Remember that nervous and excited feeling you’d get on the first day of school? You didn’t know anyone yet, but some of the kids in your class looked interesting and promising – good prospects for future friends. Well that’s the way it is every year when we pick ten new shops for the next volume of SKATEboarding Business. We’ve chosen a great selection of skate shops across the U.S., one in Canada, and for the first time we’ve selected a shop to contact in England.

Every issue we’ll contact these ten shops to ask them a question that relates to our magazine and industry. Their answers may point out surprising regional differences in skate-related business, but many times the responses’ similarities prove quite unexpected. At any rate, the information we bring you from them can help both shops and manufacturing businesses. 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 customers looking for now in a skate shoe?

David Kelso at Board Bin in Ketchum, Idaho

“Most of the kids who buy the shoes do it for name company and pro more than features; comfort is also a big deal, so is durability. A lot of our older skate customers prefer shoes for durability over name. Customers are willing to pay up to a hundred dollars. I have a hard time charging someone over a hundred dollars.

“We don’t get a lot of warranty claims – most of the kids understand that skating in the shoes breaks them down. We get some adult non-skaters in who buy the shoes because they last and are made so well. We stopped carrying one shoe over a falling out with a rep who promised exclusivity, but we’ve started picking up newer companies like Axion, and well-known companies like Emerica, Vans, Converse, and DC. We also sell a lot of the Northwave shoes, but they’ve been discontinued by the company.”

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

“Not so much suede, but leather and shoes with airsoles sell here. We’re in North Vancouver – a nicer neighborhood – so customers are usually able to spend a little more. We carry DC, éS and Emerica, and Axion, the pro models. And we’ll carry Adio. There are so many new shoe companies, we just don’t bother with some. Adios are the exception – they have a good image, team, and ads, and kids are already asking for them. “DC is still our top seller, but we sell well with all the shoes we carry – in DC the tops are probably the Lynx and the Plug, and in éS it’s the Muska. With us, we have to send our warranty shoes to the distributor – if it’s the defect crazy bad obvious, I’ll just replace them and wait to get a credit from the supplier. DC’s warranty, for instance is 30 days with a receipt, so if it’s past that there’s nothing we can do. Most of the suppliers are pretty good – I usually call them while the customer’s in the store and see what’s up.

“These days there’re more pro shoes, and they’re more tech – not just flashy tech, but real tech features that are good.”

Craig Baily at Earth Core in New Brunswick, New Jersey

“We have a wide customer base, partly due to our piercing studio. Some customers are looking for Globe and Adio – the newer brands, and others look for Sole Tech, Emerica, and DC. We haven’t stocked Airwalk in years. Vans and DC are still holding on, but the newer brands definitely are holding more interest. We also have a lot of requests for all-synthetic shoes from our customers.

“I see some of our customers looking for a good shoe at a good price, like Dukes. Others are looking for the Chad Muska regardless of cost. The shoes that are more expensive are built to last – a higher-quality shoe – and I’m not getting warranty claims on those. The younger skaters seem more influenced by the pro skaters and feel the pro shoes will help them to skate like them e pros. The older skaters are looking for a good deal – for the most part our customers aren’t super-loaded with cash. The general trend in skate-shoe pricing is there aren’t too many shoes over 100 dollars – it’s like an unwritten rule.

“Trends I see – the Nike air-bubble thing airsole. But there seems to be mostly a good fashion/function trend.”

John Villarreal at AZP in Flagstaff, Arizona

“We’ve got pretty much everything as far as brands go, so I’d have to base this on what our store sells most of: éS and DC are probably the two top brands. Axion also do well – they’re super good with customer service – the best. Warranty and replacement are taken care of here in the store, and they Axion take care of us within a week. They trust our judgment call on the product. I think team shoes are selling well, not just the fact that the shoes are tech; like éS’ Chad Muskas and Eric Kostons.

“Shoes are super expensive, so we don’t get a huge profit margin on that. Mom’s slapping 100 dollars down for something the kid’s gonna wear out in a few weeks. So warranties are a tough call – a kid could wear a pair of shoes out in a day, easy! So we look for good-looking shoes that are quality enough to last – the elaborate lacing systems and all that just aren’t what’s most important.

“We’ve had order problems in the past with a couple of the older companies – the ones you’d think would have it the most together! Special orders would be lost, that sort of thing. And do you think the customer gets bummed at the company? Nope, they get bummed at AZP.

“Still, a lot of the shoe companies are doing a good job. Six or seven years ago, you had very little choice in skate shoes – maybe Stevie Caballeros were it. Now look. But there’s also the hype out now on new shoes like Adios – people calling ’cause they see the ads, and they get mad at us for not having them in the store yet! So the hype is a bit of a problem – especially when the company’s not ready to ship. Last year it happened with the Muska shoe.”

Barry Page at XXX in Nashville, Tennessee

“The kids want something durable – more so the parents. Style is important – like the DC Legacy. Kids saw the ads and called me a bunch on it. I’m sure it’s gonna be a good shoe. We carry a lot of brands, but we’ve dropped several lines. Our focus here is exclusive niche – if we see it in the mall, we stop carrying it. We’re a hardcore shop with a skatepark – we’re trying to focus on our niche. We’re not after the generic kid.

“The kids who shop with us see ads in TransWorld; they don’t pay as much attention to the national ads on TV. We try to keep our prices as low as we can. I think the margins are pretty good – more of a margin with shoes than there is with skateboards. Half our sales are shoes. Our number-one seller is DC, but Axion is definitely right after it. We sell a lot of éS, too – those are the big three for us. We’ve got an order in with Adio right now because of the skaters. Steve Berra, Jamie Thomas, Jeremy Wray – that’s what made our decision. Usually I’d prefer to buy from a company that’s been around a year or so.”

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

“Kids coming in the shop are looking for price, durability, and style – the same as it’s always been, maybe a little more style than it used to be. Some of the companies are coming out with quality low-end shoes, like Globe and Axion. They have features you’d find on a high-end shoe – recessed stitching, better lacing systems, gum rubber, arch support. Some shoes have mesh for breathability and flexibility.

“I still think younger kids identify with pro names. If they think the pro’s riding the shoe, they’re certain it’ll be a good shoe. Older skaters know what they want and are more likely to try things out for themselves.

“I wish the shoe companies that don’t use reps would – it makes business friendlier, and you have a direct liaison with the company. We sell a lot of shoes, and once a day I do see someone with a warranty claim. It’s a tough issue. I’ll send the shoes back, but I have to tell customers that the company is the final authority on whether the shoe is a defect or not. I only found one company that wouldn’t handle the warranties correctly, and I stopped carrying them. I’m especially happy with the service I get from Globe – they’re great. And I was able to get the Rodney Mullen shoes in super early.”

Chris Williams at World Market in Tampa, Florida

“I’d say Axion, DC, Emerica, and éS are the top sellers. I think a lot of kids are looking for a pro name in a shoe, but they also still want ollie protection. Around here it varies – some are looking for straight-up decent good shoes. But kids spending the top money on skate shoes definitely claim more warranties – we might hear back from them after a week of skating, complaining about worn rubber. In that case we refer them to the company and try to help them out.

“We did order Adio – you get a company like that and you know it’s gonna do well. The shoes look good, and knowing the skaters behind it makes it a top choice. Sometimes we see a few shoe reps, and we see catalogs and follow word of mouth. We go to the trade shows but rarely order shoes there.

“I think most companies are trying too hard to make a good skate shoe. Most skaters go back to the same basic-style skate shoe – no matter how detailed it is, it’s still the same mold. I can’t see all this craziness lasting – how far are you gonna go? One-hundred-fifty? Two hundred dollars? I think there’re too many pro shoes – although I admit there are also plenty who deserve it. As for the rest? If they got one, good for them!”

Bill Wallace at Church of Skatan in Santa Barbara, California

“Our customers look for price, durability, and somewhat the technology, but more so the hype – the rider whose signature is on ‘em. That’s why Adio has a big buzz and they’re not even out yet. We carry shoes from almost every company, but not every model. Number-one sellers are the tech shoes, and secondly it’s pricepoint. Mom and Dad get tired of Junior burning through his 90-dollar Kostons – which are still the number-one seller of that type. The best-selling new brand out is Globe. Sole Tech is still very strong. Brands like Axion, Globe, and Osiris are taking over some of last year’s good sellers. I really think DC has made a mistake by not having road reps; reps add ease in ordering, and they show you the new lines. You can’t order a shoe you’ve never seen before, never touched.

“You can no longer find a shoe for your shop under 35 dollars. We can sell at keystone 100-percent markup, but it’s tough to have to spend so much. Most shoes are running between 42 and 47 dollars cost – not just the signature shoes, or shoes with air soles. I don’t think it’s right to charge so much for pricepoint shoes, shoes a pro isn’t getting money for. Anytime something goes wrong with a shoe, at these prices we hear about it – about three to five warranty returns a week. And we have to pay for shipping – unlike the old days when the companies would give you a call tag.”

Seth Curtis at Slam City Skates in London, England

“Sole Tech shoes – éS, Emerica, and Etnies. Fashion dictates here, and DC is very fashionable here in London. So many DCs are being sold in shops around, we’re trying to cut down – but I’ll still do the pro shoes. People in general want DCs. Kids skaters want Sole Tech shoes – they want the Eric Koston and Chad Muska shoes.

“We distribute DVS and Axion, and their sales are about the same – good sellers after Sole Tech. We plan to carry Adio when those come out – a lot of kids have been asking for them. Kids are looking for basic shoes that last a long time.

“In England, the Zero/Toy Machine-type vibe is stronger – more of a trend like on the U.S. East Coast. I know those companies are based in Southern California, but kids asssell a lot of shoes, and once a day I do see someone with a warranty claim. It’s a tough issue. I’ll send the shoes back, but I have to tell customers that the company is the final authority on whether the shoe is a defect or not. I only found one company that wouldn’t handle the warranties correctly, and I stopped carrying them. I’m especially happy with the service I get from Globe – they’re great. And I was able to get the Rodney Mullen shoes in super early.”

Chris Williams at World Market in Tampa, Florida

“I’d say Axion, DC, Emerica, and éS are the top sellers. I think a lot of kids are looking for a pro name in a shoe, but they also still want ollie protection. Around here it varies – some are looking for straight-up decent good shoes. But kids spending the top money on skate shoes definitely claim more warranties – we might hear back from them after a week of skating, complaining about worn rubber. In that case we refer them to the company and try to help them out.

“We did order Adio – you get a company like that and you know it’s gonna do well. The shoes look good, and knowing the skaters behind it makes it a top choice. Sometimes we see a few shoe reps, and we see catalogs and follow word of mouth. We go to the trade shows but rarely order shoes there.

“I think most companies are trying too hard to make a good skate shoe. Most skaters go back to the same basic-style skate shoe – no matter how detailed it is, it’s still the same mold. I can’t see all this craziness lasting – how far are you gonna go? One-hundred-fifty? Two hundred dollars? I think there’re too many pro shoes – although I admit there are also plenty who deserve it. As for the rest? If they got one, good for them!”

Bill Wallace at Church of Skatan in Santa Barbara, California

“Our customers look for price, durability, and somewhat the technology, but more so the hype – the rider whose signature is on ‘em. That’s why Adio has a big buzz and they’re not even out yet. We carry shoes from almost every company, but not every model. Number-one sellers are the tech shoes, and secondly it’s pricepoint. Mom and Dad get tired of Junior burning through his 90-dollar Kostons – which are still the number-one seller of that type. The best-selling new brand out is Globe. Sole Tech is still very strong. Brands like Axion, Globe, and Osiris are taking over some of last year’s good sellers. I really think DC has made a mistake by not having road reps; reps add ease in ordering, and they show you the new lines. You can’t order a shoe you’ve never seen before, never touched.

“You can no longer find a shoe for your shop under 35 dollars. We can sell at keystone 100-percent markup, but it’s tough to have to spend so much. Most shoes are running between 42 and 47 dollars cost – not just the signature shoes, or shoes with air soles. I don’t think it’s right to charge so much for pricepoint shoes, shoes a pro isn’t getting money for. Anytime something goes wrong with a shoe, at these prices we hear about it – about three to five warranty returns a week. And we have to pay for shipping – unlike the old days when the companies would give you a call tag.”

Seth Curtis at Slam City Skates in London, England

“Sole Tech shoes – éS, Emerica, and Etnies. Fashion dictates here, and DC is very fashionable here in London. So many DCs are being sold in shops around, we’re trying to cut down – but I’ll still do the pro shoes. People in general want DCs. Kids skaters want Sole Tech shoes – they want the Eric Koston and Chad Muska shoes.

“We distribute DVS and Axion, and their sales are about the same – good sellers after Sole Tech. We plan to carry Adio when those come out – a lot of kids have been asking for them. Kids are looking for basic shoes that last a long time.

“In England, the Zero/Toy Machine-type vibe is stronger – more of a trend like on the U.S. East Coast. I know those companies are based in Southern California, but kids associate the riders with the companies. British skating is a lot less technical; shoes and boards reflect that.

“So in shoes we carry Sole Tech, DVS, and Axion, and we did carry Globe, but probably won’t anymore due to a change in distributors. We don’t do Recs or Osiris – we stick to the main deal. Vans and Airwalk were the biggest shoes ever, then when skateboarding fell off a few years back, the fashion side took over, and those companies kind of sold out. I can’t say I hold it against them – they did what they felt they had to. But now they’ve got to deal with it.”

Beedle at Fast Forward in Hurst, Texas

“I’d say price is a large portion of it. Some of the shoe companies with shoes that cost over a hundred dollars are having a little bit of a problem because of the price – a lot of customers just find it too much for something that’s gonna wear out so fast. Globe is offering a good shoe for a price Mom can handle, and Axion is also playing a big role right now.

“The consumer is expecting so much more out of a shoe now due to today’s expectations of product by their parents as well as the high cost. They aren’t understanding the abuse griptape is subjecting the shoes to, and just plain wear. I do get good service on true warranty complaints. Axion did a recall on one shoe this year – a navy Elite that was defective – and they took back every pair, replacing them right away. That gives me a lot of confidence in them.

“I expect shoe teams to go out and do tours to promote the product – I hear DC is in Europe right now. In fact, I asked DC to come out and do all thirteen Fast Forward stores and four nearby skateparks. I think Texas is a bit overlooked by the industry.

“I know some of the shops want shoe reps, but the only problem having a rep in an industry that’s still growing is that the rep is out for themselves – pushing product to make that commission. If shops only knew that they can ask manufacturers for shoe samples by FedEx and send them right back – you can feel good about placing an order. Maybe it’s because of the size of our company, but the shoe companies are very willing to help us out.

“I think the new generation is looking for their own brands – they don’t want Airwalk or Vans, they want new brands like DVS and Axion. That’s just an observation, but it goes with clothing as well. And we’re going into a time with more teenagers than during the baby boom – a huge teen demographic wave! That should be a positive for all our businesses.” associate the riders with the companies. British skating is a lot less technical; shoes and boards reflect that.

“So in shoes we carry Sole Tech, DVS, and Axion, and we did carry Globe, but probably won’t anymore due to a change in distributors. We don’t do Recs or Osiris – we stick to the main deal. Vans and Airwalk were the biggest shoes ever, then when skateboarding fell off a few years back, the fashion side took over, and those companies kind of sold out. I can’t say I hold it against them – they did what they felt they had to. But now they’ve got to deal with it.”

Beedle at Fast Forward in Hurst, Texas

“I’d say price is a large portion of it. Some of the shoe companies with shoes that cost over a hundred dollars are having a little bit of a problem because of the price – a lot of customers just find it too much for something that’s gonna wear out so fast. Globe is offering a good shoe for a price Mom can handle, and Axion is also playing a big role right now.

“The consumer is expecting so much more out of a shoe now due to today’s expectations of product by their parents as well as the high cost. They aren’t understanding the abuse griptape is subjecting the shoes to, and just plain wear. I do get good service on true warranty complaints. Axion did a recall on one shoe this year – a navy Elite that was defective – and they took back every pair, replacing them right away. That gives me a lot of confidence in them.

“I expect shoe teams to go out and do tours to promote the product – I hearr DC is in Europe right now. In fact, I asked DC to come out and do all thirteen Fast Forward stores and four nearby skateparks. I think Texas is a bit overlooked by the industry.

“I know some of the shops want shoe reps, but the only problem having a rep in an industry that’s still growing is that the rep is out for themselves – pushing product to make that commission. If shops only knew that they can ask manufacturers for shoe samples by FedEx and send them right back – you can feel good about placing an order. Maybe it’s because of the size of our company, but the shoe companies are very willing to help us out.

“I think the new generation is looking for their own brands – they don’t want Airwalk or Vans, they want new brands like DVS and Axion. That’s just an observation, but it goes with clothing as well. And we’re going into a time with more teenagers than during the baby boom – a huge teen demographic wave! That should be a positive for all our businesses.”