Philly shop is doing well with a little help from a pro.
In a city that’s only skateable for about half the year, and where most skate shops depend on snowboard sales to carry them through the harsh winters, the idea of having an exclusively skateboarding shop might seem a tad strange.
And to do it, be profitable, and expand-all within the first eight months of business-you’d have to have angels on your side.
Or a professional skateboarder.
Early last year, Kerry Getz decided to join forces with his longtime friend Tim Quinn and open up a skate shop in their hometown of Philadelphia. “I wanted to have something to fall back on after skateboarding,” says Getz. “I don’t think there were any good skateshops around here. I had some money saved up, and my friend Tim wanted to go in with me. A couple months later we were rolling. I never felt comfortable in other shops. All I wanted to do was create a shop where everyone could feel comfortable.”
The 1,000-square-foot shop opened for business on June 10, 2000. Located in the Center City district, Nocturnal is situated in the heart of Philadelphia at Third and South streets. South Street is Philly’s main shopping strip, making their location great for business, and the shop gets a huge amount of walk-in clientele.
Even so, Getz and Quinn made the decision to be a skate-exclusive shop, and not venture into the world of snowboards and related equipment, primarily due to their inhibitions about getting stuck with snowboard inventory after the winter season ended. “I’ve heard about that stuff,” comments Getz. “I didn’t want to be unable to get rid of snowboard product after winter is over. Skateboard stuff sells pretty steadily throughout the year. And most importantly, it always sells.”
Winter is generally slower for Nocturnal than summer, but Getz and Quinn explain sales naturally increase tremendously around Christmas and in the spring.
The two partners have been even more fortunate to have Quinn’s father Joseph, a professional accountant, working with them. Joseph Quinn meticulously takes care of all of the shop’s accounting. “He’s pretty picky about stuff like financial statements and cash flow,” says Quinn. “He’s definitely a big asset to the shop. And because of the fact we’re a new shop, we’re trying to penny-pinch where we can. Things are going well, though.”
The shop was financed through a combination of Getz’s savings, a personal loan Quinn took out, and a bank loan.
The shop’s staff consists of five employees, including Getz and Quinn. Getz’s professional-skateboarding commitments require a lot of traveling, which keeps him from being in the shop regularly. Quinn is at the store full-time, and serves as its manager, supervising sales and three part-time employees.
The shop’s primary focus is shoes and decks, followed by clothing and other hardgoods. Like many skate shops, Nocturnal is making very little money on hardgoods right now. “We’re just dealing with it,” says Getz, adding that they don’t want to overcharge customers. All pro decks at Nocturnal sell for 53 dollars. Sets of wheels sell for $27.95, and all trucks sell for $18.95 each. The shop also offers a special deal to customers- buy four boards and get the fifth for 20 dollars off. The shop keeps records of when customers buy decks. When they reach their fifth deck, they’re given a twenty-dollar discount, receiving a pro board for 33 dollars. “We’ve never thought about carrying pricepoint stuff-we like to think that our prices are good enough to not have to carry it,” says Quinn. “We want to carry names that skateboarders recognize and trust.”
Nocturnal itself is becoming a name that customers trust, and Quinn says shop product is very popular. “We have kids asking us all the time for shop decks, which we’re looking into. We’ll probably sell our shop decks for about 35 dollars. We already have sshop shirts, and our shop product sells really well. We even do a lot of mail order for shop shirts and sweatshirts. We receive orders for that stuff from all over the U.S. and Canada.
“I’d like to eventually get into full mail order,” he continues. “Our Web site is currently under construction, and I think eventually we could do it through there. But I want to get the shop totally rolling right now, and although mail order is something that I really want to do, it’s just not my first priority.”
Getz says the shop’s rapid growth in its first year has allowed them to increasingly carry more stock and a broader range. “And then, of course, you see the same people coming back,” remarks Getz. “That helps us a lot. We’ve also been seeing a lot of new faces, and that’s always good.”
Nocturnal isn’t doing much in terms of advertising, admits Getz. “Every time I get an interview, I’m usually talking about it, and as more people find out about it, more parents and younger kids are coming in the store thinking, ‘Wow, a pro skateboarder owns it!’”
Getz has difficulty trying to describe Nocturnal’s average customer. “We have a variety,” he says. “We have kids who come in because they want my autograph, and that’s cool.” Getz pauses and chuckles. “And then we have older guys coming in, looking for old boards and pool videos. It’s great. We’ll usually do special orders for everybody, as we just want to try and please everyone.”
Nocturnal gets a fair share of promotion and representation through its all-star shop team, featuring pros Getz, Tim O’Connor, Rob Pluhowski, Anthony Poppalardo, and Brian Wenning. Philly rippers and ams Steve Faas and Texas Adam are also on the team. Getz explains that demos have been difficult to organize: “It’s hard to set up a demo when you don’t have a spot.” But Nocturnal will sponsor local contests on occasion to help the scene and promote the shop.
This year ESPN’s X-Games will be held in Philadelphia. “The decision didn’t really have anything to do with the people, who didn’t really have any say in it,” says Getz. “It was basically the city saying ‘Oh look, we have a chance to make millions of dollars.’ It’s bad here now because the city just banned skateboarding in Philadelphia but then went and accepted the X-Games- which is really skateboarding in the same city. Everyone has an opinion. Some people are psyched on it, and some don’t like it. I’m psyched on it. All this can do is actually help. The city will realize that they have to do something for the kids, because kids won’t stop skateboarding.”
Getz also acknowledges the opportunities the X-Games will bring not only to Philly, but to the shop. “Nocturnal is going to be represented there,” he says. “We’ll have a booth set up there, selling stuff and promoting the shop.”
As the X-Games are expected to be attended by over 300,000 spectators and seen by millions of television viewers, Nocturnal can expect to get some good publicity from it this year.
Of course, it might also help that Kerry Getz will be in the contest.