Three American retailers discuss their ten biggest concerns.

1. “No return” policies for small retailers.

Slim margins for small retail shops can’t be predicted by using the same policies as the larger stores. And uncertain customers often like to be given an alternative in case they end up unsatisfied with a product.

“Big shops get to put things ‘on wheels.’ If it doesn’t sell, it gets taken back and new product is delivered in its place,” explains Ken Lewis at Hanger 18 in San Diego, California.

2. Overexposure

When pros are on TV and the media is given the reins on skate-related products, retail shops feel the effects. Mass marketing puts dents in the demand for brands in the long run, and consequentially, makes it harder to determine the course of sales.

“Airwalk used to be the biggest. Five years later, when every mom and dad is wearing Jason Lees to mow the lawn, you know skate kids aren’t gonna want that anymore,” says Eric Munday at Skate Lair in Enfield, Connecticut.

3. Product Selection

Overexposure doesn’t only affect the retail shops, but also influences the decisions of manufacturers. Profit obviously follows a high quantity of sales. So from the perspective of retailers, manufacturers go for more of a variety of products to get those sales up, rather than specializing in one particular product.

“Every company makes everything now, and most of it is lame. Stick to what you know, fellas. You’re a skateboarding company, you don’t need to make swimming trunks,” says Brant Van Boening at Board Sports in Grand Isle, Nebraska.

4. Decisions In Advertising

What sells in shops on a daily basis is affected by not only the quality of graphics but the content in advertising as well. Is it too much to expect that a company’s advertisements should coincide with its current products?

“If your product drops this month in shops, advertise it this month. Too many times I’ve gotten in a pair of shoes, only to see the ad (for that shoe company) hyping the ones four months away,” says Van Boening. “So many kids just skim the magazines, and they only think five minutes ahead. What they see today in the magazine is what they are asking for. Let’s work together and give it to them.”

5. Service

Manufacturing companies often send representatives to retail shops to arrange any prebooking or restocking of products. However, if those representatives don’t prove reliable by establishing a good relationship with the shops they take care of, it’s bad for everyone’s business.

“How long will skate companies ignore the need for the face-to-face reps instead of the ‘cold call’?” asks Lewis.

6. Prebooking

Some retailers just dread prebooking. Not only is there the question of reliability, but there also exists the notion that some prebook reps don’t care which stores they’re sending their product to.

“DC even offers a small amount, like five percent, but, hey, it covers shipping. A little love goes a long way, versus the ‘if you don’t order it now, you won’t be able to get it’ attitude. Remember we are the ones selling your merchandise for you and represent your company to the customer. Keep us happy and we’ll sell more of your stuff,” says Van Boening

7. Non-Skaters Running Skateboarding Businesses

Word in the shops is that people on the business-side of skateboarding lacks the same vision that skateboarders have. In the long run, factors like advertising, marketing, and production could change paths if they are controlled by the minds of non-skaters.

“I’d go to shops around here and I’d just get pissed off because either the people that owned them or even the people that ran them weren’t down for skateboarding-or they were just trying to make a quick buck off it. It just seems like, for some weird reason, the skateboarding business is being run by a bunch of people that don’t skate,” says Munday.

8. Shoe Companies That Sell Out

Unlike the hardgoods, the skate shoe is one item shops can easily sell to non-skaters. But according to some retailers, it’s no excuse for mass marketing and selling to stores that are outside the skate scene.

“They don’t care about skateboards. They’re in it for the quick buck as well. And they’re burning all their bridges with skate shops. I’ve had major companies offering me their brands for free just to try to get in the shop so they can get credibility. I just tell them to piss off,” says Munday. “They’ll sell to companies that have nothing to do with skating for cheaper than they’d sell to skate shops.”

9. Boards Made In China

Some retailers are concerned that the quality of boards manufactured in China is, and will be, lacking. Others are concerned with where these boards will be sold. There are also retailers that simply, but strongly, support American-made products. But whatever the individual concern may be, Chinese-manufactured boards are currently an issue.

“We support companies that are 100-percent U.S.A. to the fullest. Companies like Alien Workshop are putting their foot down and trying to lead the pack with high-quality, American-made products. I work very hard to educate the customer and keep them satisfied with the best products available. Why should I have to start explaining why some board made in China is 40 dollars and the one they’re used to buying is still 48?” says Van Boening.

“I’m real loyal to companies that are loyal to the skate scene. I sell my decks with grip for 51 dollars, so I’m not really making money off decks to begin with. So I can see them trying to find a different way to do it. But as far as where they’re putting them, where they’re selling them, and the discretion that they use, that’s bullshit,” adds Munday.

10. No Loyalty In Distribution

When retailers make their choices as to who and what products they want to represent in their stores, they often look for distributors that will be exclusively dedicated to their particular shop. Many shops pride themselves when selling original products that are hard to find anywhere else. Similarly, skate consumers take pride in sporting products that aren’t seen on every block. However, a major concern that retailers are faced with is that of loyalty from their manufacturer or distributor. Many cases revolve around the same story that, at one point in time the distributor/manufacturer claims they will remain loyal to a certain shop. But it doesn’t always stay that way.

“Distribution-this is what has left all the little true shops hung out to dry. Instead of keeping ‘core brands limited to key accounts and real skateboard-related stores, anybody in any kind of shop can get the same products and sell them at below margins just to get people in their stores. How can a real skate shop compete with that? It’s sad they use us to build the brands’ image and integrity then burn us for a quick buck,” says Lewis.

“There are a lot of ‘core shops that are just turned off to the whole industry side of it now because the industry turned its back on us first,” says Munday. “I have no loyalty to a company that tries to go out of its way to make a quick buck for somebody besides a skateboarding shop.”