Ten Shops, One Question October 1998

Sometimes being part of a community can get a little tricky – those in the skate community may be separated by miles, boundaries, and even vast bodies of water. Others may be concentrated in areas so inundated by skate culture, deciding what to sell can become a crazy duel between loyalty and commerce. Do you feel in need of some reassurance that the way you’re running your shop is not too far off from other retailers? And manufacturers, don’t you wonder what trends are developing? We can all use a little help every now and again, so each year we pick ten shops to give us feedback for an entire volume of SKATEboarding Business.

We’ve got a great selection of skate shops across the U.S., one in Canada, and one in England. Every issue we’ll contact these ten shops to ask them a question that relates to our magazine and industry. Their answers may point up surprising regional differences in skate-related business, but many times threads of similarity run throughout the responses. At any rate, the information we bring you from them can help both shops and manufacturing businesses. If you have a question you’d like to ask our shops, please send it to: SKATEboarding BusinessTen Shops, 353 Airport Road, Oceanside, California 92054; or FAX: (760) 722-0653.

This issue’s question: How has your emphasis on deck sales changed over the last couple years in light of the softgoods and shoe boom?

Barry Page at XXX in Nashville, Tennessee

“Well, we have always tried to keep between 50 and 100 models on the floor – depending on if it’s a holiday or special sale or whatever. Minimum 50 models. I don’t think that’s changed much over the last couple years – I try to always keep a lot of models in. We also try to keep up with what the kids are asking for. Six months ago Birdhouse was the big thing – now it’s dead. The sixteen to twenty year olds dictate the market out here. Having the park here, the younger kids see what the older kids are riding.

“One thing that really helps is we give a free park session with the sale of a deck – that helps us to beat the mail-order competition. I also keep decks at $49.95. We do our best to keep prices low – we try to make it up elsewhere or through volume. We try to sell a lot instead – we’ve sold five decks today, and it’s raining. Maybe we’ll sell ‘em a Coke at the concession stand.

“Shoes have increased on the wall space, but decks are on three walls. We keep about 40 to 50 styles of shoes out. We used to be in a strip mall and sold some collared shirts – but here in the park, shoes and decks are what drive us. We give a free session in the skatepark for every shoe sale, too.”

Craig Baily at Earth Core in New Brunswick, New Jersey

“I’ve seen a transition from 30 percent of deck sales being slicks, to zero-percent slicks now. Trend is going wider: eight and 1/8 inch to eight and 1/4. The variety is changing. The customer is much more diverse now – it’s not just the trick emphasis, but the whole gamut, including the reemergence of old school. We have about 80-boards capacity in the shop, and we’ve never carried more than we do now. The deck wall takes up maybe 20 percent of the wall on one side. We’re in a hub city, which has helped us to grow.

“But we could never make it as a hardgoods-only shop. About 70 percent of our sales in the winter is softgoods.”

John Villarreal at AZP in Flagstaff, Arizona

“It deck sales hasn’t changed much – we’re still not making any money! It’s still really bad margins. We still sell about the same amount – although it has increased some each year. I couldn’t imagine surviving on just hardgoods sales. We get the decks for about 33 dollars per deck, including shipping, and we sell them for 52 – you do the math. It doesn’t pay enough to even turn on the lights. There’s no way we can ask keystone for decks 100-percent markup, that’d put them at 65 dollars. As it is, it’s a service, and the kids who pay full price help it deckso pay for itself.

“Let’s say our team rider comes in, his discount is nice, and we end up with about 50-cents profit on that. Without clothes and sunglasses, we’d die. If I had a shop with only decks and hardgoods for sale, I’d last about six months. The other things pay the bills, phone, electricity, that stuff. I don’t know how those little hardgoods-only shops exist! What’s the good of having your own shop if you have to live at home with your parents to make ends meet?”

Jeff Kelly at Kelly’s Board Shop in South Bend, Indiana

“If you saw my shoes, you’d laugh – they’re lined up from the back almost up to the counter! But with skateboarding growing all-around, deck sales haven’t really changed – well, if anything they’ve expanded along with shoes and softgoods and the rest of the store. It doesn’t make sense to take away from deck sales – that’s the heart of skateboarding. You may want to increase emphasis on shoes – but not at decks’ expense.

“I use the decks as a luring device – I sell the boards at 49 dollars. That’s like 30-percent markup. And it’s not like I can charge keystone 100-percent markup for shoes anyhow – my customers pretty much balk at anything close to 90 dollars. My overhead’s not bad, but I can’t really afford to have other employees – it’s just something I have to do, run the shop alone. I end up making it up on T-shirts and pants for back-to-school. Back-to-school is my make-up time, and my whole winter is Christmas. I also have to rely on volume, and we are one of the biggest shops in the area.”

Seth Curtis at Slam City Skates in London, England

“The record store is separate, so that doesn’t add into it the financial aspect of the skate store. To be honest, I’m catering more to skaters now than I ever have. We’ve just discontinued carrying snowboards. I’ve totally cut it out; it was filling so much room here – room I could be displaying skateboards. I think we have about 160 decks. I carry a wide selection: Tum Yeto, Zoo York, Shorty’s – we carry a lot more of our own brands Slam is also a distributor. I try to support other brands as well. We do charge for griptape, except for with Tum Yeto – which is one of ours, and we sell decks for 54 pounds. Ninety percent of our stuff is American import, so skateboarding is expensive here. Fifty-four pounds is like 80 American dollars. The expense becomes normal, just part of skateboarding, but it’s hard on beginners – or I should say their parents.

“Hardware sales, the money you make on that is not as much as with clothing and shoes. Here in London we’re put in a fashion position as well – the clothes we carry are Volcom, Stüssy, and Fresh Jive – and those sales enable me to buy more hardware and have more choice. I’m carrying a lot of hardware as well.”

Bill Wallace at Church of Skatan in Santa Barbara, California

“I’d say that we definitely stock more boards than in the past only because skating has picked up; however, I’d say I’d much rather sell shoes than a board because it’s a much better margin. Don’t get me wrong, decks are great, but average deck markup over cost is about 33 percent. This year board costs went up over a dollar, but we haven’t been able to charge more. Manufacturers are buying boards with the screen for fifteen, they turn around and sell them for keystone (100-percent markup) – it’s the shop that doesn’t make anything off them, maybe ten or fifteen bucks.

“I’ve been adding more boards in the store. It looks better for us, and there’re more companies than ever before – and we want to represent them. But the truth is, we could be making more profit off of T-shirts.

“We do a ‘freshness-dating’ on our boards – we try to keep the boards no longer than a month and a half unless it’s a longtime logo board. People don’t want to come in see the same stuff – that goes for clothes as well. We also take in decks from small companies, sell those out, bring in another small company, sell those out – we rotate. I’m big on giving small companies a chance.”

Jim Slanetz at Board Bin in Ketchum, Idaho

“Decks kind of stay steady – we sell a few more blanks now. We don’t carry less decks than we used to. We’ve actually expanded our deck selection. We kind of picked up when we built the skatepark. We’re a small town – 10,000 people in the whole town. We’re pretty much the only shop for miles, really – except for a local ski shop that dabbles in it skateboard sales.

“But if we only carried hardgoods, we’d stand no chance of surviving. Our market’s too small and our markup isn’t that good. It’s not like we lose money on skateboards, but I see it more as a service – it’s a loss leader! Not really, but you know what I mean.”

Duffy at World Market in Tampa, Florida

“Actually we have more decks on display now then we ever had – that has a lot to do with the shop relocation. Decks don’t make us much money – and especially not a complete setup! We make it up with the small accessories, and clothes sales. Shoes are doing well, and this time of year is back to school, when we sell a lot of clothing and shoes. We keep our decks about 54 dollars with griptape, but we always have some sale boards for 40 to 45, and the Powell blanks sell for 34.

“We charge a cover charge at the front door to make up for the low margins – just kidding! One thing we do is keep catalogs on hand, so people can thumb through and ask for anything, and I’ll call right away on it – almost like online shopping. It’s an alternative to say a CCS catalog. We might even be faster – we can fill their order within a couple days.”

Syd Clark at Red Dragon Skate Supply (RDS) in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada

“We display about the same amount of decks as we ever have, maybe a little bit more because it’s summer. There are so many shoe companies, before skateboarders didn’t necessarily have to buy the skateboard shoes.

“You don’t really make money off the skateboard stuff, mostly just shoes. Our own clothing line, Red Dragon, is in the works. We carry Red Dragon clothing in the shop now, and it’ll be sold to other shops as well – we’re just making the catalog now. It started as just a T-shirt thing, but demand made us take it further. We’re just really picky with what we carry so we don’t have to put so many things on sale – we don’t take as many risks with new brands. And the brands we carry, we support them, and they support us.”

Beedle at Fast Forward in Hurst, Texas

“I think deck sales are increasing because skateboarding in general is increasing – you have decks and pro models. I think decks are being broken more now, too. I try to maintain a margin of 40 percent for deck sales, I’ve got to do at least that.

“You can’t have a shop with just hardgoods, but you can’t survive on just shoes, either. You do have to get a little more margin where you can. Accessories are margin-builders.

“There are a lot of different board companies, and a lot of pros from the 80s who’ve now got companies. Who knows if they’re going to be a success, they could be hot for the moment. It really depends who’s on the team – but if you come out with a bad shape, you’re gonna hear about it.” we rotate. I’m big on giving small companies a chance.”

Jim Slanetz at Board Bin in Ketchum, Idaho

“Decks kind of stay steady – we sell a few more blanks now. We don’t carry less decks than we used to. We’ve actually expanded our deck selection. We kind of picked up when we built the skatepark. We’re a small town – 10,000 people in the whole town. We’re pretty much the only shop for miles, really – except for a local ski shop that dabbles in it skateboard sales.

“But if we only carried hardgoods, we’d stand no chance of surviving. Our market’s too small and our markup isn’t that good. It’s not like we lose money on skateboards, but I see it more as a service – it’s a loss leader! Not really, but you know what I mean.”

Duffy at World Market in Tampa, Florida

“Actually we have more decks on display now then we ever had – that has a lot to do with the shop relocation. Decks don’t make us much money – and especially not a complete setup! We make it up with the small accessories, and clothes sales. Shoes are doing well, and this time of year is back to school, when we sell a lot of clothing and shoes. We keep our decks about 54 dollars with griptape, but we always have some sale boards for 40 to 45, and the Powell blanks sell for 34.

“We charge a cover charge at the front door to make up for the low margins – just kidding! One thing we do is keep catalogs on hand, so people can thumb through and ask for anything, and I’ll call right away on it – almost like online shopping. It’s an alternative to say a CCS catalog. We might even be faster – we can fill their order within a couple days.”

Syd Clark at Red Dragon Skate Supply (RDS) in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada

“We display about the same amount of decks as we ever have, maybe a little bit more because it’s summer. There are so many shoe companies, before skateboarders didn’t necessarily have to buy the skateboard shoes.

“You don’t really make money off the skateboard stuff, mostly just shoes. Our own clothing line, Red Dragon, is in the works. We carry Red Dragon clothing in the shop now, and it’ll be sold to other shops as well – we’re just making the catalog now. It started as just a T-shirt thing, but demand made us take it further. We’re just really picky with what we carry so we don’t have to put so many things on sale – we don’t take as many risks with new brands. And the brands we carry, we support them, and they support us.”

Beedle at Fast Forward in Hurst, Texas

“I think deck sales are increasing because skateboarding in general is increasing – you have decks and pro models. I think decks are being broken more now, too. I try to maintain a margin of 40 percent for deck sales, I’ve got to do at least that.

“You can’t have a shop with just hardgoods, but you can’t survive on just shoes, either. You do have to get a little more margin where you can. Accessories are margin-builders.

“There are a lot of different board companies, and a lot of pros from the 80s who’ve now got companies. Who knows if they’re going to be a success, they could be hot for the moment. It really depends who’s on the team – but if you come out with a bad shape, you’re gonna hear about it.”

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