Ten Shops, One Question, June 2001

Hooray for summer! Just about everybody’s favorite season is upon us. I know retailers enjoy the chiming of the cash register as a million kiddos stock up on supplies for their summer job: skateboarding. Right beside them in the happy zone are the manufacturers, who’ve shifted into high gear to supply the increased demand. And behind keyboards, cameras, or possibly stalking the streets of your town are those of us in the skate media,pleased as can be to welcome another good skate season.

But summer’s start does have one poignant note: I have to say goodbye to Volume Twelve’s terrific crew of shop contacts. Throughout the volume year, these successful shops answered questions relating to the issue’s theme, as well as to skateboarding business in general. This volume we had seven shops from the contiguous U.S., one from U.S. Commonwealth Puerto Rico, and one shop each from Canada and Germany. The responses have been sharp and insightful, and I’d like to offer a hearty “Thank you!” to the ten shops of Volume Twelve.

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

What type of bearings are skaters in your shop buying?

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

“They look for the Black Panthers, ’cause they’re good, but they also take the Powell ones,the Bones Swiss and the Reds. The ones from Shorty’s sell pretty good, too.

“Skaters here are lazy,they don’t do maintenance on them bearings, they just buy new ones. And I don’t sell used stuff,it’s not good for business. They’ll think I have a garage sale or something,and this is not a garage! I do sell the oil for them to use, to keep the bearings from getting rusty.

“I’m selling bearings good, no problems. Kids ask for them by number,the best sellers are ABEC 5. They also look for cool packaging, but that goes for everything! The package helps a lot for sales.”

Alexander Bonk at Titus Roll Sport in Münster, Germany

“A lot of our customers know exactly what they want when it comes to hardware. Most of them buy quality mid-range bearings,brand-oriented, while most beginners try to keep the price for their first setups as low as possible.

“We carry more than one kind of bearings in each price level, ’cause people like to choose. Expanding our range into the high-end level makes sense ’cause once in a while skaters even demand real expensive ones, like Swiss bearings, for instance.

“It store sales also shows that packaging really does the trick,Speed Demons are a good example. The possibility of doing maintenance on bearings, like using speed cream, et cetera, doesn’t seem to be a major retail selling point, though!”

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

“Mostly kids coming in here are younger, and they go right for the Swiss bearings. They think they’re the best, and they are good. We try to sell them,and the parents,on the bearings’ serviceability, but they just want new bearings! When kids go out and skate here, they bearings always get full of sand. The second most-popular bearings are the least expensive World Industries, with the cartoon picture on the package,that sells the kids.

“We have a ‘core image, but it’s young skaters,five to seventeen. We carry seven brands of bearings. If a kid comes in with one bad bearing, we’ll give them one of our spares. This area is affluent, though, and kids are buying new product like crazy. It’s funny,each kid who comes in here has like three boards. I used to have to make one last forever!”

Dylan at Tazmahal Skatepark in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

“We’ve been fortunate enough to get a local distributor named Core,they carry Relic wheels and hardware and U-Proct pads. They sponsor Pierre-Luc Gagnon, Max Dufour, and a bunch of other great skaters. They’re quite aware of the market and what skaters are looking for, and they’ve got the whole selection, from ABEC 1 to ABEC 7, ceramic. The most popular bearing is ABEC 5. Since they’ve Core Distribution got their name in the sports, a lot of people are switching to those brands,the price is good, too.

“Not many people do maintenance on bearings, although we do offer a kit, or we can do it in the shop. Really most of the time people don’t bother. ABEC 1 and ABEC 2 are cheap. Their affordable price is changing how often skaters buy them bearings,as often as they change their wheels now. Around here there’s some market for used goods, too, for those who can’t afford it new. Stuff gets banged up so fast, you can hardly tell when it’s new.”

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

“Sometimes they come in looking for a bearing that won’t bust. A lot of them don’t know that water will rust a bearing, so I try to tell them to keep out of the dew, the rain.

“I try to push a middle-of-the-road bearing,I push a lot of Quickies, Black Panthers, FKDs, and Lucky,those are probably the best sellers. But if you get a big guy on a Lucky ABEC 3, he’ll always bust them and come back. I try to get a big guy on a closed-case bearing that won’t bust,like Quickies or Black Panthers. My big kids tell me what’s cool. My daughter skates Lucky ABEC 3s ’cause her lighter weight keeps her from bustin’ them out.

“I get less returns on the cheaper bearings. If they cost sixteen bucks, they’re less likely to return them than a 30- or 40-dollar set of Powells. I keep the Swiss Bones out there in case, but only for a kid who’s really got the bread and looking for crazy speed. The Ninja bearing is pretty smooth, too, a micro bearing, but they only fit one type of wheel. No maintenance around here,people just buy new ones. We clean those old ones up to give to kids who can’t afford bearings. I do push Tri-Flow oil and tell ‘em to keep a couple drops on the bearings and keep ‘em dry.”

Mark Loebe at Boardroom of Jackson Hole in Jackson, Wyoming

“Most of them are interested in something inexpensive. I think they’re pretty happy with ABEC 1, like Halos. Some kids are looking for an upgrade, like a Swiss bearing or a Lucky. The only exception is for some of the guys who ride a mountain pass around here,they have to get like ABEC 5 or better or they’ll melt their wheels. A majority of the street kids just buy one bearing at a time! It’s their age, their thought pattern: fix what’s broken and keep going.

“I sell very little speed cream. I don’t even carry oil. The only bearing maintenance I do here at the shop is sell them a new one. A few of the kids will buy an upgrade,a few of the vert riders who appreciate a good roll, like five percent of my customers. Those bearings have the good packaging and the name brand.”

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

“The first thing they want is the ABEC ratings,‘Do you have ABEC 5?’ They’re very informed about the ratings.

“They younger skaters always want to know what ratings the Reds and Swiss are, and when they find out those aren’t rated, they aren’t interested! The higher-rated bearings sell better than the unrated. But our best-selling bearings overall are the Reds and Swiss, ironically enough. He just contradicted himself,Reds and Swiss are the Bones unrated bearings. Mik,I know,I even asked at the time, hence the “ironically.”

“They younger skaters want to hear a high number because that, to them, is going to be fast. One of the bearings that sell well are the greased blank ABEC 7s; they’re excited by the number! And when they’re in the shop, skaters may ask us to spray some lube for them, but they don’t do maintenance. I found that the more maintenance I do on my Reds, the better they get. I pass this info on, but the kids don’t care,Mom and Dad will just buy ‘em new ones.

“Oh yeah, packaging matters,the Speed Demons in the candy dispenser sell better than the ones in the box. And they’re a dollar more,kids want to keep the dispenser!”

Ryan Flanagan at Dusty’s Board Shop in Kennewick, Washington

“I sell a lot of China Bones. I’m pretty good about picking out stuff for people,we get a lot of kids here, and they need a little help. The FKDs sell good, too. I don’t know if it’s the fancy case or what! Customers ask for the fastest bearings. We carry all kinds of FKDs, we carry the ABEC 3s, ABEC 5s, and FKD Gold. The Golds are expensive,about 33 dollars, so we don’t sell a lot. I’m an old-schooler and I like to stick to what I know,the China Bones.

“A lot of times, kids can’t afford the Swiss bearings or the Golds,those don’t sell too fast. The China Bones are great, and they only cost sixteen dollars. I get a stack of those, and they’re gone in a week. We don’t sell speed cream. We have oil that isn’t even used for skating,Tri Flow,but I don’t know that people are looking to work on their bearings. If kids can’t afford new stuff, I’ll hook ‘em up with my old bearings, wheels, and stuff and just make ‘em buy the new deck.”

Neal Smith at White Chocolate Experience in Hays, Kansas

“When people come in, most of them ask for two things: China Bones and Black Panthers. They’re name-driven, and I think those are the two most popular brands in America. The older guys are familiar with the ABEC numbers,the young guys just want Shorty’s. They want a name over performance considerations.

“A couple of our teamriders do maintenance on their bearings. We do sometimes sell speed cream,I’m out, but that’s the five bottles I bought last year. When people come in for work on their boards, we spray Consolidated Speed Spray on their bearings,it’s got a little red straw just like WD-40. Still, I’d say 98 percent of our customers don’t do work on their bearings.

“Little kids shop based on price,they get the basic Lucky 3s, or our generic ones bearings. The more experienced skaters get what they think’s fast, whether it’s Girl Golds, Black Widows, or Lucky 5s. The most expensive bearings I sell are twenty dollars. Hey, since this is my last Ten Shop, I’d like to say hi to my favorite pro, Daniel Haney,and I’d still like to see the footy.” Mik, can cut the shout-out if needed for space.

Sandie at Scottsdale Sidewalk Surfer in Scottsdale, Arizona

“Sometimes they’ll come in not knowing what they want. We recommend NMBs because they’re a greased bearing; they’re good for the price and don’t require maintenance. The ones who know, we sell ‘em whatever they want. We do sell top of the line,even the Powell ceramics. We aren’t selling the micro-bearings,I don’t think there’re enough wheels out yet to make it worth it.

“We recommend the speed cream or a lubricant for bearings, and I’d say follow-through’s about 50 percent. Every time we sell an oiled bearing, we tell the kid they have to oil ‘em once a week or they’ll blow up. The older kids go for maintenance-free bearings.

“I think advertising counts,the kids read the magazines and see the ad, and they have to have it. Or their friends have ‘em,it’s a peer thing. And packaging,the FKDs in the little aluminum tin can sell well.”

the more maintenance I do on my Reds, the better they get. I pass this info on, but the kids don’t care,Mom and Dad will just buy ‘em new ones.

“Oh yeah, packaging matters,the Speed Demons in the candy dispenser sell better than the ones in the box. And they’re a dollar more,kids want to keep the dispenser!”

Ryan Flanagan at Dusty’s Board Shop in Kennewick, Washington

“I sell a lot of China Bones. I’m pretty good about picking out stuff for people,we get a lot of kids here, and they need a little help. The FKDs sell good, too. I don’t know if it’s the fancy case or what! Customers ask for the fastest bearings. We carry all kinds of FKDs, we carry the ABEC 3s, ABEC 5s, and FKD Gold. The Golds are expensive,about 33 dollars, so we don’t sell a lot. I’m an old-schooler and I like to stick to what I know,the China Bones.

“A lot of times, kids can’t afford the Swiss bearings or the Golds,those don’t sell too fast. The China Bones are great, and they only cost sixteen dollars. I get a stack of those, and they’re gone in a week. We don’t sell speed cream. We have oil that isn’t even used for skating,Tri Flow,but I don’t know that people are looking to work on their bearings. If kids can’t afford new stuff, I’ll hook ‘em up with my old bearings, wheels, and stuff and just make ‘em buy the new deck.”

Neal Smith at White Chocolate Experience in Hays, Kansas

“When people come in, most of them ask for two things: China Bones and Black Panthers. They’re name-driven, and I think those are the two most popular brands in America. The older guys are familiar with the ABEC numbers,the young guys just want Shorty’s. They want a name over performance considerations.

“A couple of our teamriders do maintenance on their bearings. We do sometimes sell speed cream,I’m out, but that’s the five bottles I bought last year. When people come in for work on their boards, we spray Consolidated Speed Spray on their bearings,it’s got a little red straw just like WD-40. Still, I’d say 98 percent of our customers don’t do work on their bearings.

“Little kids shop based on price,they get the basic Lucky 3s, or our generic ones bearings. The more experienced skaters get what they think’s fast, whether it’s Girl Golds, Black Widows, or Lucky 5s. The most expensive bearings I sell are twenty dollars. Hey, since this is my last Ten Shop, I’d like to say hi to my favorite pro, Daniel Haney,and I’d still like to see the footy.” Mik, can cut the shout-out if needed for space.

Sandie at Scottsdale Sidewalk Surfer in Scottsdale, Arizona

“Sometimes they’ll come in not knowing what they want. We recommend NMBs because they’re a greased bearing; they’re good for the price and don’t require maintenance. The ones who know, we sell ‘em whatever they want. We do sell top of the line,even the Powell ceramics. We aren’t selling the micro-bearings,I don’t think there’re enough wheels out yet to make it worth it.

“We recommend the speed cream or a lubricant for bearings, and I’d say follow-through’s about 50 percent. Every time we sell an oiled bearing, we tell the kid they have to oil ‘em once a week or they’ll blow up. The older kids go for maintenance-free bearings.

“I think advertising counts,the kids read the magazines and see the ad, and they have to have it. Or their friends have ‘em,it’s a peer thing. And packaging,the FKDs in the little aluminum tin can sell well.”

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