Hey-happy 2004! This year’s been a doozy, hasn’t it? We’ve had a war that lasted way longer than anyone wanted it to (regardless of party affiliations) and changes in the skate industry-some good, some bad. Well, as usual, we’re here to tell you what everyone’s thinking, and I’m still an optimist. Why? Because skateboarders are crafty, ingenious, and entrepreneurial people. Our industry is the model many other industries copy-although they may not admit it!

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, Marseille, Cleveland, and Halifax.

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: How do you feel about buying boards made in China?

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

“To be honest, when we set up our business here, we had the idea to be the real McCoy-real brands. We didn’t want to do imitation stuff. It exists here, but I don’t want to compete on that level. We are the more expensive store. Another retailer has the cheap boards, they sell for say 30 dollars. We never wanted to go that way. When I go to trade shows and see the Chinese boards and the prices are good, I can see how they’d be good for a distributor, but no, I don’t buy them.

“The stuff made in the States-the original stuff-I do wish it were cheaper. But here brands sell, like Flip. Our customers are ‘core and demand the best. Skateboarding is still new here. I need time, and I can’t afford to invest in 30 different brands.

“That said, today’s world is a global trade environment. People are going to China for many reasons. Costs are so important in manufacturing.”

Olaf Rolina at Color 13 in Marseille, France

“Ah yes, manufacturing in China. Is it good for the shop if we can have more money? Dwindle boards are already cheaper-35 euros against 46 euros. We usually have to sell boards for 90 euros with griptape, but the cheaper boards we can sell for 75. And the wood is good, no? It’s hard to make a good decision. It’s also hard to know where they were made, to tell the customer. That’s a problem. There is not so much difference between the board made in China and the board made in the U.S. I think the customer wants the American boards. The Chinese boards have a bad image-as if the boards are toys, not a real product. It’s not good for skateboarding, the industry.

“The problem in Europe is that the product is too expensive. The price is very high. But image is important to skaters here. It’s hard for a brand from Europe, too. All the boards are made in the U.S. It’s hard to buy a board! It’s (Chinese manufacturing) not good for the market-such a big difference in prices. Of course the skater will want to buy the cheaper board. It’s a big problem! We have to wait and see what’s going on. It’s good for the shops to earn more money, but it’s not good for skateboarding.”

Matt Blouin at Pro Skates in Halifax, Nova Scotia

proskates.com

“Shitty! You can just put that! We were disappointed. Today we found an Element deck that said ‘Made In China.’ A lot of companies act all patriotic-like the Wet Willie World Industries 9/11 board-but then the board is made in China! It seems like the skate industry is just accepting it.

“All of a sudden World boards are ten bucks cheaper. We only carry World Industries completes for Christmas, and that’s it.

“It’s just gross. Everyone who’s in the know about it is just sick. Skateboarding has always been about supporting each other, and all of the sudden it’s not. Instead they’re contributing to Third Worldweatshops and exploitation.

“Skateboarding is friends and community. You source the work out, and what’s to stop everything from going over there? Open challenge: Don’t be hypocrites. We’re not gonna buy your stuff from China! We’re just one little store, but we’re making a stand. It’s ethics and soul.”

Juan Latorre at Free in Barcelona, Spain

“If the quality is good, it’s the same. For example, Speed Demons are made in China, but if you compare them they are the same.

“The thing is, I think it’s almost the same quality and a lot cheaper. Our distributor here in Spain sells the Speed Demons boards for fifteen euros cheaper than the other boards. And if they are cheaper for us, then we put a lower price on them.

“I have no problem with the product being made in China. As long as they keep the image that the boards are American-people here want the American stuff.”

Greg Finch at Cide Skates in London, England

“Wow! Maybe you could enlighten me about which are made there! I’ve heard the (name of brand withheld) boards are made in China, and I think they’re excellent boards. I’ve been riding (name of brand withheld) boards and loving them.

“American decks are really expensive for us, so if they (the Chinese) can make a high-quality deck, we’re interested.

“I’d like to check it out because I don’t know too much about it. I’d like to support American wood because I trust it.

“We used to make boards in South Africa in the early 90s-the wood would always split, the glue didn’t hold. No one considered anything else. Maybe they won’t get it right (in China).

“If we made a good profit on boards, it would be all right-but if it was only about money, I’d be in diamonds or something.”

Brian Jules at West Side Skates in Cleveland, Ohio

“Not too proud about it, but nowadays everything is made there. Decks always seemed like a California-American product. Everything is headed toward China.

“People don’t realize why everything from there is so cheap. The wages they make there and the wages people want here-well, it’s a catch-22. I guess what’s happening with the wood companies is sorta like what happened with the steel companies, huh?

“No one really talks about it-they just want cheaper stuff. They would care if their parents became unemployed!”

Brant Van Boening at Board Sports in Grand Island, Nebraska

boardsportsonline.com

“That’s a huge one! I’ve been talking to almost every rep (for the store) and people who are wood manufacturers. If a manufacturer offers us a China wood board for 25 dollars, that puts us in a bind: should we sell it for the suggested retail of 40 and have it compete with other U.S.-made brands? Or should I sell it for 50 dollars? I also don’t want to answer all the customers’ questions about why these boards are so cheap. We’ve always pushed the American-made goods.

“Have you seen Dwindle’s new logo? ‘Grown in Canada, made in China, designed in the U.S.A.’ They’re saying they’re creating a product that’s just as good, but I don’t believe it. I carry it, but I’m not happy about it. I carry a small amount of Blind and Darkstar because kids ask for it. If we didn’t carry it, they’d get it somewhere else.

“Everybody’s all about pricepoint these days-whatever happened to quality? I’m sure we haven’t even seen the beginning.”

Dave Mims at Autumn in New York City, New York

autumnskateboarding.com

“I don’t stock any boards made by companies that get boards from China. It’s a tough call. The companies pocket the profit. We sell boards for 50 dollars with grip.

“I’d rather keep it all not from China. The wood doesn’t skate the same. It’s a relative of the maple but not maple. It’s hard to know what we’re getting. If I get, say, Popwar boards, how do I know if they’re from China? I like a lot of the companies that’re doing their own thing, starting from scratch like Schmitt (P.S. Stix). The main factor? Not much savings on the retail end. It has to be on the manufacturing end. Where are the savings passed along to the people? I order through a distributor and don’t see any savings!

“The conditions of workers in China are another factor-the labor issue. These are bad labor practices we don’t want to support. This kind of manufacturing in the U.S. is relatively new, and skaters kind of hold it dear. The mass-marketing thing takes it from what it was-it becomes a Hula Hoop.”

Matt Roder at Northwest Snowboards in Olympia, Washington

“Actually Mike (Cumming) and I just started a company called Lowlife. When we started looking at wood, what kind we were gonna use, we decided we weren’t gonna use China. I’d way rather be ordering dozens of boards from a place manufacturing in the U.S. or Canada rather than shipping that work overseas to save a buck. Jamie Thomas’ moving his board company to Mexico is kind of funny in that his stickers say, like, ‘American Zero.’ It’s kind of undermining and undercutting!

“If every job in the skate industry is sent overseas, there eventually won’t even be shops! It’ll all be mail order. I mean if they’re just trying to save a buck, that’s how it’ll go. I think it’s best to keep manufacturing, shipping, et cetera in the skateboarders’ hands. It’s better to have a few guys who love the sport and can make enough to make a living doing shipping, manufacturing-all of it. People who have an emotional investment in what they’re doing will keep with it. When the factories in China aren’t profitable or feasible, they’ll just stop making skateboards.”

Al Garcia at Hollywood Sports Park in Bellflower, California

hollywoodsports.com

“This topic comes up a lot. I feel that the argument against purchasing boards made in China isn’t so much about maintaining quality, but I think it cuts us out-the middleman. People get their boards made in China, and we go into a recession or whatever … it’s not good.

“I know (name of brand withheld) had boards made in China, and they say that now that they’re made here again they’re selling better. It did make a quality difference.

“Dwindle boasts about it (making boards in China), saying they have to outsource. This is not only in the skating industry. I honestly would rather not carry boards made in China-I want to support the States and friends in the industry with woodshops. When this topic comes up, the only company it really seemed to hurt was (name of brand withheld), and now they’re back to U.S.-made boards.”

China? I like a lot of the companies that’re doing their own thing, starting from scratch like Schmitt (P.S. Stix). The main factor? Not much savings on the retail end. It has to be on the manufacturing end. Where are the savings passed along to the people? I order through a distributor and don’t see any savings!

“The conditions of workers in China are another factor-the labor issue. These are bad labor practices we don’t want to support. This kind of manufacturing in the U.S. is relatively new, and skaters kind of hold it dear. The mass-marketing thing takes it from what it was-it becomes a Hula Hoop.”

Matt Roder at Northwest Snowboards in Olympia, Washington

“Actually Mike (Cumming) and I just started a company called Lowlife. When we started looking at wood, what kind we were gonna use, we decided we weren’t gonna use China. I’d way rather be ordering dozens of boards from a place manufacturing in the U.S. or Canada rather than shipping that work overseas to save a buck. Jamie Thomas’ moving his board company to Mexico is kind of funny in that his stickers say, like, ‘American Zero.’ It’s kind of undermining and undercutting!

“If every job in the skate industry is sent overseas, there eventually won’t even be shops! It’ll all be mail order. I mean if they’re just trying to save a buck, that’s how it’ll go. I think it’s best to keep manufacturing, shipping, et cetera in the skateboarders’ hands. It’s better to have a few guys who love the sport and can make enough to make a living doing shipping, manufacturing-all of it. People who have an emotional investment in what they’re doing will keep with it. When the factories in China aren’t profitable or feasible, they’ll just stop making skateboards.”

Al Garcia at Hollywood Sports Park in Bellflower, California

hollywoodsports.com

“This topic comes up a lot. I feel that the argument against purchasing boards made in China isn’t so much about maintaining quality, but I think it cuts us out-the middleman. People get their boards made in China, and we go into a recession or whatever … it’s not good.

“I know (name of brand withheld) had boards made in China, and they say that now that they’re made here again they’re selling better. It did make a quality difference.

“Dwindle boasts about it (making boards in China), saying they have to outsource. This is not only in the skating industry. I honestly would rather not carry boards made in China-I want to support the States and friends in the industry with woodshops. When this topic comes up, the only company it really seemed to hurt was (name of brand withheld), and now they’re back to U.S.-made boards.”