International News: Spain

Corporate Concerns

The Spanish skate industry has been on the rise since 1999. Although it’s not in jeopardy, it is still up against the corporate world, along with various opportunists trying to capitalize on skateboarding’s success. Specialty shops have more reason than ever to be concerned with the current situation of the skateboard industry.

Arancha Zubiaurre, owner of Xtreme Kirolak in Vitoria (Basque Country, North Central Spain), states that her main preoccupation is the fear that large chain stores, like Zara, who offer their own line of “skate-style” clothing, will pull over the fifteen to 25 year olds, the “true” consumers in Spain. (There are “true” consumers and “influential” consumers, and the “influential” consumers do not make up the majority of sales, although they do spark the demand for the “true” consumers to follow). “The companies who lead the skate industry are the ones who need to adapt to the times and provide products that will be price-competitive and quality-driven,” says Arancha. “If brands are in it for the long haul, they will adapt and they will provide the necessary points of purchase to keep the attention of the influential consumers buying into the skate/surf style clothing and/or shoes.” Another major concern is the over selling of brands in a small area. There are currently three other shops in Vitoria (a city of 218,400 inhabitants) who sell the same brands found in Xtreme. Distribution of brands is tricky. It’s understandable that distributors want to make money, but if they open up too many stores in one area, the brand will quickly lose appeal, and the influential crowd will be looking for the next brand to back.

Carlos from Tactic Surf in Barcelona (a pioneer in skateboarding retail in Spain) is also faced with the same concern as Arancha-over-distribution of brands. “In Europe, there is a huge brand and product war, which has everyone fighting to either make space or keep their space on the wall,” explains Carlos. “Moreover, there is a price difference between shops in Spain and Southern France. The same shoes or skate decks are a bit more expensive in France. Of course, this helps us out, but it also opens the gates for opportunists to bring the price of everything up to the French level. They decline to treat the consumer like a professional, but rather a body who is there to leave money and nothing more. It scares us to think that companies and distributors will sell to these shops, which will eventually destroy everything we have created. We are a specialty shop. If these products we carry begin to sell in opportunistic shops who want to benefit off this industry, we will ultimately be the ones to suffer.”

It’s scary to think that in the future we might be buying all our skate clothing from stores like Zara and other trade outlets who are in the business for a quick peseta. Where will we go after these shops have brought down the specialty stores-Wal-Mart? Spain is living proof that the skate industry has maintained itself fairly well against the onslaught of corporate greed, however, it’s hard to discern how long these opportunists will survive in our industry.