand.”

percent clothing and shoes. We didn’t take out any money at first, but clothes are the better markup, so it’s good to be well stocked on that. We just had an excellent Christmas, and everything’s coming along real well.”

Hannah Baird at Skateboards Only in Burleigh Head (Gold Coast), Australia

“Hardgoods would be about 60 percent, and 40 percent is softgoods. We’ve always carried around the same amount of clothes, but we’ve gone up quite a bit in shoes–before it would have been about 75 percent hardgoods.

“We don’t try to cram all the decks into a small space–sometimes we have two boards on top of each other, but we try not to. We have two and a half walls covered with decks, and on the floor in front of the counter we have some cheaper decks–those past a few weeks or whatnot.

“We used to have shelves going into the shop, but it was harder to see, and we don’t have electronic security. Now we have roof-to-floor racks, and it’s really helped. Small sizes are stocked toward the ground, and bigger sizes go up the rack. Shoes we keep right at the front, but when you walk in you can’t see them, you have to turn around. We have a little bit of a window display–big windows. In fact, our windows got smashed a lot when we first moved in! We put in metal mesh on one side to cover the window and protect people from getting in. On the other window we’ve got a huge neon sign of the Alien Workshop soldier–we had that made up at a sign shop. The two side windows have white neon Deckhead signs–that’s an Australian brand.”

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