Ten Shops, One Question – How’s your “back-to-school” going?

How’s your “back-to-school” going? Did you pick up this issue in San Diego at the Fall Action Sports Retailer Show? Welcome to another skateboarding season-and you’re about to enter the most lucrative season of all for us: the holidays! Cross your fingers that the world stays a little saner for the time being so we can concentrate on what we do best-the business of skateboarding.

Ten Shops, One Question operates under this premise: for one year, we ask the same ten successful shops from the U.S. and elsewhere one question about skateboarding business. Their replies give us a peek into skateboarding in their respective regions, places as diverse as Dubai, Lyon, Cleveland, and Halifax. Yep-in an effort to recognize skateboarding’s global reach and its status as a culture without national boundaries, a full five out of ten shops this volume are not in the U.S.

Enjoy this vicarious form of travel, and if you have a question you’d like to ask our Ten Shops, send it to: skatebiz@twsnet.com, or FAX: (760) 722-0653.

This issue’s question: What influences your customers’ buying decisions?

Shahriar Khodjasteh at Dubai Desert Extreme in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

“Basically for us, there are a few things that influence the buyers-apart from brands, like Flip, for example, which is fast-moving here. Our business has a big loyalty following because we have done so much for the scene. This goes beyond brand and the look. Some other people have tried skateboarding business here, but we’ve been successful. We have events, demos-we do an amateur series. When we build a facility for a few days, they (local skaters) want to be on there, not see everybody on it! Soon they’ll have a (permanent) facility, thanks to us.

“Our scene and our consumer base is very small, very hardcore. That’s why we carry Osiris, which is more ‘core than a soft brand. Because it’s a ‘core shop, we have more sales in hardgoods than softgoods! We don’t sell decks at the prices they’re sold at in the States. We’ll open a second larger store up the road soon, and we can carry more clothing then.

“I have an event I proposed for Mountain Dew in Dubai, Oman, Riyadh, and Jeddah-those (last) two are in Saudi Arabia. It’s a one-month event during the holy month of Ramadan. Our shop name, Dubai Desert Extreme, came from an early event we held.

“Because they (the shop’s customers) are so separated from the hype that’s in your market, a lot of times they don’t hear about it. When we bring videos over, we hype them up a lot. And skaters here are making their own videos.”

Olaf Rolina at Color 13 in Marseille, France

“A little bit of everything-the video is important. We sell Girl … now! (He laughs.) Girl is growing now, after the video. The same for Flip skateboards! Advertising is different, because we’re in France. The kids read a lot of French magazines. Not the same (ads) as in TransWorld. And we are selling our own product in the shop. We have a team.

“All people know American skaters and culture, TransWorld and Thrasher magazines. But sometimes it’s better to have the local skaters. You can touch them, speak with them.

“We sell our own (shop brand) product, but it’s still difficult to sell French boards. The young guys prefer to buy an American board. It’s cheaper-like a Powell Mini Logo.

“We have kids and older skaters-ten to 40. The young skaters prefer the graphics of Blind or World Industries. Eighteen to 25 prefer Girl graphics or Chocolate. Everyone likes Alien-young and old.

“The women’s clothing we sell is almost like a second shop-the women in France don’t like to wear the skate clothes-they like fashion! But this way we make money. We don’t make money on skateboards.”

Matt Blouin at Pro Skates in Halifax, Nova Scotia

“I think a big part of it is what people who work in the shop say. Marketing, too-corporate marketing. Teamriders is a curious thing-who’s riding a lot and who’s wearing what T-shirt matters more in other ples. Here, skateboarding’s big but not nearly as big (as in the States).

“My girlfriend takes my old shirts and cuts ’em up and stitches ’em into a tank top. No need to go buy the new ones. Biggest (factor) is marketing, and what the salesmen rock. We all ride Indys, and they’re our best-seller. Skateboarders listen to each other, too.

“Our customers are mostly thirteen to 21-that encompasses a couple different age groups. If a kid comes in asking for the best board, but he wants a World board, we’ll tell them that’s not the best board.

“The Girl video is one of the top videos of all time, but we’ve got a problem here in the shop: nobody here buys the product. Kids don’t want it. And as far as videos go, kids burn ’em off the Internet.”

Salvador Aguado at Free in Barcelona, Spain

“Various things-the first thing is the guy who sells the boards (to customers in the shop), the guys who work here. Our team is the second thing. The third thing is the ‘international team’: Chad Muska, Arto Saari. Now Zero is the first brand-the second is Consolidated. In shoes, maybe the best-selling is Etnies and Vans-but that’s for fashion. For skate people, it’s IPath.

“There’s a big business in the city of people selling right on the sidewalk-visiting skaters. Then the kids don’t buy from us. Near Barcelona, the market is better. Maybe the biggest competition is PlayStation. We don’t have the skateparks, but we have nice street spots for skating.

“I think it’s a question of fashion: now is the fashion to skate-they skate. Then it’s the fashion for PlayStation-they do PlayStation.”

Greg Finch at Cide Skates in London, England

“There’s a good little scene sort of around the corner at Southbank that would influence buying decisions a lot. Also IPath and the new Girl video. We’re still sort of testing the waters-we’re not sure about our target market yet because we haven’t been open that long.

“We have a variety of customers, kids and adults, because we’re sort of tucked away. No one stumbles in. Girl and Chocolate have always been my favorite companies, so we’ve always pushed them here in the shop. There’s a big European scene that comes through here-the Cliché team’s here right now, and everyone’s really excited about them, so that’s an influence.

“We have a shop team, and some of them influence skaters-one really good skater’s on Unabomber. You can see the influence in what the kids buy. I was just at Glastonbury (Festival), and more people looked like skaters there than in London-like Shorty’s T-shirts and baggy jeans. Whereas kids here rock the IPaths and nicer chinos.”

Brian Jules at West Side Skates in Cleveland, Ohio

“It varies-depends. The magazines matter-what they see advertised and who’s the latest, hottest guy. We’ve talked about video’s influence, but so far no big boom from the Girl video. Some from Black Label because that’s more popular here-so I guess I have to say no. 411 sells pretty well, and I think people are influenced by the video magazines as well.

“We have a big age range of shoppers, from ten to twenty. I think older skaters have been through it and are less willing to spend the money-they know a blank deck is the same as a pro deck. Kids are more impressed by the wax, because it’s cheap. We do stuff for the kids-we have Black Label in-house this weekend, and Kerry Getz and Caine Gayle as part of the Nokia T-Mobile Ramps and Amps tour-we’ve got six of our teamriders going up against the pros. I hope our riders are being seen and influencing other skaters.”

Brant Van Boening at Board Sports in Grand Island, Nebraskaboardsportsonline.com

“A major thing is the companies themselves and the ads and the products they put out. Alien Workshop has such a solid team and design base that kids really cling to that. It’s our number-one brand. We have a lot of shop riders that the younger kids look up to. If they’re ripping at the park, the kids want that. So there’s a shop influence in this area.

“Videos affect us-we’re in a secluded area. Girl’s not a big seller, and after the video came out they moved to number four. Interest is piquing.

“Customers don’t refer to ads so much-it seems to be dying out. Censorship does have a little to do with it, but I think it’s hard to keep kids’ attention. So many videos out and everything. I think online is a huge deal. Kids’ll quote prices from like Online America. Company Web sites can make or break a sale, depending on the quality of their site and how they’re portrayed.”

Aaron Szott at Autumn in New York City, New Yorkautumnskateboarding.com

“Everyone here tends to be older. We sell Alien (Workshop), Anti-Hero, Real, Girl, Consolidated, 5boro, Popwar, Habitat. People were psyched on the Girl video-people who aren’t even into skateboarding talked about the Owen Wilson part.

“We have a shop team-last year we had more of a tangible local hero. A local hero worked here. Dave (Mims, the owner) is really picky about what he carries here. We have a couple young skaters-one real brainy one who comes here has his own ‘zine and rides Anti-Hero. Another young guy rides Krooked.

“We did a demo a few weeks ago with Real-they went on the local skate-chat thing, and the response was generally positive.”

Mike Cummins at Northwest Snowboards in Olympia, Washington

“Olympia has bad unemployment right now, so you have to order stuff to work with the people, yeah? More than anything, people buy what works. And if people are around with a variety of stuff that works, I think that’s it.

“The young shoppers trust the guys who work in the shop. Olympia is a pretty particular kind of place-community-minded, everybody knows each other. A lot of guys who skate for the shop help out or work for the shop. They offer tips to people.

“We usually do a premiere in the winter with one or two videos, and one in the summer as well. We’re gonna show the DC video soon, your video (Free Your Mind), and a Manik one-they’re out of Seattle.

“Lately there’s been a big push for companies coming out of Portland or Seattle, because usually to get sponsored you have to move down there (So Cal) where you are, where the industry is. Manik and Lib Tech and the Burnside Project supports a lot of the skaters around here.”

Al Garcia at Hollywood Sports Park in Bellflower, Californiahollywoodsports.com

“I play a part because we carry a lot of the Casper boards, and I’m a pro for Casper. Other than that, I’d say magazines. Like IPath-two-page spreads! Ads carry off companies. Ads are sales.

“We carry videos and always have one new one in rotation playing-it gets the kids in the shop. Hardgoods sell really well here. In the shop right now we’re seeing how it goes (open just a year now); we’re like a pro golf shop, very clean and organized. And right next to the (skate)park-if a kid breaks a kingpin, they can come right in here. It’s a park of the future, we’re like a theme park with the movie props and all.

“The Inner City Games are really gonna blow the top off. We’re the host, and it’s put on by Danny Hernandez and is part of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Foundation for kids. It’s held here every year at Hollywood Sports. Giovanni D’egidio and Dennis Bukoski are the founders behind Hollywood Sports, and they had a vision for it to be something unique.

“We do have a team for paintball, and we’re working on a skate team-we’re gonna have a skate-BMX team. It’s a unity thing. We’re just waiting for the Inner City Games in August.”his area.

“Videos affect us-we’re in a secluded area. Girl’s not a big seller, and after the video came out they moved to number four. Interest is piquing.

“Customers don’t refer to ads so much-it seems to be dying out. Censorship does have a little to do with it, but I think it’s hard to keep kids’ attention. So many videos out and everything. I think online is a huge deal. Kids’ll quote prices from like Online America. Company Web sites can make or break a sale, depending on the quality of their site and how they’re portrayed.”

Aaron Szott at Autumn in New York City, New Yorkautumnskateboarding.com

“Everyone here tends to be older. We sell Alien (Workshop), Anti-Hero, Real, Girl, Consolidated, 5boro, Popwar, Habitat. People were psyched on the Girl video-people who aren’t even into skateboarding talked about the Owen Wilson part.

“We have a shop team-last year we had more of a tangible local hero. A local hero worked here. Dave (Mims, the owner) is really picky about what he carries here. We have a couple young skaters-one real brainy one who comes here has his own ‘zine and rides Anti-Hero. Another young guy rides Krooked.

“We did a demo a few weeks ago with Real-they went on the local skate-chat thing, and the response was generally positive.”

Mike Cummins at Northwest Snowboards in Olympia, Washington

“Olympia has bad unemployment right now, so you have to order stuff to work with the people, yeah? More than anything, people buy what works. And if people are around with a variety of stuff that works, I think that’s it.

“The young shoppers trust the guys who work in the shop. Olympia is a pretty particular kind of place-community-minded, everybody knows each other. A lot of guys who skate for the shop help out or work for the shop. They offer tips to people.

“We usually do a premiere in the winter with one or two videos, and one in the summer as well. We’re gonna show the DC video soon, your video (Free Your Mind), and a Manik one-they’re out of Seattle.

“Lately there’s been a big push for companies coming out of Portland or Seattle, because usually to get sponsored you have to move down there (So Cal) where you are, where the industry is. Manik and Lib Tech and the Burnside Project supports a lot of the skaters around here.”

Al Garcia at Hollywood Sports Park in Bellflower, Californiahollywoodsports.com

“I play a part because we carry a lot of the Casper boards, and I’m a pro for Casper. Other than that, I’d say magazines. Like IPath-two-page spreads! Ads carry off companies. Ads are sales.

“We carry videos and always have one new one in rotation playing-it gets the kids in the shop. Hardgoods sell really well here. In the shop right now we’re seeing how it goes (open just a year now); we’re like a pro golf shop, very clean and organized. And right next to the (skate)park-if a kid breaks a kingpin, they can come right in here. It’s a park of the future, we’re like a theme park with the movie props and all.

“The Inner City Games are really gonna blow the top off. We’re the host, and it’s put on by Danny Hernandez and is part of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Foundation for kids. It’s held here every year at Hollywood Sports. Giovanni D’egidio and Dennis Bukoski are the founders behind Hollywood Sports, and they had a vision for it to be something unique.

“We do have a team for paintball, and we’re working on a skate team-we’re gonna have a skate-BMX team. It’s a unity thing. We’re just waiting for the Inner City Games in August.”