Why would a French wheel company accept a decreasing international skateboarding market with open arms? According to Lordz wheels, “It’s not a bad surprise-it will clean the market of fake companies.”
That’s a powerful statement from a relatively small company. Lordz stands its ground in the ever-changing global market and relies on the trust and faith it has invested in the European skate market for the past five years.
“Skateboarders are pretty much the same and have the same needs everywhere. The European market is still Americanized in majority, but it tends to be less and less true,” says Lordz Team Manager Benoit Copin. Lordz enjoys a strong European presence because they are in a unique position to work with local European shops-a difficult feat for most U.S.-based skateboard companies. According to Copin, European shops enjoy working with Lordz because they can achieve a better profit margin, obtain more European-specific styles, and receive better support in promotion. In today’s cutthroat, global market, Lordz has developed a business model that ensures their strength in the European market.
Lordz will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in January 2004. Owner Stéphane Theng and original team members Luy Pa Sin, Stéphane Larance, and J.B. Gillet had faith in the potential profits in the European market and in their talents. According to Copin, Lordz “wanted to show and represent where we come from and support our friends all over Europe.” Lordz began as a hardgoods company selling signature wheels and bearings, but over the years it has evolved alongside its growing popularity. “From our love of clothing, we developed a full line of apparel that fits the mind of our team.” This is a common move for many hardgoods companies because not only are softgoods a great way to advertise a hardgoods product, they typically have a better profit margin.
Lordz sees no end in sight to their European reign, sighting their main objective to be creating “an established market in Europe, which will offer a better situation for the European professional skateboarders and to promote the European view.” This is a view that may already be at the foot of many American skateboarders’ doorsteps. A few months ago, Lordz made its American debut, being distributed in the United States by DNA Distribution, home to Alien Workshop, Habitat, and Seek. Lordz hopes that DNA will aggressively promote their products to shops, making their venture into the American market a successful one.
According to Stéphane Theng, “Lordz has become the most-demanded wheel company in Europe, because we are trying to do more than a wheel company-we are going on tour a lot, we made a video. In Europe, everybody knows Lordz as one of the top brands with the most popular team, and it gives us good credibility and image among the scene.” Lordz reportedly has its strongest sales in France, but countries like Japan, Spain, Austria, Denmark, and Finland are showing growth as well. Lordz attributes solid sales in these countries to strong promotion by the distributors.
Lordz has invested a large amount of its budget into advertising in numerous European magazines. Theng rationalizes this spending saying, “This budget is to create and keep the image of Lordz fresh in the mind of the skateboarders and help the media to develop skateboarding in Europe.” In the eyes of Lordz, this money is being used to nurture the infant European skate market into adulthood. By positioning themselves as a top brand that is sowing the seed of skateboarding across European soil, Lordz is situated to achieve excellent profit potential while still giving back to the skateboarding community.
In the past, it was more difficult for European countries to do business, because each had their own unique currency. This was just one more area of expertise a small company had to sink resources into to do intercountry business. The advent of the Euro has helped to facilitate the developmennt of small companies such as Lordz. “We are looking at Europe as a unique country now with no borders and the same money,” says Theng. “The market should take advantage of that and increase the trade between countries, because now it is way easier to deal, but we cannot change the old mentality in one day.” This patience has helped to solidify Lordz as a steadily growing company in Europe, and now America.
With the financial oddities ironed out by a common currency, Lordz can focus on promoting their products and skateboarding as a whole. Copin asserts that the European market is going to continue to grow because many skateboarders are now heading to Europe to avoid America’s draconian anti-skateboarding policies. “The fact is that the security guys, the skatestoppers, and the cops push the American rider to come to Europe. That seems to change their mentalities and they seem to be more open-minded with Europe.” In the end Copin feels that “anything can change, except the faith and trust we have had since the beginning in the European skateboarding skill and the potential of European skateboarders.”
Team: Bastien Salabanzi, Alex Carolino, JB Gillet, Luy Pa Sin, Franck Barattiero, Stéphane Larance, and Lucas Puig.
Videos: Lordz Conspiracy and They Don’t Give A Fuck About Us.