On The Cide

On any given day, skaters can meander over to the bustling Lower Marsh Street, around the corner from the very central (but south of the Thames River) Waterloo station, and find an employee of Cide skate shop sitting on a bench smoking cigarettes or drinking beer. It’s a pretty relaxed place to work, but clearly work gets done. After all, it’s the only skate shop within a stone’s throw of one of London’s most famous skate spots-South Bank-so the shop’s appeal to local skaters is a given. Cide was founded in the summer of 2002 as a partnership between skaters Alan Rushbrooke, Greg Finch, and Richard Holland. Finch, who was a pro for London’s now-defunct Reaction Skateboards, says he wanted to start a skate shop because he could no longer be a barman. “I’d been wanting to do something for a while,” he says. “The other guys wanted to do something skate-wise-either a board company or a shop. So we all started talking on New Year’s Eve of 2002, and we came up with the idea for a shop.” And six months later, there it was. There’s no doubt that Finch has a lot of shop experience in London. Prior to Cide, he worked at London’s long-established Slam City Skates for close to three years. And before that, he set up the skate shop at Covent Garden’s High Jinks store-now known as Skate Of Mind. Finch moved to London from Johannesburg, South Africa in the mid 90s. In a city with so many pedestrians, location is key, and Lower Marsh Street is a great spot. Finch says they landed this location by chance: “We were living around the corner, but the shop only came up about three months before we got it. It was a stroke of luck.” In the summer of 2002, Finch felt London needed another skate shop because most shops in the industry were beginning to feel skateboarding gradually deflating from its popularity boom years before. As far as other shops in the area, Slam City Skates has the benefit of being long-established, and Skate Of Mind has the benefit of a prime location, huge stock, and recent expansion. Finch feels that Cide is of the same caliber. “Another proper skate shop,” he says adamantly. “London is pretty saturated with shit toy shops that sell skateboards, and we just thought we could do it better.” When asked how Slam City Skates responded to Cide opening, Finch says, “We’re absolutely no competition to them whatsoever. We’re south of the river, and they’re north of the river. “Most of Slam’s customers stayed loyal. We did get a lot of people from South London,” adds Finch. “And there are people who refuse to go to Slam, who’ve always refused to go to Slam. They come to us.” Cide sells more hardgoods than softgoods. This is a great indicator of the success of a London skate shop, considering the city is so fashion-conscious and most shops are forced to depend upon softgoods sales in order to maintain a hardgoods department. In this case, however, things are different. “We sell loads more hardgoods than softgoods,” says Finch, adding that Blueprint boards sell three-to-one over any other brand in the store. The average price of an American pro board is 60 pounds, which is approximately 90 U.S. dollars, and the average price of a UK pro board is 50 pounds, which is approximately 75 U.S. dollars. And with a number of other UK and European brands on the wall, it looks like locals are supporting local brands. Finch adds that Cliché also sells all right, and in terms of American brands, “hands-down, Chocolate sells the best,” he says, explaining: “Chocolate boards sell better than Girl boards because all the South Bank locals look up to the guys who skate them.” Cide carries an array of UK board brands, including Heroin, Landscape, Death, Ortega, Third Foot, and Blueprint; and European brands such as Hessenmob (Germany) and Cliché (France). On hardgoods, Finch explains, the markup is 80 percent, whereas on caps and shoes it’s 100 percent, and on clothes it’s 135 percent. The shoe brands Cide carries are limited to Emerica, Vans, Savier,, IPath, and éS. Finch himself is a longtime Emerica UK teamrider. “Emerica and éS sell through really well. Vans doesn’t sell as well, while Ipath and Savier are shortly behind the others,” he explains. Although the shop has grown in support tremendously over the past year, its business practices remain fairly traditional, with manual inventory checks once a month. The shop’s inventory isn’t computerized. However, the shop has been affected by an economic climate that’s changed quite drastically since it’s been in business. “The whole war thing killed a lot of trade,” says Finch. “Sales have been up and down and not steady at all.” To add to that, earlier this year the city of London imposed a new tax on people driving into Central London-a five-pound congestion charge per day. “Much of the shop’s business was from out-of-area,” explains Finch, but he remains optimistic: “It’s just a general slump of the market as well. I mean, the boom has stopped, and now it’s stabilizing.” The average age of the shop’s customer is between seventeen and eighteen years old, although the whole age range of customers, Finch speculates, is between sixteen and 32 years old. As a result, there aren’t many adults who come into the shop. “A fair amount of parents come around, but it’s just most of the kids who come in from South Bank.” Cide’s basement features an art gallery with a new exhibit every month. Earlier this summer, the exhibit featured the work of Sylvia Royal, a local skater’s mom. Another exhibit featured the work of Fos-the artist behind Landspeed and Heroin skateboards. The shop team is comprised of skaters “who’ve been picked up along the way,” says Finch. It features Joe Crack, Andy Morgan, Steph Morgan, Rich Hardy, Badger, Brendan Ryall, Frank Stephans, Lucien Clarke, and Greg Finch himself. The most interesting thing about running Cide and working in the shop, Finch says, is listening to the kids speak among themselves: “It’s amazing what they think and what they talk about. Sometimes I forget that I was like them once and talked about the same things and saw everything the same way.” The most interesting learning experience Finch and Pope have had with building Cide has been their do-it-yourself approach to things. “It’s funny as hell,” Finch says. “Basically, I built a skewed wall and a door that doesn’t work-that’s my D.I.Y. experience.” Asked if he would get into the same business if he had the opportunity to do it again, Finch laughs. “Hell no, I probably wouldn’t,” he says, explaining that on the financial scales, things haven’t entirely been rewarding. “Definitely not financially rewarding. But it makes you feel quite good when you see something you’ve done grow. And it makes you feel really weird when you see someone out and about, and you know that you’ve sold them something.”