Considering the global differences in currency and income, what may seem either expensive or cheap in the U.S. may prove to be the contrary in another part of the world. However, many American brands are exported to skate shops around the globe, and the prices tend to remain the same.
“Brand-name products are priced way too high in relation to blanks and domestic products,” says Sebastian Eklund at Ponke’s in Helsinki, Finland.
While retail shops are affected by weather changes, certain regions experience a drastic change in sales when the sun comes out or is hidden by the thick snow. “Sales are highly seasonal and drop dramatically during winter months,” explains Eklund.
Crowding Of Skate Shops In Small Areas
Placing a skate shop in close proximity to another heightens competition and can create unease.
“There are two big chain stores in Canberra (Australia),” says Lee Steele at Shifty’s in Canberra, “and I’m sort of the one little store, so there is competition. But they’re sort of mall stores.”
Eklund adds, “There are currently too many skate shops for a town the size of Helsinki.”
“Prebooking is hard because I’m a little shop,” says Steele. “And the wholesalers are always hounding you for doing your prebooks, but you don’t always know that the stuff is going to sell. It gets harder to compete with the bigger chains. A lot of distributors keep losing their brands, so other distributors will pick them up. They’re too scared to put their money into it, so they are getting you to prebook on boards and stuff like that. It’s getting a bit like clothing.”
The Question Of Dedication
Many foreign retail shops explained that small ‘core shops that do well tend to be run by dedicated skaters. The shops that aren’t dedicated may do well, but they do nothing for skateboarding as a sport.
Bill Vertucci, at Manly Skateboards in Sydney, Australia, says, “Skate for us is tricky because it’s a very local-draw sort of market. I can advertise all over Sydney for instance, and the skaters I get will always be local guys. They don’t come all the way across town to buy skateboard decks. They just won’t do it. We put all our effort into the very local area. We run a lot of competition and do a lot of coaching, so we’re a very active retailer.”
Says Steele, “We’re pretty much the only dedicated skate shop in Canberra, the others are surf stores and stuff like that. That’s the thing-they don’t have the backup. They don’t have the service. They just don’t have that personal thing that the kids want.”
A common concern is when brands push new product out into the market before the old stock is sold. Eventually, some retailers are overstocked and end up losing storage space and money.
“A large variety in product lines makes stocks pile up in warehouses,” says Eklund, “and keeps more and more money invested in the stock all the time.”
Big Sports Stores Carrying Skate Products
Much like in the U.S., ‘core skate shops are finding their competition is no longer only friends down the street, but a larger scale of multi-sport stores and chains as well.
“We’re a dying breed of small, individually owned retailers,” says Vertucci. “And we are quickly becoming like it is in the U.S., where if you don’t have like 50 stores, you’re not a store. There’s this weird attitude that having a chain store is better than having one store, which I don’t think is necessarily true. It may be easier for the consumer, but that doesn’t make it any better for the store,”
Retailers grow concerned when they start losing customers to the larger stores that aren’t exclusively dedicated to skateboarding. “Younger kids are turning towards general sports retail outlets and no longer have any loyalty for specialty shops,” says Eklund.
Just as distributors and manufacturers rely on retail shops to sell their products and represent their companies, retailers depend on the representatives of those companies to assist them in building their stores and margins as well. Reps, however, can sometimes increase the pressure of the vast skate market, rather than relieve it.
“The biggest thing for where we are is getting distribution properly,” says Matt Blouin at Pro Skates in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. “Getting distribution with the support that the product needs, insuring that you can get the product and that it’s not in every chain store. So if you can get DC shoes, it’s insuring that you have a DC shoes rep who’s going to go to bat for you when someone wants it and you’ve been told that you have the exclusive.”
“It’s something that’s been happening in the States forever. And to us it seems like people don’t care, they just accept it,” says Blouin. “And here, we don’t. It’s not acceptable. Skateboarding is sacred. It’s not something to be bought and sold by Kmart and Wal-Mart. Companies have to be able to stand up and say, ‘Yeah, we want to make money, but no you can’t have it.’ And there’s a few companies that do, but there’s a lot of companies that don’t.”