Are toy-skateboard makers promoting skateboarding or just profiting?

As skateboarding continues to be absorbed into the mainstream, an unlikely cousin is playing a large part in introducing young kids to the fun that can be had with four wheels, two trucks, and a deck. The fingerboard phenomenon has hit big, and a number of major players in the skateboard industry are riding with it, hoping to see a return down the road.

Miniature skateboards, complete with graphics, trucks, and moving wheels, are logging huge sales not only in skateboard shops, but in the nation’s largest retail outlets. One major manufacturer of finger skateboards is rumored to have sold twenty-million units last year¿twice what the company had projected, and fingerboard-product sales are estimated at 120-million dollars for 1999.

Despite its promising numbers, the miniature-skateboard market has caused a bit of controversy among ‘core skate companies: some embrace what they perceive as a new opportunity, while others scoff and do their own thing.

Fingerboards come in several styles. The modern versions, like X-Concepts’ Tech Decks (www.techdeck.com), Think’s Super Mini Boards (www.thinkskateboards.com), the Deluxe Finger Banger Boards (www.dlxsf.com), and Fingerboard brand’s Pro-Precision boards, feature interchangeable wheels and trucks, a fairly accurate scale size, and pad-printed graphics reproduced from the most popular skateboard companies in the business. Other boards feature clear plastic decks with paper inserts for graphics and one-piece board-and-truck assemblies with moving wheels. The latter boards have been a peripheral part of the skateboarding industry for about twelve years and were originally marketed to skateboard shops and a few gift shops as keychains.

While some companies are now making their own fingerboards, the market seems to be dominated by two brands. X-Concepts has seen much success licensing actual pro graphics from major skateboard brands over the last couple years. Their Tech Deck brand is everywhere: they’ve been in skateboard shops since Fall 1998, and have ridden the 1999 fingerboard wave right into Wal-Mart and other major outlets.

Somerville International’s Fingerboard brand, established in 1987, continues to grow with the introduction of the Pro-Precision board. In conjunction with the Fun Box Toys brand of mini ramps, Somerville has successfully placed its products in various chain toy stores across the U.S. and internationally. Indeed, the Kiplinger Washington Letter, a publication that seldom misses when it comes to business analysis, predicted that miniature finger-operated skateboards with mini ramps and other accessories would be hot for Christmas 1999.

Perhaps the credit for the current trend could be traced back fifteen years to Lance Mountain, who ripped through an infamous fingerboard run in a metal kitchen sink in the 1985 Powell-Peralta Bones Brigade video, Future Primitive. The board used in that segment was a homemade job built from cardboard, coffee stirrers, and Hot Wheels axles, and the skit was meant to be comic relief more than a sign of things to come.

But this little sub-industry of skateboarding has grown into a serious business. When Wal-Mart, Kmart, Kay-Bee, Toys ‘R Us, and others place impulse-buy racks of Tech Decks at their check stands, you know they’reserious about fingerboards, anyway. Kay-Bee stocks Tech Decks at all 1,300 of its stores nationwide, and other chains have stocked them and Somerville fingerboards in select markets nationwide.

Should this burgeoning market be considered part of the skateboard industry? Or does it service an entirely different market? Is a toy skateboard a toy or a skateboard? Or is it both? Does it matter? Well, it does matter to some.

The boom in the fingerboard market has refueled a debate that has been long argued by industry insiders: how should the skateboard industry embrace outde financial interest? The traditional stance is to shun outsiders who have shunned us in the past, and who now want to capitalize on skateboarding’s popularity. While some do still feel this way, the overall attitude seems to have eased somewhat.

“We need to embrace the possibilities of spreading the gospel of skateboarding,” says Tod Swank, who has licensed many of his Tum Yeto-brand graphics for X-Concepts’ Tech Decks. Swank sees the mini skateboards as a marketing tool to help excite younger kids about skateboarding, not just a mere accessory. “The idea is that a small kid would see this little skateboard¿and they are cool little things¿they’d see our graphics, and then be inspired to go get our skateboards,” he says. “It’s the brands we’re trying to get out there.”

The Tum Yeto brands¿Foundation Super Co., Zero, and Toy Machine¿can be seen on Tech Decks in checkout lines, toy aisles, gift shops, and keychain racks across the country, along with other Tech Deck licensers Alien Workshop, A-Team, Birdhouse, Black Label, Blind, Chapman, Element, Flip, Hook-Ups, Maple, New Deal, Santa Cruz, World Industries, Zero, and Zoo York. Somerville’s Fingerboard brand licenses logos from ATM, New School, G&S, Gullwing, and Grind King, among others, and also produces their own graphics. Whether this brand-name exposure to the mainstream consumer will actually translate into hardgoods sales has yet to be demonstrated, if it can be.

Josh Ball, manager of Fairman’s in Westchester, Pennsylvania, indicates that if nothing else, fingerboards are reaching a diverse market¿even in a skateboard shop: “You’ve got two different fingerboard buyers. You’ve got the kids who are into the skate scene and know what’s going on. For them, it’s a cool little thing to have. And then you have the kids who have no idea about skateboarding. Fingerboards are the Beanie Babies of ’99. Kids just gotta have it, no matter if they skateboard or not.”

Al Hildenbrand of Phase II in Milwaukee, Wisconsin doesn’t believe there is a relationship between fingerboard sales and skateboard sales: “I can’t see a kid deciding to skateboard because of the toy. Maybe one out of ten, but I don’t think even that many. With that age group, the World Industries and Blind graphics have that demographic already. But for skateboards, our best-selling boards are Element and Black Label.”

Here’s how some licensing deals work: the toy maker uses the skateboard company’s logos, manufactures the boards, and sells them. For every board sold, the skateboard company gets a royalty. The skateboard company can buy the toy skateboards with their logos from the manufacturer and resell them within the skateboard industry, while the toy company usually focuses on broader outlets: department stores, discount stores, sporting-goods stores, and toy stores in all the shopping centers and malls across the country.

Not everyone agrees it’s a good idea to market skateboarding to the mainstream. Keith Cochrane of Think Skateboards makes the Super Mini Board, which is nearly identical in quality and design to Tech Decks, but sports a blurb in the upper corner of the packaging declaring “Available only through authorized skateboard dealers.” Cochrane’s idea is to market to skateboarders, and not to the typical little kid he says will never understand skateboarding. “We’ve all built our businesses on hardcore skateboard shops. It’s never been about the mall store or the sporting-goods store. It’s been with the hardcore shops that got us here, and now we’re going to turn around and stab them in the back?”

While others see the mini skateboard as a special tool to promote their brands and skateboarding in general to mainstream kids, Cochrane views the Super Mini Board as simply another Think accessory: “I pride Think Skateboards on being a pure skateboarding company. We’re honest-to-god skateboarders, and if there is a market for toy skateboards, I’d want it to be to skateboarders.”

Cochrane believes that the self-image of skateboarding is damaged by the mass marketing of skateboard-company graphics. “It cheapens their whole deal,” he says. “What’s next, they’re going to sell their skateboards at Toys ‘R Us?”

No premium skateboard brand admits to even thinking about distributing its own products to toy stores, though some have opened distribution to chain stores like Pacific Sunwear, and are open and unapologetic about it. “The mainstream is where the large money is,” says Tum Yeto’s Swank. “I want to pay our riders based on pro-model sales, rather than stupid minimums. I’ll do things that would help achieve that.”

“Since we’re not selling ‘core stuff out there, it doesn’t really matter,” says Paul Schmitt of Giant Distribution, whose brands have licensed their graphics for the X-Concept Tech Decks. “It would matter if we were selling our regular boards to those stores. In my viewpoint, a kid who’s sorta interested in real skateboarding buys this thing at Kmart or Wal-Mart, and when he talks to the kids in town, he’s gonna find out where the real skate shop is. If anything, this is a vehicle to get people into the skate shops.”

At Tum Yeto, Tech Deck sales are also contributing to each brand’s team. “A portion of the earnings goes right into their marketing budget,” says Swank. “I don’t how other companies are doing it, if the teams see the benefits, but here they do.”

Reggie Barnes of Eastern Skateboard Supply sees both sides of the argument. He realizes the potential benefit that could come from expanding skateboarding’s future consumer base. “It’s another piece of advertising, basically,” he says about fingerboards. “A kid who doesn’t necessarily skateboard, or has never been a big skater, is spending his time thinking about something involved with skateboarding instead of another toy. The skateboard companies get brand-name recognition out of it.”

But Barnes isn’t sure that fingerboard sales create skateboard sales. “I would prefer for people to treat fingerboards the same way they treat their brands, but I’ve got mixed feelings on it. Why should it selling branded fingerboards in chain stores cheapen the brand? It’s just a little toy.”

Barnes buys fingerboards from the same companies he buys skateboards from, so the shops he sells them to are supporting three levels of distribution (the toy manufacturer, the skateboard company, and Eastern Skateboard Supply). To achieve a reasonable margin, skate shops that order Tech Decks from independent distributors like Eastern have to price Tech Decks higher than mainstream chain stores do. “The structure cheapens the retailer’s position,” says Barnes. “That’s where it takes it out of the hands of the skateboard industry.”

“The retailers say, ‘Oh, these things are selling in the mass market, and I’m trying to sell them, too,’” says Schmitt. “In general it’s burned out in the skate shops, even though it’s still going off in the mass market. But for quite a while, because of that Beanie Babies-type craze six months ago when everyone had to collect each Tech Deck, people who would never go into a skate shop did to get the ones they couldn’t find.”

Jon Warren of Circle Sports in Thousand Oaks, California echoes the sentiment of many retailers when he says he can’t compete with his local grocery store. “We’re completely selling them out and not reordering, because Ralphs and Lucky down the way are selling them cheaper, and Miller’s Outpost has ‘em¿everybody has them.”

But not everyone has given up on the little buggers. “I have an Eckerd’s drug store and a Rite-Aid drug store within two blocks of me, and they sell fingerboards for near what I pay for them,” says Ball at Fairman’s, who continues to carry the toys. “From a personal point of view, they’re a pain in the ass. But it’s another accessory. I’ve got belts in the case, I’ve got all that stuff. It’s an impulse-buy kind of thing.”

Teri Werner, owner of Boards be to skateboarders.”

Cochrane believes that the self-image of skateboarding is damaged by the mass marketing of skateboard-company graphics. “It cheapens their whole deal,” he says. “What’s next, they’re going to sell their skateboards at Toys ‘R Us?”

No premium skateboard brand admits to even thinking about distributing its own products to toy stores, though some have opened distribution to chain stores like Pacific Sunwear, and are open and unapologetic about it. “The mainstream is where the large money is,” says Tum Yeto’s Swank. “I want to pay our riders based on pro-model sales, rather than stupid minimums. I’ll do things that would help achieve that.”

“Since we’re not selling ‘core stuff out there, it doesn’t really matter,” says Paul Schmitt of Giant Distribution, whose brands have licensed their graphics for the X-Concept Tech Decks. “It would matter if we were selling our regular boards to those stores. In my viewpoint, a kid who’s sorta interested in real skateboarding buys this thing at Kmart or Wal-Mart, and when he talks to the kids in town, he’s gonna find out where the real skate shop is. If anything, this is a vehicle to get people into the skate shops.”

At Tum Yeto, Tech Deck sales are also contributing to each brand’s team. “A portion of the earnings goes right into their marketing budget,” says Swank. “I don’t how other companies are doing it, if the teams see the benefits, but here they do.”

Reggie Barnes of Eastern Skateboard Supply sees both sides of the argument. He realizes the potential benefit that could come from expanding skateboarding’s future consumer base. “It’s another piece of advertising, basically,” he says about fingerboards. “A kid who doesn’t necessarily skateboard, or has never been a big skater, is spending his time thinking about something involved with skateboarding instead of another toy. The skateboard companies get brand-name recognition out of it.”

But Barnes isn’t sure that fingerboard sales create skateboard sales. “I would prefer for people to treat fingerboards the same way they treat their brands, but I’ve got mixed feelings on it. Why should it selling branded fingerboards in chain stores cheapen the brand? It’s just a little toy.”

Barnes buys fingerboards from the same companies he buys skateboards from, so the shops he sells them to are supporting three levels of distribution (the toy manufacturer, the skateboard company, and Eastern Skateboard Supply). To achieve a reasonable margin, skate shops that order Tech Decks from independent distributors like Eastern have to price Tech Decks higher than mainstream chain stores do. “The structure cheapens the retailer’s position,” says Barnes. “That’s where it takes it out of the hands of the skateboard industry.”

“The retailers say, ‘Oh, these things are selling in the mass market, and I’m trying to sell them, too,’” says Schmitt. “In general it’s burned out in the skate shops, even though it’s still going off in the mass market. But for quite a while, because of that Beanie Babies-type craze six months ago when everyone had to collect each Tech Deck, people who would never go into a skate shop did to get the ones they couldn’t find.”

Jon Warren of Circle Sports in Thousand Oaks, California echoes the sentiment of many retailers when he says he can’t compete with his local grocery store. “We’re completely selling them out and not reordering, because Ralphs and Lucky down the way are selling them cheaper, and Miller’s Outpost has ‘em¿everybody has them.”

But not everyone has given up on the little buggers. “I have an Eckerd’s drug store and a Rite-Aid drug store within two blocks of me, and they sell fingerboards for near what I pay for them,” says Ball at Fairman’s, who continues to carry the toys. “From a personal point of view, they’re a pain in the ass. But it’s another accessory. I’ve got belts in the case, I’ve got all that stuff. It’s an impulse-buy kind of thing.”

Teri Werner, owner of Boards and More in San Pedro, California, hasn’t been hurt at all by the chain stores selling fingerboards for less. She promotes fingerboarding and skateboarding by holding contests on the fingerboard ramp in the back of her store. Her last fingerboard contest had 175 entrants in two categories, plus another hundred spectators. “The kids specifically come here to buy their fingerboards,” she says. “We sell them for $9.99, but they come to us because they trust what we do. We’re kid-friendly, and we keep it alive by having ramps available for them to play with. We sell fingerboards like crazy.”

Werner may be moving a lot of fingerboards, but the vast majority are sold through toy outlets. Fingerboard brand skateboards and Fun Box Toys-brand mini ramps earn 100,000 dollars a day in orders from the toy-and-games retail market, according to Theriot and Associates, a public-relations firm representing Fingerboard-brand and Fun Box Toys. Managing Director Brian Theriot was the cofounder of the World POG Federation, and was largely responsible for the marketing effort that prompted the POG and milk-cap sales frenzy in the early 90s. Theriot did very well with POGs, and it appears that he’s doing well with fingerboards, but the market he’s promoting to is definitely not skateboarders.

Like many outsiders, Theriot doesn’t appear too concerned with the skateboard industry, per se, or its hardcore consumer. “To promote the brand-name Fingerboard, and hopefully get little kids and teenagers really excited about our designs, we put forth competitions and promotions to excite the public about this wonderful sport¿possibly extreme sport¿of playing with miniature skateboards,” he says.

Despite the fact that Lance Mountain and others who developed fingerboarding as a hobby in the late 70s have been using the term for almost two decades, and the fact that Mountain’s article on how to make one appeared in TransWorld SKATEboardingmagazine in 1985, Theriot insists that the word fingerboard is the trademark brand name of Somerville International. He points to the famous Xerox lawsuit, a federal case in which the name Xerox was declared not a generic term, but a trademarked name.

While “fingerboard” was published as a generic term long before Somerville introduced its keychain boards, Theriot points out that Somerville has spent thousands of dollars on trademarking and marketing the name. In fact, Somerville’s attorneys have managed to convince competitors to remove the word fingerboard from their packaging. For those companies, it makes more economic sense to invent a new name than to fight over a word like fingerboard.

Companies actually involved in lawsuits with Somerville were not at liberty to discuss their cases. “The last thing people should want to do in this market is to kill it by ink, and kill it by lawyers,” says Theriot. “Fingerboard-brand skateboards are outselling the POG craze at a four-to-one ratio.”

Contributing to the fingerboard craze are the miniature ramps and skatepark kits. Several companies that manufacture quarterpipes, halfpipes, funboxes, rails, spines, etc., have benefited from the popularity of fingerboards and have created a little excitement of their own with imaginative mini landscapes. Buckle-Down Productions (www.buckle-down.com) is a New York-based company that makes wood-ramp kits for fingerboards, as well as molded-plastic funboxes and transition ramps. Fun Box Toys makes molded-plastic ramps, which are marketed with the Fingerboard-brand line. ABC Board Supply offers the all-in-one ABC Mini-Board Park (www.abcboards.com). And X-Concepts has developed the Tony Hawk fingerboard skatepark, designed¿of course¿by Tony Hawk.

All the hype and purported profits from fingerboard products have a resounding, hollow, echo to them in Cochrane’s mind. “Look how hot fingerboards are,” he says. “Imagine what that would’ve done for the skateboard industry if it would’ve stayed in the hardcore shops. They need that money¿ultimately it should’ve been theirs. And we’re giving it away to Wal-Mart? What are they going to do? Are they going to sponsor a skateboarder?”

Again we are faced with the big questions. What are the toy manufacturers and mainstream retail outlets doing to support skateboarding? Is their assertion that fingerboards provide a growth mechanism valid? Are Tech Decks in Wal-Mart generating interest and sales in skateboards? Or are they riding a current fad for as long as it will bear¿gone as soon as the next best thingcomes along?

“They’re trying to cash in and make the quick buck,” says Cochrane, who vows not to write deals with toy corporations as other skateboard companies have. “These things have come along many times. I’ve stutter-stepped on a few things over the years, but I’m a skateboarder. I could go out and make the next Furby if I wanted to¿if it was about money.”

“You could look at it that way, that we’re giving it away,” says Schmitt. “But you know what? It’s gonna happen anyway. That’s the hard thing. You can have cheeseball people rip you off, or you can have legit people give you a small margin out of it. It’s gonna happen either way. I’ve been ripped off with the fingerboard thing, our trademarks have been imposed on. And here’s one situation where our trademarks are out there, and we’re not imposed on: it’s discussed, it’s understood.”

As more sophisticated marketing techniques are devised to attract young people to other toys, games, and activities, it may also be about keeping skateboards and skateboard imagery, in any form, in front of kids. Otherwise, they may never make it to the skate shop in the first place.

Has licensing their brands to fingerboard manufacturers made skateboard companies rich? No, says Schmitt, but he admits that the extra revenue helps. And if young fingerboarders ever do graduate to the real thing, will branded toy skateboards give those companies an advantage? Doubtful, Schmitt says: “It might on a first buy, but once they get in tune with skateboarding, they’re making their own decisions.” More in San Pedro, California, hasn’t been hurt at all by the chain stores selling fingerboards for less. She promotes fingerboarding and skateboarding by holding contests on the fingerboard ramp in the back of her store. Her last fingerboard contest had 175 entrants in two categories, plus another hundred spectators. “The kids specifically come here to buy their fingerboards,” she says. “We sell them for $9.99, but they come to us because they trust what we do. We’re kid-friendly, and we keep it alive by having ramps available for them to play with. We sell fingerboards like crazy.”

Werner may be moving a lot of fingerboards, but the vast majority are sold through toy outlets. Fingerboard brand skateboards and Fun Box Toys-brand mini ramps earn 100,000 dollars a day in orders from the toy-and-games retail market, according to Theriot and Associates, a public-relations firm representing Fingerboard-brand and Fun Box Toys. Managing Director Brian Theriot was the cofounder of the World POG Federation, and was largely responsible for the marketing effort that prompted the POG and milk-cap sales frenzy in the early 90s. Theriot did very well with POGs, and it appears that he’s doing well with fingerboards, but the market he’s promoting to is definitely not skateboarders.

Like many outsiders, Theriot doesn’t appear too concerned with the skateboard industry, per se, or its hardcore consumer. “To promote the brand-name Fingerboard, and hopefully get little kids and teenagers really excited about our designs, we put forth competitions and promotions to excite the public about this wonderful sport¿possibly extreme sport¿of playing with miniature skateboards,” he says.

Despite the fact that Lance Mountain and others who developed fingerboarding as a hobby in the late 70s have been using the term for almost two decades, and the fact that Mountain’s article on how to make one appeared in TransWorld SKATEboardingmagazine in 1985, Theriot insists that the word fingerboard is the trademark brand name of Somerville International. He points to the famous Xerox lawsuit, a federal case in which the name Xerox was declared not a generic term, but a trademarked name.

While “fingerboard” was published as a generic term long before Somerville introduced its keychain boards, Theriot points out that Somerville has spent thousands of dollars on trademarking and marketing the name. In fact, Somerville’s attorneys have managed to convince competitors to remove the word fingerboard from their packaging. For those companies, it makes more economic sense to invent a new name than to fight over a word like fingerboard.

Companies actually involved in lawsuits with Somerville were not at liberty to discuss their cases. “The last thing people should want to do in this market is to kill it by ink, and kill it by lawyers,” says Theriot. “Fingerboard-brand skateboards are outselling the POG craze at a four-to-one ratio.”

Contributing to the fingerboard craze are the miniature ramps and skatepark kits. Several companies that manufacture quarterpipes, halfpipes, funboxes, rails, spines, etc., have benefited from the popularity of fingerboards and have created a little excitement of their own with imaginative mini landscapes. Buckle-Down Productions (www.buckle-down.com) is a New York-based company that makes wood-ramp kits for fingerboards, as well as molded-plastic funboxes and transition ramps. Fun Box Toys makes molded-plastic ramps, which are marketed with the Fingerboard-brand line. ABC Board Supply offers the all-in-one ABC Mini-Board Park (www.abcboards.com). And X-Concepts has developed the Tony Hawk fingerboard skatepark, designed¿of course¿by Tony Hawk.

All the hype and purported profits from fingerboard products have a resounding, hollow, echo to them in Cochrane’s mind. “Look how hot fingerboards are,” he says. “Imagine what that would’ve done for the skateboard industry if it would’ve stayed in the hardcore shops. They need that money¿ultimately it should’ve been theirs. And we’re giving it away to Wal-Mart? What are they going to do? Are they going to sponsor a skateboarder?”

Again we are faced with the big questions. What are the toy manufacturers and mainstream retail outlets doing to support skateboarding? Is their assertion that fingerboards provide a growth mechanism valid? Are Tech Decks in Wal-Mart generating interest and sales in skateboards? Or are they riding a current fad for as long as it will bear¿gone as soon as the next best thingcomes along?

“They’re trying to cash in and make the quick buck,” says Cochrane, who vows not to write deals with toy corporations as other skateboard companies have. “These things have come along many times. I’ve stutter-stepped on a few things over the years, but I’m a skateboarder. I could go out and make the next Furby if I wanted to¿if it was about money.”

“You could look at it that way, that we’re giving it away,” says Schmitt. “But you know what? It’s gonna happen anyway. That’s the hard thing. You can have cheeseball people rip you off, or you can have legit people give you a small margin out of it. It’s gonna happen either way. I’ve been ripped off with the fingerboard thing, our trademarks have been imposed on. And here’s one situation where our trademarks are out there, and we’re not imposed on: it’s discussed, it’s understood.”

As more sophisticated marketing techniques are devised to attract young people to other toys, games, and activities, it may also be about keeping skateboards and skateboard imagery, in any form, in front of kids. Otherwise, they may never make it to the skate shop in the first place.

Has licensing their brands to fingerboard manufacturers made skateboard companies rich? No, says Schmitt, but he admits that the extra revenue helps. And if young fingerboarders ever do graduate to the real thing, will branded toy skateboards give those companies an advantage? Doubtful, Schmitt says: “It might on a first buy, but once they get in tune with skateboarding, they’re making their own decisions.”hardcore shops. They need that money¿ultimately it should’ve been theirs. And we’re giving it away to Wal-Mart? What are they going to do? Are they going to sponsor a skateboarder?”

Again we are faced with the big questions. What are the toy manufacturers and mainstream retail outlets doing to support skateboarding? Is their assertion that fingerboards provide a growth mechanism valid? Are Tech Decks in Wal-Mart generating interest and sales in skateboards? Or are they riding a current fad for as long as it will bear¿gone as soon as the next best thingcomes along?

“They’re trying to cash in and make the quick buck,” says Cochrane, who vows not to write deals with toy corporations as other skateboard companies have. “These things have come along many times. I’ve stutter-stepped on a few things over the years, but I’m a skateboarder. I could go out and make the next Furby if I wanted to¿if it was about money.”

“You could look at it that way, that we’re giving it away,” says Schmitt. “But you know what? It’s gonna happen anyway. That’s the hard thing. You can have cheeseball people rip you off, or you can have legit people give you a small margin out of it. It’s gonna happen either way. I’ve been ripped off with the fingerboard thing, our trademarks have been imposed on. And here’s one situation where our trademarks are out there, and we’re not imposed on: it’s discussed, it’s understood.”

As more sophisticated marketing techniques are devised to attract young people to other toys, games, and activities, it may also be about keeping skateboards and skateboard imagery, in any form, in front of kids. Otherwise, they may never make it to the skate shop in the first place.

Has licensing their brands to fingerboard manufacturers made skateboard companies rich? No, says Schmitt, but he admits that the extra revenue helps. And if young fingerboarders ever do graduate to the real thing, will branded toy skateboards give those companies an advantage? Doubtful, Schmitt says: “It might on a first buy, but once they get in tune with skateboarding, they’re making their own decisions.”