Ten Shops, One Question April 1999

Ten Shops, One Question

Spring has sprung – signaling the official start of skateboarding season. Even in this era of increased indoor skatepark access, all the chirping birds and croaking frogs can only mean good things for us. Early indications point to the return of another healthy growth period for this wacky business we call home, but because knowledge is power, we’re bringing you the latest word from the great retailers out there who’ve agreed to be our eyes and ears for this volume of SKATEboarding Business.

Every issue we contact these ten shops to ask a question that relates to our magazine and industry. Their answers may point up some regional differences in skate-related business, but many times the responses indicate a trend that both retailers and manufacturing businesses should be aware of. If you have a question you’d like to ask our shops, please send it to: SKATEboarding BusinessTen Shops, 353 Airport Road, Oceanside, California 92054; or FAX: (760) 722-0653.

This issue’s question: What are your different deck-price levels?

David Kelso at Board Bin in Ketchum, Idaho

“The cheapest boards we carry are blanks – different board companies’ blanks – and those go for $36.95. We also have the Powell blanks that we sell for 38 dollars. The next price level is name-brand decks – that’s almost everything else – and we sell those for $49.95. We also have slicks – those are $54.95. We carry ACME’s single-color printed decks that they offer at a blank price. We make less money on the more expensive boards – blanks are 100-percent markup, pro decks are like a 30-percent markup. We’d only make money on decks if we sold thousands and thousands – but we’re a small store. We’ve had the same prices since I started working here – almost six years now. And those prices are basically what I’ve been paying for boards for twenty years. It’s hard to price boards differently – a 60-dollar skateboard, no way! No one will pay that – unless it’s a longboard.

“We have a lot more logo and name-brand boards for sure than blanks – we don’t hold out just to make more money. Kids want certain model decks – it’s the parents who want the cheapest decks! With some companies’ decks we could jack up the price just because they have a certain logo on them.

“I do think part of the pro-model deck fee goes toward demos, but there’re pro models in everything – shoes, decks. If there’s a name brand on anything, someone’s gonna buy it.”

Craig Baily at Earth Core in New Brunswick, New Jersey

“Blanks we do with griptape for 35 dollars; we do graphic boards for 52 with grip. We’re coming out this spring with our first line of Earth Core boards for 40 dollars with grip. The graphic is cool – a photo of my grandpa from 1916 with a 1913 Henderson motorcycle. They’re coming from Penn’s Wood in Oil City, Pennsylvania, and it’s a really good deal for us. As far as the pricing goes, I’m not ever gonna make a killing on people buying decks, but I want people to skate. You make more on shoes and clothes.

“I don’t think that blanks are such an awful thing for the industry at all. The only thing that pro boards do is appeal to people who like that pro. It’s the nature of the industry. It’s like if you’re wearing a 23 jersey – you’re a Michael Jordan fan.

“On the flip side, I should add that I’ve definitely seen people form almost certain fraternities due to something like their boards and the graphics – like a coming out and a showing of colors, a family shield.”

John Villarreal at AZP in Flagstaff, Arizona

“We have two levels: blanks, which we screen with our logo and sell for $34.99, and then every other deck we have with graphics we sell for $51.99 – everything from World to Element to Shorty’s to Toy Machine. Brian Harper, one of the owners, makes the price decisions, and I’m not absolutely certain how he does that. I think some of the pricing is because of our area. I’ve beenere now for four years, and deck prices have been the same since then, and probably well before that.

“Blanks just sell more, and although we’ve always said we’d make sure of how many we sold opposed to pro models, we can never have enough blanks here. It’s a college town, and even though we’re the only game shop in town, we never tried to raise prices on decks. This is the price you can get for a skateboard, basically.

“We get our blanks from Clearwood and established companies like Powell – the graphic decks are more for people who like a particular wood or shape, and have brand loyalty. But a lot of the guys who skate every day and go through a lot of decks can’t afford a pro model. Money is an issue – guys come in and look at graphic decks, but then they’ll ask for a blank. Now that we have a park in town, a lot of guys are skating more hours a day and they’re going through a lot of decks. But, I’ll tell you, if a kid comes in on their birthday and is getting the deck as a gift, he’s not even gonna look at a blank deck!”

Barry Page at XXX in Nashville, Tennessee

“We’re pretty consistent with what other retail shops are charging. We charge $49.95 for pro decks, and we offer free park sessions for members, and free shipping for mail order – neither really costs us a lot, and it helps us to be competitive. We sell just Powell blanks, for $29.95. I was a little mad at first – their ads stated $29.95, which is price setting. But they’ve done a lot for the sport, and they always help us with demos. We also sell our own decks – XXX Brand – and they sell for right in between, 39 dollars. We make our own videos as well, and sponsor riders, which we’ve been doing since we started. If we do sell slicks, which is rare, we sell those for $54.95, but I think shoes, T-shirts, and accessories are the only things you get margins on!

“I do think pro models contribute to the health of the industry – they’re the pros role models. Most of the pros move out to California, so when you go to a skatepark, you actually ride with them, but where I live it’s all amateurs. And the market’s so competitive – ‘Who’s got the best video?’ Pros fuel the industries – pro ballplayers get huge endorsements, and these guys skaters have to live, too!”

Jeff Kelly at Kelly’s Board Shop in South Bend, Indiana

“We have three price levels – the regular price of our basic pro decks is $49.95. At lot of companies charge us more for the ‘special processes,’ but we don’t like to charge customers extra for that. Our slick decks are 59 dollars. We thought about not carrying blanks at all, and there are a lot of companies we won’t carry blanks from, but we’ve got a lot of guys who won’t skate at all if we don’t carry ’em. I understand the whole aspect of what that does to the industry – I don’t push them, but I have them if people ask for them. We charge about 39 dollars for blanks.

“It’s hard to compete with mail order. A lot of people bring in the catalogs. But a lot of kids find out I’m even cheaper than mail order by the time you charge shipping and handling.

“I’ve always thought the profit from the pro models pretty much just goes to that company – you hope it goes to things like tours, like the way Element is out there promoting skateboarding. I also like how Girl and Chocolate promote themselves, like the basketball court at the last ASR show September ’98. Can companies afford being lax about how they promote themselves?

“I wish I could charge more for decks – it’s weird to see industries where the markup is good, and still others where it’s worse than it is for us. It’d be easier for shops to stick around if deck prices were even ten bucks more. Or look at the watch part of the industry! They make like double 200-percent markup! And I can sell a 36-dollar pair of shoes for more than I can sell a 36-dollar wood board!”

Duffy at World Market in Tampa, Florida

“We’ve only got two price levels – we have just a few blanks, literally two or three blanks – we sell those for $34.95 with grip, but I don’t like selling them! You gotta feel for the kids whose parents can’t afford them pro-model decks, but I hate those guys who buy ’em blanks just to save a buck! I support the companies, and that’s where skateboarding is. Team boards and pro boards we sell at the same price: $48.95, comes with griptape. We beat anybody!

“If people would only look at what selling blanks does – it could put a company out of business. And I honestly see it this way: no matter how big somebody pro rider gets, the deck price shouldn’t be pushed up. Certain skaters sell a lot of decks – there are a few professionals whose boards kids are dying to get. But I don’t think companies should capitalize on that. If the rider asks for money, I think the company should still leave the decks at the same level, not jack the price up to 52 dollars.”

Joe Cruz at Church of Skatan in Santa Barbara, California

“We have three levels – slicks at $56.99, pros at $51.99, and team boards are mostly 49 dollars. We hate blanks! Can’t stand blanks because they take away from all the pros. Mini Logos, too – it’s all undercutting. We don’t deal with anyone who doesn’t support the pros.

“The kids need to know that the pros are out there wrecking themselves for it skateboarding. Hopefully by us spending the money on pro decks, the company turns around to pay the riders to go on tours and do demos. Demos are so much fun – and contests. Hopefully it the money also goes to product development. It all comes around. We support a lot of local companies, too. We’ve got four right now just out of Santa Barbara, and those companies have pros as well.

“We don’t even have shop boards – we couldbring ’em in and sell ’em for 39 bucks – totally undercut the skate companies. It’s like I should be doing it because it brings in more money for me, but I really don’t want to take away from the companies. You know, we don’t touch blank anything – no wheels, no boards.”

Beedle at Fast Forward in Hurst, Texas

“We just carry two levels: blanks and pro decks. I can understand why people are apologetic about carrying blanks, because they don’t support the pros, but there are a lot of poor skateboarders. I sell the blanks because the market accepts them, but I’d like to support the pros and what skateboarding’s all about. George Powell set the price for blanks at 30 dollars for blanks and 40 dollars for mini-pro logos. It’s actually price-fixing even though we could set them at whatever price I want. I sell ’em fine, and Zorlacs blanks sell just as well. The pro models we sell for about 50. To have a premium price above that is crazy. Kids buy the board because they wanna be like the pro – they buy a Muska board because they want to be like Muska! Hey, I’m the same; I wanted to be like Tony Hawk. That’s why supporting the pros is so important.

“I’d have to say there is a difference with board companies that are doing stuff for the industry: like Birdhouse, and Giant with Element. They have a good following, and they seem to be putting their money from pro models back into their technology, tours, what have you.”

Syd Clark at Red Dragon Skate Supply (RDS) in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada

“We don’t carry blanks – we only carry pro models, because it supports the industry instead of lining some businessman’s pocket. If a board’s been sitting around too long, we do mark it down so a kid can get a discount. Our one price includes free griptape: 79 Canadian dollars. Older graphics are 69. And we sell RDS decks for 69 dollars, as well. We justify selling blank shop boards because we have a big team and we give them all RDS clothing.

“I guess a lot of shops have to carry what the kids want – we’re lucky because what we carry is also what we think is cool. Girl and Chocolate have huge teams and they’ve been taking in some of the riders who wehave just a few blanks, literally two or three blanks – we sell those for $34.95 with grip, but I don’t like selling them! You gotta feel for the kids whose parents can’t afford them pro-model decks, but I hate those guys who buy ’em blanks just to save a buck! I support the companies, and that’s where skateboarding is. Team boards and pro boards we sell at the same price: $48.95, comes with griptape. We beat anybody!

“If people would only look at what selling blanks does – it could put a company out of business. And I honestly see it this way: no matter how big somebody pro rider gets, the deck price shouldn’t be pushed up. Certain skaters sell a lot of decks – there are a few professionals whose boards kids are dying to get. But I don’t think companies should capitalize on that. If the rider asks for money, I think the company should still leave the decks at the same level, not jack the price up to 52 dollars.”

Joe Cruz at Church of Skatan in Santa Barbara, California

“We have three levels – slicks at $56.99, pros at $51.99, and team boards are mostly 49 dollars. We hate blanks! Can’t stand blanks because they take away from all the pros. Mini Logos, too – it’s all undercutting. We don’t deal with anyone who doesn’t support the pros.

“The kids need to know that the pros are out there wrecking themselves for it skateboarding. Hopefully by us spending the money on pro decks, the company turns around to pay the riders to go on tours and do demos. Demos are so much fun – and contests. Hopefully it the money also goes to product development. It all comes around. We support a lot of local companies, too. We’ve got four right now just out of Santa Barbara, and those companies have pros as well.

“We don’t even have shop boards – we couldbring ’em in and sell ’em for 39 bucks – totally undercut the skate companies. It’s like I should be doing it because it brings in more money for me, but I really don’t want to take away from the companies. You know, we don’t touch blank anything – no wheels, no boards.”

Beedle at Fast Forward in Hurst, Texas

“We just carry two levels: blanks and pro decks. I can understand why people are apologetic about carrying blanks, because they don’t support the pros, but there are a lot of poor skateboarders. I sell the blanks because the market accepts them, but I’d like to support the pros and what skateboarding’s all about. George Powell set the price for blanks at 30 dollars for blanks and 40 dollars for mini-pro logos. It’s actually price-fixing even though we could set them at whatever price I want. I sell ’em fine, and Zorlacs blanks sell just as well. The pro models we sell for about 50. To have a premium price above that is crazy. Kids buy the board because they wanna be like the pro – they buy a Muska board because they want to be like Muska! Hey, I’m the same; I wanted to be like Tony Hawk. That’s why supporting the pros is so important.

“I’d have to say there is a difference with board companies that are doing stuff for the industry: like Birdhouse, and Giant with Element. They have a good following, and they seem to be putting their money from pro models back into their technology, tours, what have you.”

Syd Clark at Red Dragon Skate Supply (RDS) in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada

“We don’t carry blanks – we only carry pro models, because it supports the industry instead of lining some businessman’s pocket. If a board’s been sitting around too long, we do mark it down so a kid can get a discount. Our one price includes free griptape: 79 Canadian dollars. Older graphics are 69. And we sell RDS decks for 69 dollars, as well. We justify selling blank shop boards because we have a big team and we give them all RDS clothing.

“I guess a lot of shops have to carry what the kids want – we’re lucky because what we carry is also what we think is cool. Girl and Chocolate have huge teams and they’ve been taking in some of the riders who were recently ‘freed up.’ It was a shame to see Plan B go down, so we need to redirect kids to other cool brands. I just got some Element in, and we carry Powell pro models. We don’t carry slicks at all.”

Seth Curtis at Slam City Skates in London, England

“We don’t usually sell blanks – we used to sell the Powell blanks. We have decks from a British company called Unabomber that comes with stencils to make your own graphic. That’s sold for £39.95 pounds. It comes with a top graphic, and you have the option of putting one on the bottom. Up from that we have sale decks – discontinued models, boards that aren’t moving. We sell those for 45 pounds. Then we have our British boards at around £47.95 – Reaction, Unabomber, Blueprint. And then we have all the Tum Yeto decks with free tape – those are £54.95 with grip, which we do because we’re a Tum Yeto distributor. All the rest are £54.95, plus five pounds with griptape.

“It was a personal decision to stop selling blanks. I used to carry the Powells, and after a while I was just selling blanks! The kids were thinking, ‘I’ll get this then, if it’s only 30 quid!’ I just stopped doing it; I felt it was cutting into my brands.

“I do think the money goes into skateboarding, but a lot of people who are buying the boards, especially parents, don’t see it paying more money for pro model that way. And kids want to identify with a brand, develop loyalty. Blanks take money away from pros, and away from skateboarding. The Unabomber stencil boards are an equivalent to blank prices, but they’re not blanks.

“Hardware isn’t really where the money is! It’s tough – we make more money on the clothes so we can buy more hardware – what can you do? If we were to sell all our boards at £49.95, during a quiet month or something like that, we’d be making less money per board and not having the proper sell-through – and only end up not having enough money to buy more product.”o were recently ‘freed up.’ It was a shame to see Plan B go down, so we need to redirect kids to other cool brands. I just got some Element in, and we carry Powell pro models. We don’t carry slicks at all.”

Seth Curtis at Slam City Skates in London, England

“We don’t usually sell blanks – we used to sell the Powell blanks. We have decks from a British company called Unabomber that comes with stencils to make your own graphic. That’s sold for £39.95 pounds. It comes with a top graphic, and you have the option of putting one on the bottom. Up from that we have sale decks – discontinued models, boards that aren’t moving. We sell those for 45 pounds. Then we have our British boards at around £47.95 – Reaction, Unabomber, Blueprint. And then we have all the Tum Yeto decks with free tape – those are £54.95 with grip, which we do because we’re a Tum Yeto distributor. All the rest are £54.95, plus five pounds with griptape.

“It was a personal decision to stop selling blanks. I used to carry the Powells, and after a while I was just selling blanks! The kids were thinking, ‘I’ll get this then, if it’s only 30 quid!’ I just stopped doing it; I felt it was cutting into my brands.

“I do think the money goes into skateboarding, but a lot of people who are buying the boards, especially parents, don’t see it paying more money for pro model that way. And kids want to identify with a brand, develop loyalty. Blanks take money away from pros, and away from skateboarding. The Unabomber stencil boards are an equivalent to blank prices, but they’re not blanks.

“Hardware isn’t really where the money is! It’s tough – we make more money on the clothes so we can buy more hardware – what can you do? If we were to sell all our boards at £49.95, during a quiet month or something like that, we’d be making less money per board and not having the proper sell-through – and only end up not having enough money to buy more product.”