Ten Shops, One Question January 1999

Take a deep breath-you smell it? It’s the scent of change in the air. No one in business likes surprises, but change is inevitable, so for our sake as well as yours we put out feelers to stay in touch with what’s shakin’ in skateboarding. We’ve found ten shops-eight across the U.S., one in Canada, and one in England-to serve as our eyes and ears . or as the canary in the coal mine, if you prefer the analogy. Representing diverse geographical, cultural, and economical regions, our Ten Shops scouts can provide the sorts of information we all could use: What’s starting to move in your shop? Why? What are skaters asking for that isn’t available or is too expensive?

Every issue we 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 a thread of similarity runs through the responses. At any rate, the info 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: Are your customers interested in the new wheel technology?

Seth Curtis at Slam City Skates in London, England

“I just got the Pig Terminator wheels in, they have the urethane core-they’re really good and light, and understandably they cost a bit more. The World ones came in today-they cost the same as the regular wheels but they’re really heavy, which defeats the point, doesn’t it? We have some Landspeed 75 Ds, but I haven’t tried them yet. I’ve been skating Landspeed wheels lately, and they’re by far the best-they don’t flatspot, not too wide, nice thin wheels. They’ve Tum Yeto researched a new material that’s really grippy.

“Customers haven’t really been asking for them new wheel technology-when they want longboard wheels they ask for them. One thing I’ve noticed in wheels-if they skaters say, “Do you have the Thunder truck,” or whatever, they get to the wheels and are more uncertain. They ask our opinion on what brand of wheel to buy. Usually kids are quite set on what they want.”

Beedle at Fast Forward in Hurst, Texas

“Dual durometer? I don’t think people are educated enough-not everybody knows about it yet. A-Team’s Rodney Mullen is working on one right now. I think the core wheels could be a future thing-the Spitfire one looks clean, and it should be a faster roll. I talked to Tum Yeto at ASR about their dual-density wheels-the Pig Hardcore Terminators. They told me to wait a little while, that they aren’t quite up to specs.

“I think the technology is so new, people really don’t know enough about it to even want to ask for them. The companies need to explain what they are in an ad. Give people a reason to buy them! Manufacturers need to put the right information in the magazines.”

Duffy at World Market in Tampa, Florida

“I really don’t get people asking for them-no one’s asked for anything high tech in wheels at all. Some of the older guys are asking for the softer wheels, but not particularly the ones with a harder core. I don’t even have enough knowledge about ‘em to say if they work or not, whether the harder core makes then spin better. I did order some harder-core Darkstar at the trade show, so I’ll have an opinion on ‘em soon.

“But a skateboard wheel? I don’t know how much farther you can go with them, where more technology is gonna take you. What’s practical?”

David Kelso at Board Bin in Ketchum, Idaho

“Actually yeah, we’ve had the smooth-mold wheels since last summer and they’re selling, and we got in the World Industries Hellholes harder core wheels and sold every one we got in. But it’s not like it’s gonna be the new thing, like everybody’s gonna want them. I can’t even say whether they do what they’re supposed to do or not-guess it depends how soft we’re talking-97 durometer isn’t gonna spin that much faster than a 79. But the only hard-core wheel with like a 78 durometer outside is Kryptonics. I think the real technology in skateboarding right now is maybe in decks, in the changing shapes, but that’s been happening slowly over a period of time.

“I’d have to say that for younger kids, there isn’t the wheel loyalty, they may be open to try something new. For the older kids, like sixteen and up, there is-they’ll stick with one wheel, like Spitfire, Powell, or Bullets Santa Cruz, the brands that have been around longer and know what they’re doing.”

Jobie at Earth Core in New Brunswick, New Jersey

“We got in the new Spitfire Power Core wheels, and we’ve got the Darkstar ones in. But it’s not like we get any requests for them. I think it’s kinda more of a gimmick, like the `ultralight’ this and `featherlight’ that a while back. We do sell tons of regular Spitfires, and we carry Powell blends for the ramp riders, who like them because they’re softer and that. We also have the Cuban lengths and Rope lengths in the Zoo York wheels-but mostly it’s Spitfire. Some of the other companies’ wheels tend to flatspot.

“The colored thing seems to be coming back, have you noticed? I think Spitfire started that whole thing. Seems like wheels are getting smaller again, too-like kids are asking for 52s and stuff, where before they were asking for 58s.”

John Villarreal at AZP in Flagstaff, Arizona

“As far as kids coming in and asking for it, no. Honestly, what we carry and what seems to have gone off-Spitfires are the only wheels! There are only like a hundred kids who come in here-Flagstaff is small. If they’re not trying to save money with Powell blanks, they’re buying Spitfires-if not them, then maybe Pigs. But Spitfire is 90 percent.

“It’s not like a shoe, where the kids get word that a rider is on a new company, and everyone’s gotta have the shoe. In our case, with new product like wheels and decks, they mostly want what they see in the magazines. But as long as we have a good selection of Spitfires, everyone’s happy. People don’t even ask for wheels, they ask for Spitfires-it’s been a no-brainer for us ordering.”

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

“Not really, no. We actually mainly sell Spitfire and Momentum-they’re a new Rick McCrank and Jody Morris company. We’re happy with those wheels, and because they’re local, people are asking for them. Their second run of product is about to come out any day.

“We dabble in Girl, Chocolate, Platinum, World. We also do our own wheels with Red Dragon graphics in two sizes. Nothing fancy. Spitfire’s been the biggest wheel for a long time because they do that specifically, but I think Momentum is taking a big bite out of that now.

“We’ve had those sorts harder-core of World wheels in, and kids say “Wow!” but I think it’s just kind of a gimmick. Like the image-sublimated griptape-kids begged us for it, but then it didn’t sell.”

Barry Page at XXX in Nashville, Tennessee

“You know, I haven’t found that. I just ordered more regular Spitfires today. They sell more than anything, although I have carried the Physics and World Industries core wheels-the response for them just hasn’t been that great, nothing too fantastic.

“As far as the core wheels, all that stuff’s been around before. People just want a good durable wheel that’s affordable. The smooth-mold wheels are doing well-but we do sell Spitfire wheels six to one against any other brand. Seems like I order ten sets of Spitfires for every one or two sets of anything else. They have the most variety and sizes. Maybe it’s just my area, or maybe the other wheels just haven’t hit hard yet.”

Bill Wallace at Church of Skatan in Santa Barbara, California

“Not too much, although some of the employees have ridden harder-core wheels, and they like ‘em. There was a little problem with flatspotting. I think it’s something neat and new, but because they’re more expensive, I think kids are gonna hesitate to buy ‘em. They want to know what they’re getting for their extra money. They need more intense advertising to tell why it’s better.

“It’s a neat concept, but it’s not gonna make you a better skateboarder. Spitfires are still leading well in our shop, followed by World Industries, Ghetto, and Girl.”

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

“A lot of people will bring up a conversation about those wheels harder-urethane hub, softer urethane outside, and I do carry them. I explain what they are and how they work. People are trying them. I’ve heard people like George Powell talking about them-the harder core wheels-saying this is the way wheels will be for the next ten years. I don’t know if that’s true, but I like the idea of a faster wheel with a smoother ride. We carry the World Industries wheels, which run about the same price as their regular wheels. Girl and Chocolate were coming out with some, but they may have had some production problems, and I know Eric Koston is super picky! They’re really conscientious.

“If they’re harder-core wheels not selling for other shops, I can only assume that a lot of people just don’t really understand how the wheels work! The wheels that I’ve liked the best so far are the Livewire wheels-very light wheels. The only ones I’ve been getting requests for are the Pig Terminators.”like ‘em. There was a little problem with flatspotting. I think it’s something neat and new, but because they’re more expensive, I think kids are gonna hesitate to buy ‘em. They want to know what they’re getting for their extra money. They need more intense advertising to tell why it’s better.

“It’s a neat concept, but it’s not gonna make you a better skateboarder. Spitfires are still leading well in our shop, followed by World Industries, Ghetto, and Girl.”

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

“A lot of people will bring up a conversation about those wheels harder-urethane hub, softer urethane outside, and I do carry them. I explain what they are and how they work. People are trying them. I’ve heard people like George Powell talking about them-the harder core wheels-saying this is the way wheels will be for the next ten years. I don’t know if that’s true, but I like the idea of a faster wheel with a smoother ride. We carry the World Industries wheels, which run about the same price as their regular wheels. Girl and Chocolate were coming out with some, but they may have had some production problems, and I know Eric Koston is super picky! They’re really conscientious.

“If they’re harder-core wheels not selling for other shops, I can only assume that a lot of people just don’t really understand how the wheels work! The wheels that I’ve liked the best so far are the Livewire wheels-very light wheels. The only ones I’ve been getting requests for are the Pig Terminators.”

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