“Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds … “

I’m not really so sure where the above song snippet comes from, maybe Disney’s Alice In Wonderland, but to me it means spring is on its way¿or let’s put that in retailer terms: you are now ordering for spring, possibly summer as well.

It’s tough living in one season and predicting another, but that’s the life of skate retailers everywhere. If you think that’s tricky, can you imagine the task ahead of Hannah Baird at Skateboards Only in Australia? She has to order skate clothes for her winter at the same time U.S. retailers are ordering for summer, all made by skate companies for the most part based in California! Over the years I’ve heard all kinds of prediction schemes, from a shop that based summer orders on a mathematical equation incorporating winter-holiday sales and mysterious ratios, to shops that prefer to order light and do business only with brands that allow them to reorder as needed. But you know what? At the end of the day¿or season¿Mother Nature holds most of the cards, and if she sends you an El Niño or a La Niña or whatever, you’re just gonna have to roll with it. Meanwhile, a little feedback from our ten shops can sure come in handy.

The shops are from various locations around the U.S., and we also have one shop each in Canada and Australia. Every issue we contact these same ten shops to ask a question that pertains to the magazine’s theme as well as to the industry in general. All these successful shop-folk are enthusiastic, bright, and interesting¿their comments are certain to shed a little light on the many vagaries of doing skate business, and can help both shops and manufacturing businesses.

If you have any questions or comments for our ten shops, please address them to: Ten Shops, One Question, 353 Airport Road, Oceanside CA 92054; FAX: (760) 722-0653.

This issue’s question: How do you deal with holiday clothing overstock, and how does it affect your spring orders?

Hannah Baird at Skateboards Only in Burleigh Head (Gold Coast), Australia

Note¿when it’s winter in the Americas, it’s summer in Australia

“You know, where we are the weather is always kind of warm. We don’t get a real winter¿maybe you wear a jumper sweater a few days of the year. We still sell shorts in winter, so the only clothes we have to worry about clearing out is our winter stuff. Just at the moment all the jumpers are marked down on the rack¿all the jumpers are at the end of the rack, and we just tell kids they’re on sale when they come in.

“The hard thing is the kids see a lot of rad pants in the magazine during your summer, and they come in asking for it but we know the distributor won’t be bringing it in for a bit. As far as what they see in the magazine, they can’t get everything here. The distributors cater for that kind of stuff¿they bring what we need when we need it, even if it’s not the right season for you guys. They’re all really good.

“I clear out what lines don’t sell, I don’t leave it on the shelf. It was good to see it all at ASR in fall; sometimes I really wish that we were able to get everything you guys have available out there. A lot of companies do bring out some totally rad product I wish we could get.”

Aaron Costa at Krudco in Rochester, New York

“As far as jackets go, we carry Foursquare, Fuel, and Shorty’s. When winter comes, we carry skate products made for winter, that is from any companies that make skate stuff for winter. We have to have everything counted inventoried by January 1, and if it’s still in the shop, we have to pay taxes on it. Of course when it sells later we have to pay taxes on it again. So by January we try to get inventory down as low as possible. We got a ton of hoodies this year¿I’ll drop everything down in price right after Christmas, when Little Johnny has his Christmas money.

“The overstock does and doesn’t affect my ords for spring¿maybe the shoes do a little bit; I’ll back off if I have a lot left. We have about four months of shorts weather, that’s it. I do have a hard time with long-sleeve tee availability, but then you also don’t know what’s gonna sell. Are the pros wearing it? If not, it probably won’t sell. Zero long-sleeves are selling in that genre, but the hip-hop dudes aren’t rockin’ that stuff¿they want the hoodies.”

Melanie Loveland at Daddies Board Shop in Portland, Oregon

“Strictly related to clothing¿for us there’s a clear line of delineation between outerwear and skate/street clothing. As far as street skatewear goes, we’ll do somewhat of a spring sale. We’ve never had to put our snow outerwear on sale. But the only relation I would get from that having good sales in winter is continual loyal customer support, and that steady growth is expanding the number of customers coming into the shop. Predicting one season by the previous is optimistic, but it may not be true.

“We don’t get too experimental with bringing in a bunch of lines¿we’re very loyal with the brands we do have. We’re pretty conservative, actually. We may be unique in that we do tend to sell out of our winter lines, and we haven’t much had to deal with overstock. Oregon is unique with year-round snowboarding. And there’s a big difference in temperatures between the top of the hill and where we are¿today it was 32 at the mountain and about 54 down here. We can carry two different seasons of clothes at the same time.”

John Montesi at Westside in Tarpon Springs, Florida

“Put it on sale, and get it out for at least what you paid for it or five dollars more. But like my buddy Thomas at Stratosphere in Atlanta says, ‘Just get rid if it even if you have to lose a little money.’ It’s better than sitting on the same old static stuff, and it’s not making you any money just sitting there.

“I had a really good back-to-school, and October was good, which it isn’t usually. So I’m betting on a good winter and a good spring. Mostly it winter sales tells me what companies are hot. You notice who’s cool.

“Prebooks are a pain in the butt, though. I hate it when companies only make what you order! If you didn’t prebook Muska’s new shoes, you can’t get ‘em. You had to order them in September for delivery in March!

“I’ve already prebooked orders for March, the Muska shoes and some clothing. Whether I order or not at Long Beach depends on the company. The thing about trade shows is that they’re good to go look around at product. I don’t try to order everything there. With some companies it’s hard to get a sales rep to order with outside of the show, so you get ‘em while you’re there. Prebooking with a company that you don’t know’s gonna sell is more risky; it puts the stress on you. Their being able to offer it to you whenever you need it would be the best thing.”

Chuck Mitsui at 808 Skate in Kailua, Hawai’i

“Usually we’ll do sales for January and February, ’cause they’re pretty slow months. Actually we do pretty good overall sales, so we’re not usually stuck with too much overstock. For affecting spring orders, I guess sometimes if the stuff’s sitting around a while, and it doesn’t seem like the brand was too popular, we won’t stock as heavy on that come springtime.

“Being in Hawai’i, it the weather doesn’t really change that much, but we’ll order more sweatshirts and jackets in winter¿that takes up the buying we usually do for shorts. And we do a little more with long-sleeve T-shirts in winter. Everyone who skates in Hawai’i wears long pants, so that’s pretty much year round.

“Wintertime/Christmas is our biggest season, and it’s been getting bigger every year. Our store sales have been going up about fifteen percent a year.”

Ted Okamoto at Vanguard in Redondo Beach, California

“The winter overstock doesn’t affect spring buying¿it’s all different product. What we buy in winter is specific to that season, although spring ordering is also summer overlap product.

“For me, this question is kind of not so dynamic¿California doesn’t really go too extreme, as far as cold weather and outerwear pieces go!

“Depending on the weather, after New Year’s we usually start having in-store discounts. We fill a rack and pick garments for it. We may categorize¿post something saying ‘All Outerwear’ or ‘All Jackets On Sale.’ Our two shops are only four miles apart. I find that taking inventory is easy if you display well; you can see what you have just glancing at it. Sometimes one shop does better than the other, so we can bring more product over from the other store¿but that’s rarely the case. The stores basically sell the same.”

Justin Ryan at Subsect Skateboards in Des Moines, Iowa

“We do a little bit of winter stuff discounting, but the Iowa winter goes pretty much ’til March, so we have three months after Christmas to sell everything. We mark down maybe one or two sweatshirts, but that’s about it, no real winter overstock. We sell jeans and long-sleeved T-shirts year round.

“If anything it’s the other way around¿I get stuck with shorts! I’ve got like ten pairs of shorts in the back right now, but I’ll just keep them on back-rack ’til it’s time again. We try to clear out the jackets pretty quickly; we carry Alphanumeric, and that’s been moving pretty good.

“We test new brands more through the summer; winter’s the time we don’t sell much stuff, so we have to know what’s selling. In spring and summer we do a lot more with a lot more companies. But we have a problem with companies not having sweatshirts when we need them¿we sell those from late August ’til the end of March, and most of the California companies don’t offer them nearly that long. We don’t really prebook anything¿maybe a few of the nicer things. We’re a small enough shop that companies don’t worry about filling our little orders.”

Matt Sickels at Milosport in Salt Lake City, Utah

“In spring, we’re just clearing out so much snowboarding stuff. Also, as we bring in more shoes, we’ve split our whole shoe department¿our little shoe corner¿into sale and non-sale. Whatever older styles we have, we try to keep ‘em moving. It’s an ongoing thing with all our product; for back-to-school we actually have a big sale. Right now we put all our pants on sale¿in winter our shop pretty much turns into 90-percent snow wear. One thing changing for us this year is three new skateparks here in Salt Lake alone. We’ve had such nice weather our skate sales are still going, and all these indoor parks are keeping that going even more.

“Where we’re located, kids who really want to skate will even jet to California in winter for a week to skate. And down in the valley here it doesn’t get that cold¿it’s only unskateable for a couple months. Most of our guys snowboard, and the snow is really late this year, so I’m noticing we’re a little low on the boards skate on the wall. We mostly sell all pants year round. For spring, a lot of companies are jumping on lighter-weight pants: D.C., Element, Circa¿more of the hip-hop thing. In winter we don’t get into too much button-down shirt stuff, so we can sell those same pants and shirts in spring. Going into spring we sort of keep a close eye on what’s moving, and put things on sale as it’s needed.”

Bill Wilson at Full Tilt Board Shop in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

“Overstock is usually not too bad¿we sell predominantly what we order. We sell hoodies through May, but I make sure I don’t order too heavily, same with beanies. Shoes are a little tougher¿larger orders and you have to get rid of the old styles, so that stuff we discount. We’ll do a medium-heavy discount to start with, but then when summer gets closer we do a got-to-get-rid-of-it sidewalk sale. By then we’ve got mostly onesies and twosies, and you just dig through to cific to that season, although spring ordering is also summer overlap product.

“For me, this question is kind of not so dynamic¿California doesn’t really go too extreme, as far as cold weather and outerwear pieces go!

“Depending on the weather, after New Year’s we usually start having in-store discounts. We fill a rack and pick garments for it. We may categorize¿post something saying ‘All Outerwear’ or ‘All Jackets On Sale.’ Our two shops are only four miles apart. I find that taking inventory is easy if you display well; you can see what you have just glancing at it. Sometimes one shop does better than the other, so we can bring more product over from the other store¿but that’s rarely the case. The stores basically sell the same.”

Justin Ryan at Subsect Skateboards in Des Moines, Iowa

“We do a little bit of winter stuff discounting, but the Iowa winter goes pretty much ’til March, so we have three months after Christmas to sell everything. We mark down maybe one or two sweatshirts, but that’s about it, no real winter overstock. We sell jeans and long-sleeved T-shirts year round.

“If anything it’s the other way around¿I get stuck with shorts! I’ve got like ten pairs of shorts in the back right now, but I’ll just keep them on back-rack ’til it’s time again. We try to clear out the jackets pretty quickly; we carry Alphanumeric, and that’s been moving pretty good.

“We test new brands more through the summer; winter’s the time we don’t sell much stuff, so we have to know what’s selling. In spring and summer we do a lot more with a lot more companies. But we have a problem with companies not having sweatshirts when we need them¿we sell those from late August ’til the end of March, and most of the California companies don’t offer them nearly that long. We don’t really prebook anything¿maybe a few of the nicer things. We’re a small enough shop that companies don’t worry about filling our little orders.”

Matt Sickels at Milosport in Salt Lake City, Utah

“In spring, we’re just clearing out so much snowboarding stuff. Also, as we bring in more shoes, we’ve split our whole shoe department¿our little shoe corner¿into sale and non-sale. Whatever older styles we have, we try to keep ‘em moving. It’s an ongoing thing with all our product; for back-to-school we actually have a big sale. Right now we put all our pants on sale¿in winter our shop pretty much turns into 90-percent snow wear. One thing changing for us this year is three new skateparks here in Salt Lake alone. We’ve had such nice weather our skate sales are still going, and all these indoor parks are keeping that going even more.

“Where we’re located, kids who really want to skate will even jet to California in winter for a week to skate. And down in the valley here it doesn’t get that cold¿it’s only unskateable for a couple months. Most of our guys snowboard, and the snow is really late this year, so I’m noticing we’re a little low on the boards skate on the wall. We mostly sell all pants year round. For spring, a lot of companies are jumping on lighter-weight pants: D.C., Element, Circa¿more of the hip-hop thing. In winter we don’t get into too much button-down shirt stuff, so we can sell those same pants and shirts in spring. Going into spring we sort of keep a close eye on what’s moving, and put things on sale as it’s needed.”

Bill Wilson at Full Tilt Board Shop in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

“Overstock is usually not too bad¿we sell predominantly what we order. We sell hoodies through May, but I make sure I don’t order too heavily, same with beanies. Shoes are a little tougher¿larger orders and you have to get rid of the old styles, so that stuff we discount. We’ll do a medium-heavy discount to start with, but then when summer gets closer we do a got-to-get-rid-of-it sidewalk sale. By then we’ve got mostly onesies and twosies, and you just dig through to find what you want. But skate stuff’s not such a big issue; we sell T-shirts year round.

“To order for spring I tend to look back at the last spring, but winter does come into play a bit, I keep it in mind. A large portion of our skate business shuts down in winter, unlike in California. My orders are based on units sold and quantity sold. Shoes are an easy way to gauge that. It would totally help if I could reorder product¿that’s the hardest thing about being in Canada. A big pet peeve with Canadian stores is that by having to go through a distributor, you’re often not able to reorder.”

Ed Zolot at Point Break in Houston, Texas

“Here in Houston, we tend to move the winter stuff out a.s.a.p. It could be 80 degrees for the holidays¿I’ve put up my Christmas lights in shorts and a T-shirt. Depending on the weather prior to Christmas, if it appears there’s going to be overstock, I’d rather put it on sale before the holidays while we’ve got all the shoppers in here. We do gift certificates, so the few days after Christmas can be really good, too, so we might not discount until after the holidays. We operate on an open-to-buy system which breaks the store down into various profit centers¿shoes, hardware, brands, etc., so we base orders on what we’ve sold in the past and our projections. With cold-weather stuff we go almost hand to mouth¿we have a great distributor, South Shore¿and we can order as we need it. Sometime we can get over to South Shore 40 minutes away in Houston and fill those orders on the same day.

“We place future orders through our main vendors, especially what we can’t order through South Shore, but I’d say 60 percent of our winter order comes through South Shore.

“We place our spring orders also based on our open-to-buy. We have a very detailed, sophisticated inventory system, and our margin of error is down to about five percent. We run our year-end sales in the month of January, when Texas businesses are taxed based on inventory, and we usually receive spring orders by about mid February. The software program we use is from Charter Data Systems and works in conjunction with an open-to-buy system from RMSA in Riverside, California. Over the years I used to make a lot of emotional buying decisions, and I’ve found that logic is a lot more efficient.” to find what you want. But skate stuff’s not such a big issue; we sell T-shirts year round.

“To order for spring I tend to look back at the last spring, but winter does come into play a bit, I keep it in mind. A large portion of our skate business shuts down in winter, unlike in California. My orders are based on units sold and quantity sold. Shoes are an easy way to gauge that. It would totally help if I could reorder product¿that’s the hardest thing about being in Canada. A big pet peeve with Canadian stores is that by having to go through a distributor, you’re often not able to reorder.”

Ed Zolot at Point Break in Houston, Texas

“Here in Houston, we tend to move the winter stuff out a.s.a.p. It could be 80 degrees for the holidays¿I’ve put up my Christmas lights in shorts and a T-shirt. Depending on the weather prior to Christmas, if it appears there’s going to be overstock, I’d rather put it on sale before the holidays while we’ve got all the shoppers in here. We do gift certificates, so the few days after Christmas can be really good, too, so we might not discount until after the holidays. We operate on an open-to-buy system which breaks the store down into various profit centers¿shoes, hardware, brands, etc., so we base orders on what we’ve sold in the past and our projections. With cold-weather stuff we go almost hand to mouth¿we have a great distributor, South Shore¿and we can order as we need it. Sometime we can get over to South Shore 40 minutes away in Houston and fill those orders on the same day.

“We place future orders through our main vendors, especially what we can’t order through South Shore, but I’d say 60 percent of our winter order comes through South Shore.

“We place our spring orders also based on our open-to-buy. We have a very detailed, sophisticated inventory system, and our margin of error is down to about five percent. We run our year-end sales in the month of January, when Texas businesses are taxed based on inventory, and we usually receive spring orders by about mid February. The software program we use is from Charter Data Systems and works in conjunction with an open-to-buy system from RMSA in Riverside, California. Over the years I used to make a lot of emotional buying decisions, and I’ve found that logic is a lot more efficient.”