AXS Longboard Retailer
for those who wish to learn about the business of selling and marketing longboards
Dan Loveland, Daddies Boardshop, Portland, Oregon PHOTO: SPENCER KNUTTILA SURF SKATE SUP DIVE January 12-14, 2012 Come together… Register today at surfexpo.com. Register Now BOUTIQUE SOUVENIR / GIFT RESORT SWIM CONTENTS The wall of wheels at Longboard Loft, NYC. Winter 2011, Vol. 1 No. 1 8 Welcome To AXS! Our Focus: The Longboard Business 10 New Retail Trend The Longboard Living micro-store in Toronto is gaining success. 12 Insider Info Marie Case of Board-Trac shares some detailed stats on longboarding. 26 Shop Talk Retailers discuss what works, on-line sales and growth of the longboard market. 40 Distributor Roundtable They handle a huge amount of product and sell to many shops. Pay attention to what’s on their minds! 30 The 411 The straight talk on bearings. Part One looks at ABEC ratings, bearing loads and more. 46 Public Profile Just who is Rick Tetz and what is AXS Gear all about? This column explains all. 31 What’s That Skateboard For? 14 Company Roundtable The longboard industry turns its gaze to 2012 and beyond. Silverfishlongboarding.com shares a popular graphic explaining the multitude of disciplines found within longboarding. 20 Think Different The bike industry rakes in $61 billion per year. Perhaps it's time for longboarding to learn from this marketplace? That Will Improve Your Longboard Business 50 Book Shelf 32 Industry Insights Mark Brasier has more than 25 years in action sports. In this feature he explains what the snowboard industry can teach the longboard business. 24 Bud’s Column Mr. Stratford is blunt, brash and will support the independent skate shop until his last breath. You have been warned! 47 Five Ideas 34 AXS Profile Bud Smith, a.k.a. Mr. Griptape, has helped cover 30 million skateboards. This is his story. Three books that will get you thinking and two websites that will either raise or lower your blood pressure. Visit us online at axsgear.com Daily updates! WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 7 WELCOME TO AXS WINTER 2011 Publishers/Editors Michael Brooke Rick Tetz Art Director Mark Tzerelshtein markintoshdesign.com Copy Editor Jonathan Harms Contributing Editors Bud Stratford | Mark Brasier Marie Case | Ben Curtis Erik Basil | Malakai Kingston Rick Tetz bombs West 4th Street in Vancouver. Photo: Jason Foster – Top Left Longboards Address: OUR FOCUS: 1136 Center Street, Suite 293 Thornhill, ONTARIO L4J 3M8 Canada Ph.: 905-738-0804 Michael Brooke NYC 2011 Photo: Mitchell Moshenberg AXSGEAR.com THE LONGBOARD BUSINESS T he magazine you hold in your hands was born out of the idea that a focused message has a lot more impact than trying to be all things to all people. If you sell longboards or are looking at getting into the business, then congratulations, you’ve arrived at the right place. We know your time is valuable and we appreciate that you’ve cracked open this magazine. AXS Longboard Retailer was created to share valuable information about the world of longboarding. We want retail staff to be as informed as they can be about the products they sell. We want business owners and managers to be aware of new ideas and best practices. This is knowledge that we hope helps them build upon their success. But the main reason we created this magazine was to ensure the sustainability of the longboard industry. The “get rich quick” and “gold rush” mentalities must be balanced with long-term thinking and smart business practices. An excellent way to fight commodification is through education. This knowledge impacts the bottom line in significant ways. If you ask customers what makes a specialty store truly special, they’d probably say it was the depth of product, sales staff knowledge and superior service. As longboards emerge from their underground status and rightly take their place in the action sports category, they are beginning to fundamentally change the entire skateboard marketplace. We believe these are still early days; the potential for longboarding to expand is very probable. But we temper this enthusiasm with the fact that we’re in this for the long haul. There will be turbulence along the way. There will be fallouts, merges and purges. No matter what happens, AXS Longboard Retailer will be there to document it all — in print and on the Web. Here’s to the future! Michael Brooke Rick Tetz Publishers 8 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 AXS Longboard Retailer Magazine is published as a joint venture between North of La Jolla Inc. and axsgear.com. Publisher’s permission is required before reproducing any part of this magazine. The views and opinions expressed in AXS Longboard Retailer Magazine are not necessarily those of the publishers. Complimentary copies of this magazine are available to all longboard retailers in North America. Please email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org NEW RETAIL TREND By Michael Brooke THE LONGBOARD MICRO-STORE “S mall is the new big,” marketing guru Seth Godin once famously wrote. In Godin’s terms, “small” means, among other things, being able to use speed, flexibility, creativity and personalization to your advantage. That’s why longboard shop owners, and those aspiring to be shop owners, might want to consider a “micro-store” approach. Ryan Rubin has done just that with his two Longboard Living shops in Toronto’s Kensington Market. Though small in size – one shop covers just 300 square feet and the other a mere 150 square feet – they offer big potential. We recently sat down with Ryan to find out how his unique shops work. What gave you the idea of a micro-store? Ryan Rubin: Longboard Living is a hard-good specialty store, so the extra square footage for Tshirts and hoodies was not needed. While operating on a startup budget, it was the low overhead that first attracted us to our location, Kensington Market. A small shop allows for an in-and-out experience to get what you need and then hit the streets, hills and parks rather than in the shop itself. You have two micro-stores. What are the differences? RR: Operating two locations in the same neighborhood creates a destination for longboards, similar to being on Venice Beach in California. We took an opportunity to differentiate the shops based on the differences found among our customers: first-time board buyers looking for cheap completes or experienced riders chasing a specific durometer wheel or DH deck. The shops blend into an environment that is host to a variety of produce stands, coffee shops and ethnic foods. It is nice to taste different flavors of skate culture, too. You seem to jam of a lot of product into 150 square feet. What criteria do you use to choose product to put on your shelves? RR: We keep it as core as possible – only brands that impact the industry, like Rayne, Rotule, BOZBoards, Kebbek, Comet, Bustin, Wefunk, Sector 9, Abec 11, Orangatang, Venom, Surf-Rodz, Caliber, etc. These brands have innovative product lines, and we focus on buying the most unique decks from each brand and try not to overlap decks of similar style. 2012 will be about curating a collection of product from these top brands, offering the rider an “essential quiver” selection. What has been the reaction from the skate community to the micro-stores? RR: The skate community is happy to see us growing to accommodate all riders. The vibe around 86.5 Nassau Street is more about gnar, downhill, freeride and certainly riders who shred. The community hopes to see us move to other neighborhoods in Toronto and expand out of 1 0 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 Kensington Market. As long as we stock the right gear, everybody is happy. Do you think micro-stores are the future of longboard retail? Why or why not? RR: The future of longboard retail will be “clicksand-mortar” strategy: a combination of retail and e-commerce. Major board shops already do this, but each local community is different, and small regional stores will pop up in areas where riders gather. These stores will sell locally built boards and product specific to riding styles in that area. Mortar creates a meeting place and allows riders to see product before they buy it. The perfect balance of the clicks-and-mortar strategy will be the future of longboard retail. Can you discuss some of the events that take place with your shop? One gets the sense that it’s a real community feeling. RR: A couple of weekly sessions help to create community atmosphere around the stores. These sessions teach potential and new riders the basics of push, carve, slide [and] stop, and introduce group riding safely. Soon skaters will connect with other riders, learn from each other, start their own sessions and integrate to the Greater Ontario longboard community. Our goal is to invite people to look (in the shop), try (at our sessions), then buy having already entered the learning curve. It’s generally always high fives and good times at Longboard Living because of the awesome people that stay stoked out. What are some of your future plans? RR: Longboard Living brand. Our focus on retail has created a platform LL product to be show- Ryan Rubin is the proprietor of Longboard Living in Toronto. cased and sold. We learn a lot from our customers. It can be difficult to match up their needs with their budget, so we are moving toward manufacturing our own line. Product development began in fall 2010 with a longboard backpack and a production deck, Toronto Thymeless, in fall 2011. Team Longboard Living will attend more events to raise the gnar-bar around Canada in 2012. Riders include Mischa Chandler, Eric Jensen, Ben Keymer, Dan Herzog, Tim Mulligan, Milk (Nick Sutarz), Max Z (Zwarenstein), Jake Humphrey and James Mulvihill. What is the future of longboarding? RR: 2012 will see a lot more female riders getting on board. Closed-road events will become common in order to keep downhill skateboarding safe for amateurs. Soft shell helmets will become obsolete. GPS data-collecting technology will integrate into downhill and long-distance skateboarding to change the user experience forever. Stoke levels will continue to break records. The gap between shortboards and longboards will continue to shrink. AXS INSIDER INFO By Marie Case © Daddies Board Shop, Portland, Oregon. Photo: Spencer Knuttila BOARD-TRAC on LONGBOARDS L ongboards are more pervasive than ever. Even with a decline in the overall population of skateboarders in the U.S. over the past several years, there has been an increase of almost 8% in longboard purchases by skateboarders since 2009. Longboards came onto the radar in our Board-Trac© consumer and retail studies just a couple of years ago, and according to recent data, sales of longboards have increased to almost 1.3 million boards sold to skateboarders in the U.S. Our data also shows that 19.5% of responding skateboarders ride longboards exclusively and 50% of the others own a longboard and ride both long and shortboards equally. After all, variety does add spice. Considering that the population of skateboarders in the U.S. is currently eight million, these percentages of longboard ownership represent a healthy outlook for longboard manufacturers. Add to that the fact that over the next three to five years we expect to see an increase in skateboarding participation – particularly in the 10- to 19-year-old age segments. More feet on boards always produce increases in sales no matter what the economic climate feels like. The age analysis and forecasting included in our Size of Market reports is based on U.S. census department birthrate data, which we’ve been tracking for many years now. Countries around 1 2 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 the world seem to follow U.S. trends even as related to the birthrate, and any business targeting any age segment falling under the age of 25 should look carefully at those numbers. We had also forecasted the decline in skateboarding participation between 2005-2009 based on this same data. The decline in population in key age segments for skateboarding coupled with a troubled economy didn’t bode well for the sport, regardless of what size board you were selling or wanted to ride. Entry-level age for skateboarders has gone up over the past five years, too, which is an obvious effect of a declining birth rate. In the mid-2000s, average entry-level age was 12, and in the ensuing years it has jumped to almost 14. The good news is that we’re seeing an increase in the 10- to 13-year-old male segment through 2012; however, with that comes a decline in the 14- to 19-year-old male segment still coming from the aftershock and lack of breeding in the later ’90s. We have no scientific data to prove any correlation between specific age segments and longboards vs. short, but from what I read, form – or, if you will, purchase – may follow function. Longboards function well for riding long distances. Age segments under driving age (16 years old in the U.S.) often use skateboards for transportation. Older age segments may not be into tricks, but still want to have fun. Sounds like longboards might be the deck of choice for the older dudes, too. Skateboarders in the 13- to 16-year-old age segment account for 38% of the total skateboarding population — again, U.S. population —and the total of the 17- to 24-year-old segments is roughly the same. The 25- to 29-year-old segment now accounts for 8% of the skateboarding population and is growing. Skateboarders are channeling surfers who created a lifestyle. We’re seeing the same cultural development among skateboarders now, which means that they’re staying in the sport longer. If we go with the hypothesis that the under-16 and, let’s say, the aging skateboarder over the age of 25 are the primary targets for longboard sales, we’ve just hit a home run. Both segments are growing. Let’s talk price. Our data shows the average price paid for a longboard is $113.75 – roughly double the average price of a shortboard. We know almost 90% of skateboarders purchase longboards in one of two places — at a skate shop or online. Retailers responding to our retail survey have mentioned 24 longboard brands that they carry in their stores. Twenty-four different topselling brands! Sector 9 leads the list by a wide margin. This is not a passive product, nor should any manufacturer be passive about aggressively marketing their brand. If you want to know if your brand is on that list of 24, you’ll have to buy our Longboard report. This is just a taste of the data we have on skateboarders, their purchasing habits, influences and profiles. Our mission is to help businesses grow. We are seasoned marketers who not only collect data on action sports participants and the retailers who sell to them, but we also use the data as a platform for our clients’ marketing plans. Our reports are available on our website store – board-trac.com – and we are available via phone or email to answer any questions you might have related to our marketing and research. AXS Marie Case Managing Director Board-Trac, Inc. email@example.com ph. 949-721-8422 COMPANY ROUNDTABLE By AXS Staff THE LONGBOARD INDUSTRY: A LOOK FORWARD Brittany Bucsu Bucsu Boards Dan Gesmer Seismic Skate Will 2012 be a strong year in Q:terms of longboarding? Scott Imbrie – Original Skateboards: Trending can be done using Google Insights for search. There is no doubt that 2012 will be the biggest year ever for longboarding; if this chart is any indicator, longboarding is just about ready to be a “real” sport. Steve Lake – Sector 9: It sure feels like there is a lot of momentum heading us in that direction right now. But in order to maintain this momentum it is our responsibility as “brands” to drive customers into the stores. Hopefully, as the industry matures, other brands will take this responsibility more seriously. Likewise, I hope retailers will base their support on the brands that help to build the market for all, not just make product for sale. Dan Briggs – Loaded: Yes. From a sales perspective, longboard has just started in a lot of territories (domestically and internationally). In the past five years a number of specialty skate/snow/surf shops have really embraced longboarding, while others have shied away. But day to day these shops are getting more and more request for longboard items; the shops who originally shied away are now inquiring more and more about longboard brands and product. This is also reflected by the larger U.S. trade shows inviting and embracing the longboard community. Chris Chaput – Abec 11: I think that 2012 will be our biggest year ever in terms of sales. I see very little decline in the colder and usually slower months. I think that the tipping point of longboarding’s visibility and acceptability to the younger/cooler riders has been reached, and an avalanche of sales will soon follow. Mike Mahoney – Honey Skateboards: Absolutely! Longboarding sales have been on the rise for over five years now. Longboarding has 1 4 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 JP Rowan Rip City Skates Photo: Jon Huey exploded in 2011; the range in demographic is expanding, bringing both young and old into the longboard market. We are seeing 11-, 12-, 13-year-olds riding longboards, where five years ago they would never have touched a longboard. This younger group is not only using longboards for transportation, such as getting to school, but they are tech-savvy with respect to the types of board, trucks and wheels they choose. This group is posting videos on social networks and it’s spreading like crazy. On the other end of the age spectrum, we see a lot of people in their 40s and 50s getting back into skating by getting on a longboard. This gives them that feeling of freedom they experienced as a kid. We all want to hold on to our youth! Dan Gesmer – Seismic Skate: If present trends continue, YES! At Seismic we’ve been too busy with product development and sales to conduct surgical market analysis. But we assume the growing market is due to a combination of fortunate demographics, timing and destiny. Neil Carver – Carver Skateboards: I’m optimistic, but that may just be my nature. Of the few brands that I know personally, they’re all doing really well and growing. I think this is due in part to the quality equipment they’re producing here in the U.S., and also because the popularity and acceptance of longboarding in general is going to the next level right now, and spreading into the broader market. This will of course bring a bunch of kooks eager to jump on to the perceived fad, but the companies that are here for the love of riding will flourish, as they continue to make great equipment, sponsor great riders, produce compelling videos and continue to push the progression of longboarding and other styles of skateboarding. Tom Edstrand – Landyachtz Longboards: 2012 looks like it will be a very strong year. More and more people are getting into longboarding, and people are using longboards in different ways than they have in the past. This is creating a need for more innovation to meet the demand of these new styles. It’s really a fun time to be involved in building boards. We’re very stoked on what’s happening, and our 2012 lineup has tons of rad new products. It’s going to be a fun year. Christian Lemire – Restless Longboards: Yes. Longboarding has seen a tremendous increase in popularity in the last two years. The main reason is that a new market of super-stoked kids has opened up. It used to be that kids would try short decks first and longboarders were rarely younger than 18. Now, since kids are going straight to longboarding, our sport has seen a dramatic increase in sales. Kids have money (well, their parents do) and they have the free time to go out riding every day and push their limits, and most of all, they crave to film themselves, edit it and put it up on the Web. I think this new wave of popularity has a few good years to go. Longboarding is also a market that will take Austin Graziano California Bonzing Christian Lemire Restless Longboards Chuck DeMoss Palisades Longboards sell three or five to one over others. Stock multiples of the boards people want. Restock them when they sell out regardless of whether you have additional slow-moving inventory still left over. Kurt Hurley Dregs Photo: Bethany Hurley Heiko Schöller Concretewave Skateshop (Germany)/Bolzen Trucks time to saturate because of its diversity. As long as big players learn from the mistakes of the shortboard industry, and use responsible business ethics, this decade will be known as the ascent of longboarding! Kurt Hurley – Dregs: It depends on who you are. Some longboard companies have longevity and some don’t for various reasons. Overall, the soul of skateboarding will grow. Brittany Bucsu – Bucsu Boards: 2012 is going to be the best yet. Every year is going to continue to improve as companies continue to make amazing products that reach target markets. It is an ever-growing industry and anybody who has a love of the sport can do it. Austin Graziano – California Bonzing: I do believe that 2012 will be a strong year in sales for California Bonzing because I am expanding the California Bonzing board lineup with skateboards that enhance skaters’ ride and create competitive advantages over other brands. Also I am making it easier for retailers to order California Bonzing boards by providing a wholesale website they can purchase directly from, and supporting retailers with local promotions and dealer locators. Chuck DeMoss – Palisades Longboards: Absolutely. The longboard market has seen a 50% growth two consecutive years, and from speaking with shop owners from all over the U.S., the expansion is expected to continue. We are seeing a wider age range of riders, more female riders and more options for the consumer. Graham Buksa – Rayne Longboards: Yes – I haven’t seen any indication of the “longboard fad” being over. Steve Quinn – Roadshark: Yes. The growth curve is evident: Longboard sales are the largest growth portion of the skateboarding market. More young people are adopting longboards as their primary skateboard, which will drive sales and growth for years to come. It isn’t an oldschool thing anymore. Things tend to continue on the same trend unless something drastically changes. The economy is taking its toll, but at the same time more and more people are getting interested in longboarding. Mark Ocampo – SDS Skateboards: Absolutely! I’ve watched as skaters’ appreciation for longboarding has grown exponentially over the past several years. It’s amazing, and I don’t see the rate of growth changing any time soon. What are one or two key things Q: that shops could do to increase their sales of longboards? Imbrie: Shops need to look at individual boards in every brand’s line. Specific boards Briggs: I think it really comes down to one main thing – education. Getting the shop owners, all the employees, and whoever else we can on boards. Getting them familiar with product, and getting them stoked about a product. If they are excited about something, it’s going to roll over to their consumer. Obviously this doesn’t mean to shove it down their throats or to beg them. Like we say: “Stoke ‘em, don’t stroke ‘em.” Chaput: Shops need to educate themselves about the various types of longboards and components available and make sure that they balance their lineups with both premium and cost-effective items. The sale of high-performance aftermarket wheels, bushings, bearings, trucks, grip, etc., will make their shop a credible resource to serious and casual skaters alike. Mahoney: Shops need to understand that longboarding is a well-established category that has grown organically. It’s not good enough to just carry one brand anymore. Many longboarders have a quiver of more boards to fill a wide range of riding: downhill, sliding, freeriding, carving, longdistance pushing ... There is so much development going on in the industry that it’s sometimes hard for the shops to keep up. This is why it’s so important to have someone on staff who is a longboarder and knows what board is good for the different disciplines so he/she can sell the customer the best board for their intended riding. The shops that commit to longboarding are the ones that are killing it in sales. They understand the customers’ diverse needs and carry a wide variety of longboard products: completes, decks, trucks and wheels. The shops that order boards and hang them on the wall and wonder why they don’t sell aren’t committing themselves to this new category called longboarding. Don’t jump on the bandwagon; be a part on the movement! WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 1 5 COMPANY ROUNDTABLE By AXS Staff Scott Imbrie Original Skateboards Neil Carver Carver Skateboards Carver: Education of the salespeople is the first key. Having at least one person that actually rides a quiver of boards and can talk knowledgeably about the differences in types of equipment is an essential component to getting the customer stoked on the various possibilities. Second, whether it be freeriding, downhill, surfskate or carving, differentiate the display layout somehow to start communicating the differences visually. Skateboarding is finally more than just shortboards, and to fully take advantage of this growing swell in interest, the customer needs to see this differentiation. Also, by growing their equipment range, shops will better connect with more segments of the riding community and bring in a broader demographic, too. Gesmer: For us at Seismic, the quality of sales is at least as important as the quantity of sales. Massive sales of low-quality gear would undermine the future of the market and the sport. What the industry needs are more salespeople who are educated, who communicate well and who give a damn. New customers need solid, trustworthy help navigating the murky waters of the modern longboard marketplace. Salespeople need to be able to explain not just what works well, but why, as well as a little bit about how modern functional designs evolved from what came before. Of course, salespeople should also be both reasonably brand-neutral and prepared to guide caring customers away from the mediocre copycat stuff. Edstrand: Shops that do the best are the ones that have at least one staff member who is really into longboarding and passionate about it. Having demo boards is also a great sales tool if you have the space. Lemire: Diversity and sponsorships. You have to get people stoked about longboarding, and the best way is to show them the many faces of our sport: downhill, freeriding, tech sliding, footwork, tricks, etc. More people will get into it, and some will get three or four boards in their quiver to really get a taste of all the disciplines. By sponsoring people and events, you really put your 1 6 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 Graham Buksa Rayne Longboards Photo: Jordan Barber Sarah Loveland Daddies Board Shop shop out there. Giving back to your local market has always been good business. Lake: Educate themselves on the products they are selling. Steve Quinn Roadshark Bucsu: Product knowledge is huge. I think as time goes on, people will shift away from ordering completes and really get excited about putting their own boards and components together. Shops that know a lot about the industry and take time to educate staff and the everyday consumer are just going to increase popularity for the sport and in turn increase sales. Along with the that, having a good supply of these products on hand is important. Buksa: Run their shop like a bike shop: Educate and have regular sessions. Drop any attitude and welcome customers. EDUCATE! Have an expert on site to recommend setups specific for a customer’s needs. DeMoss: In reference to core street skate brickand-mortars that also sell longboards, the numbers are strong, increasing even, but we need to see even more core shops increase space allocated for longboards. The margins are there, and the extra cash flow will allow them to look into other goals they had for their shop. Also, if you have a shop, you should have an updated Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, email list and other social media. Websites are great, but they’re also expensive to maintain. These outlets connect you with your customer, and they’re free. What do you check more: your email or your Facebook? Ocampo: Create a space specifically for longboards. Get involved in what your customers are passionate about by setting up events with the companies you carry. Sarah Loveland – Daddies Board Shop (Portland, Ore.): It depends on the shop’s flavor, but you need to appeal to a broad range of riders, not just a hardcore crowd. Everyone is here to have a good time. Make sure you are supporting that. Heiko Schöller – Concretewave Skateshop (Germany)/Bolzen Trucks: Here in Germany many shops only offer some cheap completes. We here at Concretewave have a lot of testboards and know what we sell. This is paying off. If you really want to sell longboards, you need a wide selection and not only three or four completes. JP Rowan – Rip City Skates (Portland, Ore.): Get involved with their community! Host events, and back team riders. What is one of your key goals Q: for 2012? What things are you going to do ensure you achieve this goal? Chaput: In addition to our first love (wheels, bearings, bushings) we making a huge push to get our trucks and a complete line of decks completed for 2012. [While] having the high-tech Steve Lake Sector 9 Mike Mahoney Honey Skateboards Mahoney: We are committed to growing the longboarding industry. We will achieve this by continuing to support the grass-roots efforts of the small local events going on all over the country. We will also push the envelope when it comes to board construction and shape. We are always trying new ideas and testing new methods of deck construction. SDS Gang Fyre trucks and Liquid trucks will be helpful, having our mainstream Attack trucks ready to assemble completes with is the key to our early success in 2012. Imbrie: Continuing expanding on our composite expertise. Increase press times and reduce stack sizes while also increasing overall production capacity of our wood. Continue exploring the world and enjoying our sport’s growth as a brand and a family. Things we can do to achieve those? Keep in mind the difference between knowing the path and walking the path. Lake: Have fun. Make lots of fun stuff at our skateboard factory in San Diego, Calif. Briggs: We have a lot on our plate for 2012, and it is pretty hard to give a simple answer. I guess at the end of the day, our 2012 goals come down to a couple of things: 1) Continue to have fun doing what we do; 2) promote community and the creative individuals who are spreading the stoke; 3) innovate and create the best and most fulfilling product we can (for our personal enjoyment first and foremost); 4) continue to grow and refine ourselves — including better internal communication and making ourselves more efficient for our dealers (quicker lead times on orders, a better fill rate, fewer miss-ships and all-around better communication); 5) to squeeze back into that slinky little dress you like so much (with the built-in handcuffs). Gesmer: Our primary goal is the same as always: to radically expand the envelope of skateboard technology and performance. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, and we want you to get out of our way. Carver: For 2012 we’re launching our new RKP truck, the CV, after years of prototyping and testing. We are innovators by nature, so our goal was to develop a next-generation RKP truck that subtly tweaked the standard RKP geometry for a more consistent, rebounding rail. Our intention was to make something more than just another 50-degree truck, something that offers a performance distinction. To achieve this we worked closely with a wide range of riders and friends, like the Loaded crew, and made sure we were actually improving performance for many types of riders. We’re super-stoked on how it rides and looks, so we’re excited about 2012. Edstrand: We’re going to work on getting our new ideas to market quicker. We have lots of great ideas, and we want to get them out to people to enjoy as quickly as possible. Whip our engineer. (Just kidding.) We’re building some really cool testing equipment to help speed up this process. Lemire: Diversify and expand. To diversify our line of products, we will invest more in R&D and test out new molds and shapes, but also test new types of trucks, wheels and bearings. Most of all, we want to try different constructions and methods to be on the technical edge of longboarding. Then, marketing-wise, we wish to expand our market by reaching out directly to retailers in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Bucsu: As a manufacturer and retailer, we strive Chris Chaput Abec11 to listen to what our consumers are saying. We work hard at manufacturing boards that all types of riders are stoked to have under their feet. Not only that, we try to have a good supply of other products that people are interested in seeing. Customer service is a huge part of selling to retailers. Being readily available for constructive feedback is important to us. We want to hear what you have to say so we continue exceeding expectations. Hurley: Dregs will continue to focus on making boards that work for all kinds of skateboarding. We have 80 years of skateboarding between the two of us, and will continue to ride and create. DeMoss: We want to work even more on branding our longboard lines through social media outlets. We’re also increasing our root hard-good lines (Palisades, Sims and Vision), giving our customers the options they need. In 2012, you’re going to see more shapes, more concaves, exotic woods and more wheels. We’ll achieve these goals through testing, hard work and listening to our customers. Ocampo: Our key goal is to diversify our board line for 2012 by bringing in new shapes and to get the Stella Longboard name out there. Schöller: My key goal for 2012 is to show the longboard scene our in-Germany-designed Bolzen trucks. Bolzen is a project from Alex Luxat (Wefunk)and me, and we are looking very forward to release the trucks in 2012. Watch out for videos, ads, our team and friends presenting them in 2012. Quinn: Improve supply chain and also develop our unique shapes into a more complete longboard line. We are in full-blown R&D mode where we are doing prototypes every few days and testing them with local riders. Rowan: Success with online sales. Continue offering an above-and-beyond level of customer service while also updating the site every day with new product, content and other SEO tools. Loveland: We would like to increase the variety of gear we carry so we can make sure we have everything our customers are looking for, and of course, some things they didn’t even know they needed. AXS WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 1 7 THINK By Michael Brooke Photo: Brendan Poh DIFFERENT SUCCESS ON TWO WHEELS WHAT THE BIKE INDUSTRY CAN TEACH THE LONGBOARD BUSINESS W hen searching for new ideas for your business, sometimes it pays to learn from a completely different industry. As longboarding becomes more popular, it’s beginning to mirror both the culture and business of the bike world. Consider the following: • The bike industry has 61 BILLION dollars a year in sales. • Globally, more than 130 million bicycles are sold each year. • The industry is seeing growth rates between 10-25% worldwide. MIGRATION PATH Entry-level consumers can migrate to much costlier products/components Bikes and longboards can be purchased relatively inexpensively. But once a customer has been hooked, there is a huge potential in all kinds of upgrades. The era of the $1,000 longboard complete is here. 2 0 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 PARTICIPANTS A much wider range of potential riders The street skate market demographic is generally males under the age of 18. Bikes and now increasingly, the longboard world have a tremendous number of female participants. There are also numerous enthusiasts over the age of 20. I asked Buddy Carr, a longtime skateboarder and bike enthusiast, about the industry. Over the past several years, he has attended the massive Interbike show in Las Vegas. “The size of the show and the ease of getting access all make for an extremely productive time,” he says. “Everything is there under one giant roof: road bikes, beach cruisers, BMX, mountain bikes and everything in between, all in one place.” He finds the show truly exciting, especially if approached with the right attitude. So even if he has zero interest in beach cruisers, there is always something that catches his eye. “I end up spending time looking at something I ‘thought’ I had no interest in,” he says. “Open minds lead to open doors.” Carr says technology is first and foremost on many consumers’ minds. “The bike industry seems to run on technology first and image/ego second,” he says. “Every year there is more to the show than just new paint schemes and graphic treatment.” He points to the astounding variety of composites, electronics and new concepts that are shown each season. “Some products and ideas are good, some maybe are not so good,” he says. “But progression of products seems to drive the show, not autograph signings and expensive after-parties.” With billions of dollars at stake, you can bet there is a great deal of interest. “This is a serious business,” Buddy says. “The bike dealers are used to investing a lot of money into inventory, committing to pre-books and tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise.” Carr notes that the dealers come in all types and sizes and says there doesn’t seem to be a standard “uniform,” as he sees happening with skateboarding shows. “Whereas skateboarding was once a sport that accepted us ‘misfits,’” he says, “it seems the opposite is true these days, where the wrong shirt or pants could get you snubbed by a manufacturer.” While many of us view news of major bike tours on television like the Tour De France, Carr sees the bike industry as less ego-driven. While there is hype, it’s not central to the business. “Sure, a good marketing campaign and a tour win will help any brand sell more bikes for a certain season,” he says, “but that is a temporary fix and only one part of the equation.” The bike industry needs the athletes pushing their products and showing consumers how well they work, but there is a huge focus on the product advancement as well. Carr is emphatic when it comes to progress vs. marketing hype. “The longboard industry will be successful by putting product development first,” he says. “We can’t rely on simply the image, team or ad campaign. If we create better products, all the other stuff follows.” One of those things is price. Carr says most people would be shocked to learn what bike enthusiasts are willing to pay. “The average price of a decent road bike starts at around $2,500, and a really advanced raceready bike will set the customer back over 10 grand,” he says. “There seems to be an unwritten rule in skateboarding that a complete board should not cost more than $150 – which causes manufacturers to rush out and find a cheaper way to produce products. It’s up to us as an industry to raise prices through product advancement.” The word “passion” gets thrown around a lot Participants at the Super Mellow Beach Cruise in Toronto prove once again that longboarding embraces many different demographics. Photo: Michael Brooke these days. But committed bike riders are just like hardcore skaters. They have their sport running through their veins and are always looking for that next great product. But there are some key differences. “The public and many industry people still view skateboarding as an outlaw sport or something that kids do, but in my eyes it is no different than the 30-something on the high-end bike with all the tricked-out gear,” Carr says. “It’s up to us an industry to move toward this type of thinking in order to grow longboarding in a direction that is favorable to both customers, shops and companies. Why should skateboarding be viewed as a cheap fad or something the skater will grow out of? What if the bike industry would have had that mindset? Would they be selling $10,000 bicycles today?” The skateboard industry is moving forward. It has started to embrace different markets and demographics. But it has taken a long time, and Carr thinks more can be done. “I think we as an industry stifle our own growth,” he says, “and need to look at how we can advance skateboarding and not just focus on making a cheaper, less expensive product. Massmarket retailers already have that covered.” PARALLEL UNIVERSES? Co-Ops A bike co-op is where bike enthusiasts can share resources and build community along with learning how to maintain their bike. Members engage in cycling advocacy and education to promote biking as a safe and sustainable means of transportation. A number of longboard clubs are sprouting up on college campuses. A leap to the co-op world isn’t far off. Advocacy Founded 20 years ago in San Francisco, Critical Mass is a cycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in more than 300 cities around the world. The purpose of Critical Mass is not usually formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling on bikes as a group through city or town streets. New York City (Broadway Bomb) and Toronto (Board Meeting) are attracting 1,000 plus longboarders for their rides. GreenSkate (held each April) is also drawing out hundreds of participants in dozens of cities. The “Culture” Many cities contain subcultures of bicycle enthusiasts, including racers, bicycle messengers, bicycle transportation activists, mutant bicycle fabricators, bicycle mechanics and bicycle commuters. Some such groups are affiliated with activism or counterculture groups. Advocacy within the cycling community may aim for improvements including requesting bike lanes, improved parking facilities and access to public transportation. There are many different types of longboarders. Downhillers wear racing leathers and full-face helmets, freeriders combine sliding with speed. Long-distance enthusiasts will crush 100 miles in one day! Cruisers just want a quick and easy way to get to around. Longboarders are raising awareness for helmet safety (NOBI Foundation) and collecting money for the less fortunate (Coast Longboarding’s Christmas toy program). And there’s a huge number of longboarders raising awareness and money for a variety of charities. Would You Take 1%? The bike industry is made up of a number of small, medium and large size companies. It has multiple distribution channels and technology drives the sport forward. Most importantly, it has products for all budgets, interests and ages. Taking just 1% of the total dollars spent on bike equipment would equate to a $600 million longboard industry worldwide. AXS WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 2 1 Thatâ€™s the weight of the new Dissent Longboards by Oust Composites. We took a blend of USA made High Performance aerospace carbon fiber, high tensile strength epoxy resins and combined them with the most exotic African, Brazilian and USA grown wood we could find. The result? The lightest, most responsive and incredibly gorgeous longboard deck ever made. The inner core can be adjusted in thickness to accommodate different weight skaters. The high performance layup of carbon can be changed for different flexes and recovery time or pop. The high strength epoxy is used to insure proper adhesion and eliminate failure. Performance and beauty â€“ all combined in one exquisite ride. All decks hand-made in Torrance California USA by OUST Inc. BUD’S COLUMN By Bud Stratford THE FUTURE ON THE INDIE SKATE SHOP I f I had the chance to edit my own biography, I’d probably sum up most of my skateboarding career in two simple sentences: “That f ’n jerk (that’s me) was sometimes celebrated, and often vilified, for his harsh and unapologetic insights on the emerging issues of the day. Most frequently, for discussing the everyday trials and tribulations of – and reiterating his staunch and steadfast support for – the independent skateboard shop.” I like those two, because they’re fair, balanced, kinda funny ... and, best of all, they also honestly illustrate my personal strengths and weaknesses. Which ultimately make me exactly who and what I am. So, the inevitable question becomes: Why am I so steadfast in my pro-indie skate shop stance? The answer is actually quite simple: I cannot imagine a skateboarding world without them – mostly because we’ve never had a world without them. Think about it: Never in all of skateboarding’s history have we faced the grim prospect of the wholesale decimation of the independent-retailer paradigm. Suddenly, though, this has become an industry-wide hotbutton issue, because we’re watching the reality of indie skate shops going out of business unfolding all around us. Of course, there are plenty of pundits and experts who claim that everything is gonna be just fine. That there will be a nation of corporately-owned big-box skate retailers that will easily and enthusiastically fill the void left by the natural, Darwinistic rooting out of this weaker, independent species of skate shop. And that’ll actually be better for us all, long-term. However, the correct answer is still that we just don’t know for sure what’s gonna happen – until it actually happens. There may even be some unintended consequences that we won’t like and that might just do our pastime irreparable harm. But still, we won’t know what those will be until they actually transpire. It’s that unknown that sometimes keeps me awake at night. The very best we can ever hope for is that, by simple process of elimination, we can sort of guesstimate what might be possible and plausible. Take this one, for example: Without independent skate shops, who’s gonna pay for all those tours and demos that we, as skaters, like to attend from time to time? “The Industry” does tend to forget that the independent retailer network makes for a mighty handy road-trip itinerary, while they also subsidize 2 4 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 many of our industry’s promotional tours. Skate shops do, after all, pay cold, hard cash to have those demos come to town, year in and year out. Then, if and when we get the “demo” question sorted out, we also have the questions of: Who’s going to sponsor all those local, hometown skateboard teams? And who’s gonna throw all of those local contests? And fight for all of those new skateparks? And arrange all of those Go Skateboarding Day events? These shops are not promoting themselves, mind you, but rather, promoting skateboarding. But unfortunately for the independents, they’re facing an onslaught of chain-store and mega-corporation competition. There’s an even more important dynamic at work here, though. If we lost the independent retailers, we might also lose one of those critical intangibles that makes skateboarding what it is. Sort of like Independent Trucks, Thasher magazine, Duane Peters or Steve Olson, these are entities whose ultimate value could never be calibrated, substantiated or justified by the dollars-and-cents concerns of a corporate balance sheet. These are things that you, as a skater, might not support, like or even approve of. But as skaters, we also intrinsically understand that skateboarding would sort of suck without them. It’s these things that keep skateboarding “real” when everything else around us is going straight to the toilet. My natural enthusiasm for the cause is tempered in many of my writings by the realization that, too often, the independent skate shops actually become agents of their own demise. At some point in the debate, honest and brutal observation is required to get a complete and evenhanded perspective of the problem at hand. This was rammed home to me a few years ago when, while doing a random survey of a few hundred skateboard shops across the Midwest, I came to a startling realization: Out of those 300-plus shops ... less than a dozen of them knew how to answer the damned telephone correctly. This, my friends and enemies, is an extremely startling factoid. And this told me, honestly and brutally, that it was high time for the skate shops to wake the hell up, and start learning how to build better, more customer-focused businesses. Put another way: To start helping themselves. However, that’s balanced by the need for us – the community of manufacturers, brands and the media – to wake ourselves up and realize the indie skate shops’ true importance in the far bigger picture. They also need our help to make the hard-goods-centric, independent skateboard shop a sustainable paradigm for the future. What kind of help do they need, exactly? At this juncture, I’d say any help that we can spare would be a damn good start. A few years back, I began to champion ideas like MAP/MSRP pricing structures that would, at the very least, give the independents a level playing field, and maybe even a fighting chance to make a nickel or two once in a great while for all of their investment, hard work and dedication. Sometimes this process compels me to ask “The Industry” difficult questions, such as: How exactly does so much “premium product” find its way to so many mass merchants, rogue e-tailers or seemingly every eBay and Amazon storefront owned by some clueless jackass somewhere? It’s a perpetual mystery to me how “The Industry” can claim to be helpless to control their own distribution channels, but they do. And they’ll constantly wring their hands and bemoan the problem, while they do virtually nothing at all to fix it. To me, that’s not just disingenuous; it’s sheer hypocrisy at its very worst. Admittedly, at Everything Skateboarding, we can only do very small things to advance this cause. Of course, shopping at independentlyowned skateboard shops is the best place to start; and we do our very best to encourage our readers shop at them too. I also spend countless hours on the road, attending and covering those local events myself. I make the time to personally visit shop owners in their own shops, and to educate myself on the other small things that my staff and I can do to spread the word. Of course, no matter what I or we do, it’ll probably never be enough. My big hope is that, between my magazine and our readership, it’ll all add up eventually to making a bigger difference, somewhere. And if everybody pitches in and does their part, I think it will. AXS Bud Stratford is the editor of Everything Skateboarding Magazine. everything skateboardingmagazine.blogspot.com SHOP TALK RETAILER ROUNDTABLE Melanie Loveland – Daddies Board Shop, Portland, Oregon Kelsey Crozier – Switchback Longboards, Nanaimo, British Columbia Q: What percentage of your overall sales are longboards? John Karg – Woody’s Halfpipe: Around 35%. Dominic Pérusse – Free for All Boardshop: Ninety-five percent are longboards. Probably four percent street and pool decks, one percent clothes. Melanie Loveland – Daddies Board Shop: Ninety percent. Kelsey Crozier – Switchback Longboards: I would say more than 95%. Longboarding is our passion. We do have a selection of street skates that I buy now and then, but they tend to sit in the back. Same with the reissues. Street guys do come in sometimes, but I only carry sale stuff that I got a deal on and pay it forward to them. I keep about one of each width of deck in stock from various brands. What are some of the things Q: you are doing that make your shop a truly great experience for longboard customers? John: Our relocation to Brook Run skatepark; creating a separate area dedicated to longboards, park/pool boards and street boards so each customer has an easy time shopping. Dominic: Every time you enter our shop you’re 2 6 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 going to be welcomed by a longboarder who rides and who knows what he’s selling. You can try every board; if you want to take two hours to try each board, just do it! If you need any advice on how to footbrake, Coleman slide or you just want to know how to set your bushings, it’s going to be a pleasure to help you. Finally, we are always searching for new brands that kick ass. We want to provide the best product on the market to our client. We don’t sell longboards because it’s trendy. We do it because we love this sport and want to make it big. Melanie: We continue to bring in new products all the time. But the layout of our shop and our merchandising really gives the customers a “hands-on” experience. We have a ton of demo longboards and an incredibly knowledgeable staff. We’ve got some pretty great displays (like our GoPro display that constantly plays video showing what the camera can do); a super setup from Banshee Bungee and other companies. It’s pretty darn colorful in our shop, and I’m a “neat freak,” so my shop is pristine, which makes the customers feel very, very comfortable. The mood in our shop is so “family” that they know they are welcome the minute they come in. Kelsey: Selection is key. We are the one-stop shop for all things longboarding. Free shipping is also huge. It makes us everyone’s local shop. Another fun thing we’re doing is Facebook. We have the chat going whenever we’re online, and people can ask us questions, suggest setups, show off photos or videos of themselves and even suggest their favorite Ke$ha song. You can keep up with us on our road trips with the team and see what kinda trouble we’re getting into. One of the biggest and best things about Switchback is that we all ride. That comes into play in pretty much all of the decisions we make, but mostly that affects our product selection. Being riders, we’re pretty good at choosing what to bring into the store and knowing how a product will work/sell before we’ve even ridden it. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s not on our site that doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying, but some companies aren’t in it for the right reasons, and that comes through with the end product they are selling. In the end it all comes down to smiles. Switchback is all about fun. I hope it comes through in our ads. Anyone can add some text over a sick skating shot, but we like to up the ante when we can. Who wouldn’t think taking a bath in skate gear out in the middle of the woods is fun? If you’re not having fun, don’t do it! What are some of the things Q: you do for your longboarding community? John: Jams, contest and events; we also have several demo boards in the store. Dominic: We try to sponsor every single event in the province of Quebec, big or small. We do demonstrations for kids and we sponsor local riders. We work hard to promote our sport and for people to ride safe. Recently Maxime Garant Rousseau and I went on TV to explain the basics of our sport and talk about safety gear and more. We love longboarding and we want it to stay! John Karg – Woody’s Halfpipe, Dunwoody, Georgia Photo: Rob Knight hoped would sort itself out later (quite a few years later!). Free shipping was not a business decision, that’s for sure; we do it because we deserve it up in Canada! In the early days it was much easier to keep in touch with the community on the Island and in Vancouver before we were big online, but recently I’ve been reaching out to the East through the Escarpment Surfers and the Ontario Longboarding Forum. There is just so much going on all the way across the country, and it’s amazing to see all the little groups developing. There might not be too many hills in Saskatchewan, but people are out there riding nonetheless. I always try to help out with events that come to our attention, even if it’s just some stickers for an outlaw. This winter I’ve been getting a lot of shop teachers asking for product to help with board-building projects. Stoked to see that in the schools! Another big thing we’re into is the race scene. I love racing, so getting out to all the races and laying down some $ is a way of giving back to everyone in the scene, not just our select group of shop riders, who no doubt – like everyone in this sport – deserve more than they are getting. In time I think the big media and money will come, but if not, I’ll still be skating. you feel there is more Q:Do growth in longboard retailing? John: That’s the big question. Probably – but I feel in-store sales will be diluted as more stores carry longboards. Dominic Pérusse – Free for All Boardshop, Quebec City, Quebec Photo: Oliver Seguin-Leduc Melanie: First and foremost is to sponsor as many events that we can. We actually go out of our way to sponsor very tiny little races/events all over the country. We feel those are the longboarders that really need the support from a shop. On another level – and we look at each individually – we have given away hundreds of dollars of longboard products to kids who have had their boards run over, destroyed, stolen or whatever the particular case may be. We want to get them rolling again. We also sponsor the large events and do have salaried Team Riders. Kids look up to our riders, so it has that trickle-down effect for them. We also encourage and carry in our store any of the longboards that are made locally. Kelsey: Switchback has always been about getting people on longboards. Making money we Dominic: For sure – in two years of operation we practically grew our inventory by four times. When we opened in 2009, we were carrying approximately 60 decks; now we have more than 300 boards on the floor, thousands of wheels, a bunch of trucks, bushings, helmets, gloves ... all you need to ride! Melanie: Absolutely. We are not even near the cresting point yet. Kelsey: Right now I think we might be getting close to a peak, or at least a leveling off. Who knows, though? I definitely don’t ever see longboarding dying off like shortboarding has in the past. This sport is accessible to so many people. You don’t need to be a speed freak who loves leather to get into it; cruising and carving down the road is fun for everyone. Older guys who used to skate can get on a longboard and cruise down to the corner store and have a blast. Kids who are traditionally into team sports can pick it up and skate to their soccer games. It can be as simple as pushing from your car to your classes on campus, or even pushing all the way across Canada if you’re determined enough. The thing about street skating is that it is hard. Not everyone can do it. On a longboard, though, there is no “doing it” because you’re just pushing down the street. If you want to add “early grabbing” down some stairs or blasting off some ramps, go ahead, but even if all you ever do is push back and forth around the city, you’re still going to have a blast. Are you finding that online Q:sales are growing? John: Online sales are growing, and it isn’t always me that gets the sale. Local skaters routinely shop online, lured by lower prices and free shipping (sometimes with no minimum). We know this is happening because our customers are pretty open about it. As for our online sales, they are growing, although it is at a slow pace. We completed an eight-month redesign of woodyshalfpipe.com in order to have a site that would give buyers more confidence in shopping with us. Our traffic has improved since rolling the site out in September, and I believe within a year the site will represent 15% of store sales. For a niche sport, the online marketplace is becoming more crowded, and more established online stores may see their market share erode. Another form of competition is the manufacturers themselves. Many buyers seem to like to buy direct in order to have some perceived bond with the typically small company. Nothing wrong with this – it has been going on in the wine industry for years. There are so few barriers to entry, and the conventional wisdom seem to be that “trees will grow to the sky.” It will become more difficult to be a profitable online-only store. If the market continues to grow at the current pace, it is certain to grab the of higher-volume onliners such as REI. The smallest manufacturers will never sell to them, but then again the smallest manufacturers probably make little profit and will only survive as long as the visionary owner stays with it. Dominic: Online sales are growing, and we work hard to serve our customers online as best we can, but the priority is the local customers. Melanie: Leaps and bounds and leaps and bounds. Especially our international market. Many countries are just getting into longboarding, and with the Internet, they can now finally find all the products they need. I would say they are about three to five years behind the USA when it comes to longboarding in certain countries. Kelsey: Online sales have been growing for sure. It is a combination of the demand growing and our selection growing. There are new companies popping up all the time in this sport. Hopefully they all stick around. If you have a good product and your heart is in it, I think you can thrive in this sport. AXS WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 2 7 WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 2 9 THE 411 By Ben Curtis BEARINGS A kid and his dad walk into a skateboard shop to buy bearings, and the dad asks the shop employee, “What is the difference between all these bearings?” This is a serious question that nearly all shop employees fail to answer thoroughly and accurately. How would you answer? Would you answer this way: “Well… there are ABEC-rated bearings, Swiss bearings, ceramic bearings ... ” OK, that answer is technically correct; but is it enough? Can you accurately explain the differences between bearings, or what makes ABEC-rated, Swiss or ceramic bearings better than others — or not? Being able to answer any and all questions customers ask is vital for any business to survive, compete and grow. People take their issues to the experts that know how to take care of them. Are you and the other employees at your shop experts in skateboard equipment and how it’s used? Are all the employees at your shop capable of taking care of your customers’ needs? The following information will help give your shop what it needs to answer your customers’ most frequent questions about skateboard bearings. ABEC RATING Many skateboard bearings are marketed with an “ABEC rating” of 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9. But what do these ratings mean, and do they correspond to how well a bearing works for skateboarding? ABEC stands for Annular Bearing Engineers Committee, which was founded by the American Bearing Manufacturers Association to set standards for bearing tolerances. ABEC sets tolerances, which are only the dimensions of the entire unit and allowable spaces between the balls and the inner ring and the outer ring (also called races). That’s all! The ABEC scale does not rate speed, durability, axial or torsional loads, torque, steel grade, ball sphericity, materials, surface finish, raceway depth, ball size, lubrication, and on and on. ABEC strictly measures tolerances; the higher the ABEC number, the closer the tolerance. Tolerances are crucial for proper bearing function and load handling. A bearing has to have tolerances in order to rotate. The tighter or smaller the tolerance, the more accurately a bearing will spin, because the balls have less room to move on the raceway (the groove the balls roll on). Tighter tolerances usually equal more precision and better functionality going straight down a hill or during wide turns. However, a tighter tolerance or higher ABEC rating does not presume the bearing is faster. It only implies that 3 0 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 a bearing may function more efficiently at higher speeds. You still have to factor in axial and torsional loads, torque, material grade, ball sphericity, surface finish, raceway depth, ball size and lubrication. So if the ABEC rating only measures tolerances but not all these other factors, what is the point of ABEC rating for skateboarding when there are so many other vital factors to consider? And can an ABEC 3 bearing actually function better than an ABEC 7? Of course it can. The ABEC scale was not created with skateboarding in mind, and it does not account for all the abuse skateboarders give bearings. In skateboarding, tolerances need to be adjusted differently in order to handle the axial and torsional loads that skaters vigorously apply. Thus, a bearing with a lower ABEC rating may actually perform better for skateboarding than one with a higher ABEC rating. Part One It’s important to account for bearing loads – vertical, axial, and torsional loads. These loads are directional forces applied to the bearing. Basically, vertical is up and down, axial is side to side, and torsional is a curve or twist. One might assume, since bearings are placed vertically in a wheel, that bearings don’t have axial or torsional loads. Actually, bearings encounter tremendous axial and torsional loads, especially in longboarding. Imagine the amount of force applied to a bearing while speeding around a turn. Add in slides and drifts, and you have a heavy dose of axial and torsional loads. BEARING LOADS Unfortunately, many of the bearings in today’s skateboards were not created for skateboarding. They evolved from the early days when roller skate wheels were used on the first skateboards. However, since then, enormous improvements have been made in the quality of bearings. Plus, with some manufacturers redesigning bearings that are skateboard-specific, we’re still evolving toward better equipment. To find out how or if bearings can handle these loads, we have to look at the raceways – the grooved tracks the balls roll on. Not every brand or ABEC rating has the same size raceway. This is where the depth and curvature of raceways prove to be important. A shallow raceway allows less surface contact on the balls, thus providing less friction – theoretically a faster bearing. However, we must raise this question: When the balls are in a shallow raceway, what happens when bearings go into a turn? The axial (sideways) loads are causing the balls to roll away from the center of the raceway. They are now turning on the edge of the raceway. What happens to the balls hitting the edge of the raceway? The edge of the raceway is rubbing against that ball and burnishing the ball. Burnishing is contact surfaces causing plastic deformation from sliding one object over another. In other words, this means the balls and races can gouge, scratch, and indent each other in a circular pattern. A deep groove raceway holds the balls securely, in alignment, during axial and torsional loads. A deep raceway does not translate to more friction due to extra contact surface for the balls, and it doesn’t necessarily make it a slower bearing either. No matter where the ball moves within the raceway the ball’s footprint remains the same. Once again, you have to account for other factors, such as surface finish, material hardness, and steel grade. Skaters could make a more educated choice of bearings if more manufacturers disclosed this information. SKATEBOARD-SPECIFIC RATINGS Some brands have made an effort to steer clear from marking an ABEC rating on their packaging. Oust uses what they call a MOC (Machined Optimum Clearance) rating, and Bones Bearings created their own Skate Rated™ scale, which they say reflects their efforts to de- sign and construct their bearings to specifically handle the rigors of skateboarding. Although this is a leap in the right direction for skateboard bearings, it does not automatically give the consumer an understanding of what makes them any better. I urge you to contact the various bearing companies and ask specifically what they have done to create better bearings as relates to skate ratings. Core shops need to represent themselves as being more knowledgeable about what is really going on with skateboard products. But being knowledgeable is just the beginning. What else can you provide your shop that differentiates it from all other retailers? Deep product knowledge can help foster the soul and true skateboarding culture to your shop in ways no one else has accomplished. You can be the expert “doctor” in your skate shop. AXS Determined to be the hub of the skateboard industry, ratvision.com is quickly becoming recognized as the consumer and retail advocate for all things skateboarding. Through in-depth product research and retail insight, Rat Vision is dedicated to providing accurate knowledge shops need to sell, service and educate consumers on the products they purchase. With exclusive reports detailing the results of laboratory and field tests of hard goods, Rat Vision can increase a company’s expertise with proprietary information regarding the brands shops sell most. Next up: Ceramics, lubrication and maintenance. WHAT’S THAT SKATEBOARD FOR? SILVERFISH LONGBOARDING’S GUIDE TO BOARDS AND DISCIPLINES Skateboarding defies definition to many, but if you’re just getting into longboarding or classic skateboarding, you might be blown away by the variety of purpose-built styles and construction for skateboards. It’s not all popsicle sticks and teeny wheels, right?! So, here’s a quick and general guide to the basic categories of boards and the disciplines they’re designed for. FREERIDING – a term used to describe any style of skating downhill that includes drifting, sliding, hard carves and aggressive maneuvers. Any board a skater is comfortable with that affords the handling and agility can work for a freeride board. However, the current standard is a bidirectional board with deep wheel wells or cutouts and often dropthrough mounted trucks of either “conventional” or “inverted” style. This is the style that varies with you, but generally involves wheels intended for sliding and thrashing, typically 70-76mm in diameter, and 78A-89A durometer. SPEEDBOARDING – the sport of getting down a hill as fast as possible. Standard downhill (or “DH”) decks are rigid for stability, with moderate concave, no kicktail and lengths typically ranging from 36” to 46”. Inverted-style trucks are used, in drop-through and top-mount configurations with wheels 70-100mm in diameter and 78A-89A durometer. Look for designs intended to eliminate wheelbite, and prepare to encounter the most exotic of materials ranging from maple to monocoque composites. SLALOM – usually a timed sport that involves avoiding cones either on flat land with small spacing (tight), downhill with more varied spacing (hybrid) or steeply downhill with large, spread-out spacing (giant). Most slalom boards range in size related to the style of slalom, from 30” to 36”; utilize asymmetrical concave (more in front) with a nonfunctional kicktail or footrest at the back and toe-stops on the front of hardcore race boards. The standard is for “wedged,” conventional trucks and 65-77mm wheels with durometers ranging 77A-85A. CRUISING – traveling from one location to another in whatever manner the skater sees fit. Any board can be a cruiser, and this term is also used by street skaters to describe any board with “soft wheels.” Cruiser boards tend to be medium to larger-sized boards, often with wide shapes that allow many foot positions. Wheels and trucks are based on rider preference, but are often inverted-kingpin trucks with wheels to fit the board in a low to medium durometer. Soft wheels and great turning ability are the hallmark of a campus cruiser and general fun-hog longboard. CARVING – the manner of riding a hill where the skater cuts back and forth in hard turns to scrub off speed and yet maintain control of the board, very much like surfing. Carving boards are often set up for maximum turning and allow the trucks and wheels to turn as deeply as possible, with typical board lengths over 36”. Flexible decks are popular but not required. Inverted trucks and high-traction design wheels with durometers 75A-85A are typical setups. LONG DISTANCE – a growing style, broken into two groups: Long Distance Skating, where the focus is the actual pushing over great distances, and Long Distance Pumping, where the focus is generating momentum by pumping. LDS boards typically have a “dropped deck” for extra-low height to the road, and LDP boards are often similar in shape to slalom boards, yet slightly longer. Wheel diameters typically run 70-76mm and durometers range from 77A-84A, depending on the setup and riding style chosen by the skater. BOARDWALKING – also called “dancing,” this freestyle skating focuses the upon the skater’s ability to use the deck to accomplish tricks and maneuvers on the deck. Boards are typically 40” to 60” and may have concave and a kicked nose or tail. Wheels and trucks are often set up so the board’s agility is easily controlled by the rider and wheelbite is impossible, and smoothness is ensured via wheel diameters 70-76mm, durometers in the 77A-84A range and pretty much any truck you like, either conventional or inverted. TECHNICAL SLIDING – a specialized discipline with some crossover to street-skating gear, this is the intentional breaking of traction on steep hills to accomplish tricks that modify the board’s movement down the fall line. Much more than “power sliding,” these tricks can include stalls, rotations and the use of gloves with pucks for hand-on-the-pavement moves. The decks are usually 34” to 38” with twin kicks and hard, smaller wheels on conventional trucks, but a variation growing in popularity (see “freeriding”) uses 70mm or larger “soft wheels.” OK, that’s a quick look at some of the general disciplines and skateboard styles active within longboarding and classic skateboarding. With experience, you’ll learn how variations on these themes suit you and your terrain perfectly, but this should give you a great start. If you’d like more information or input, jump on over to SILVERFISHLONGBOARDING.COM. There are forums for “Beginner Q/A” along with discussion areas for each of these disciplines, and much more. By the skaters, for the skaters, it’s the largest online skateboard community on the Internet, and it’s the place to check in when you’re not out shredding the concrete waves. See you out there! WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 3 1 INDUSTRY INSIGHTS By Mark Brasier PARALLELS & PITFALLS WHAT LONGBOARDING CAN LEARN FROM THE SNOWBOARD INDUSTRY THE BEGINNINGS Outcasts The snowboard business was very small for a very long time. It was a tight group of outsiders. Only the pioneers and purists could relate to the essence and the spirit that kept driving it forward through the formation years. A lot of groundbreaking work and constant cheerleading went into its gaining acceptance. The appeal was deep and times were very simple. There were only a few in the business; nobody was making any serious money, but that was OK. Sound familiar? Then the market began to show signs of growth. Sales were ticking up, repeats were happening, price points were still premium, distribution was tight. A handful of new brands entered with fresh thinking, new technology was being introduced, and everyone was pushing the measure higher, faster, lighter and stronger. Everyone was getting along just fine and the monetary rewards were starting to flow in. Good times! Mr. Popularity Then everybody wanted to be in the snowboard business. Retailers, ski brands, factories, agents, pro riders, sales reps, new upstart brands – everyone wanted a piece. Consumers were attracted for all the right reasons. They were attracted by this lust for something different – something aspirational. The attraction from industry, both inside and out, was purely monetary. All that hard work and devotion at the purist level to building and promoting the sport had made it mainstream. The ski business was in the dumps and many of its management were out of touch and bitter. They did everything they could to protect their domain, and dismissed snowboarding as a fad. Ski kids converted to snowboard. They embraced the core snowboard brands while their parents continued to ski. The family roof racks had an equal number of these wide boards 3 2 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 heading to the resorts. Meanwhile skateboarders and skate shops were embracing snowboarding as their own. The formula seemed simple enough: Sign up a pro rider, come up with a catchy brand name, run a few ads, be super cool and sign a Japanese distributor and you were a full-bore snowboard brand operating as a snowboard company. Nobody was getting along, but now everyone was making real money. The Perfect S—t Storm So what could possibly go wrong? So much growth so quickly made every company look good. The snowboard business lived off this for years. One market could sustain and finance global production and sales, and everyone wanted in. There was very little business acumen and even less planning. The mistakes being made were easily covered by the market growth. All the mistakes went away. Then it happened: In 1995 the snowboard business experienced a massive hit to the head, and the industry came crashing down. And almost nobody in the industry saw it coming. Analysts saw it coming. Rational business people saw the signs – but not those closest to it. They were so immersed in the day-to-day that the big picture was way out of focus. Inventory levels were at an all-time high, the gray-market goods going into Japan strangled the traditional distribution model there, and many companies simply went out of business as their golden egg in Japan went away. This placed immediate downward pressure on price points. Inventory levels were so high that closeouts were being offered at 50% off from every brand in the business. This brought snowboard prices down by half at retail. At these prices, it was the perfect entrée for the large sporting goods retailers to enter the category. The existing distribution couldn’t handle the inventory levels and brands/factories were forced to sell knowing full well the short- and longterm implications. Brands in financial trouble needed to unload, and the only channel that could consume these units was the large-format sporting goods retailers like Sports Authority, SportMart and Gart Sports. Snowboarding had created a new channel of distribution that needed to be fed. Factories in North America and Europe were being pressured to lower prices and quality in order to fill this new channel that was clearly capable of consuming large units. For the first year or so, excess inventory from the glut of the hundreds of smaller brands that had lost their mojo satisfied these needs, but it was clear that another strategy was required for long-term sustainability. Enter China and the package business. Enter the Big Boys The business had been handed over to the large multi-brand corporations and large big-box retailers to benefit from all of the pioneers’ hard work. The big boys were dictating price points and brand-slapping to see which of their brands could extend into snowboard. A few good paint jobs and a good save story in the weekend flyer and they sold. As one of my favorite merchants once said, “We sell s—t to dopes.” Brands that were not being bought were then either sold to licensing houses or direct to retailers. This direct-to-retail license model is alive today, and brands that were once high-end and premium and are now relegated to a very opening price. Consolidation took place at such a rapid rate that all the foundation brands were left trying to figure out where they fit. Should they continue Russ Gerstacker. Photo: Max Benjamin ance spectrum there is aspiration and admiration. That’s brand equity. Why would you not want the price-conscious consumer to be able to enjoy this? Why not have an aspirational consumer tied to your brand from the start? with business as usual, look to sell/merge/ license, or just bow out? It was big business now. One industry veteran said to be successful you need to run the business like a 58-year-old, act like a 38-year-old and be able to think like an 18-year-old. The supercool “bro/brah” management style was over. Snowboarding was all about survival and making as much money as possible. Something to look forward to? WHAT CAN WE LEARN? Brand Positioning The longboard foundation leaders (a.k.a. pure play brands) have all the brand equity. Their decision to expand and extend into new price and distribution is critical. The pure play brands have to act quickly and with full conviction to lead the category. Many brands are reluctant to make the first move. They look to introduce sub-brands with little to no ties to the franchise brand. This means more marketing, more salespeople and a lot of effort justifying each channel. This doesn’t fool anyone. Retailers would always mention that this was part of the parent brand and created friction and confusion. This strategy just delays the inevitable, keeps the market unstable and allows other brands to take that share. What’s wrong with building and developing the customer for the future? You want to allow the lower-end brands to do this? Inferior product and ultimately a bad longboard experience is not good for anyone. Audi is a great example of using their brand equity to build a range of performance vehicles to attract consumers early on and keep them for life. They are not worried about having a huge range of price points in the showroom proudly showing off the rings. The standard A3 sedan and the fantasy-car R8GT can both sit in the same showroom. Consumers for both models are passionate about the brand and are looking for the ultimate brand experience they can afford. Skateboard brands that so far have distanced themselves from the sport will all of a sudden embrace it as if they’ve been there from the start. They have so much scale and power that their story will be told and consumers will believe. The big corporations with their multi-brand strategy have a lot of leverage into this channel. They have the relationships. They do huge business in these buildings already and will simply layer in another product with one of their brands on it. They can average out margins and have efficiencies the smaller brands don’t — a commodity approach. What they don’t have is the aspirational brand. What’s that worth? Quite a lot, actually. Product Positioning Time and time again, innovative performance product is the differentiator. Only the pure play brands can continue to bring innovative performance product to the market. They ride, and they know what the next innovation needs to be to better the product. It’s equivalent to the motorsport business taking all that is learned on Sunday at the track and getting into the showrooms Monday. Take the Audi A4. It comes stock, in S4 livery and in the ultimate performance monster, the RS4. The average consumer can’t tell them apart. Subtle badging speaks to what lies beneath the hood and the engineering that has gone into the car. That’s all that is necessary. Every year each model gets faster, lighter and more fun to drive. Passing down technology fully amortized allows the continuum of higher performance and challenges the engineers to develop vector tech up in the RS4. Consumers expect to get more performance for the same money year after year. This is critical and keeps them yearning for an even better experience. So imagine all three of these cars lined up beside each other at a red light: A4 on the left; S4 in the middle; RS4 on the right. Think about what is going through the mind of each driver as they glance at the cars beside them. Up and down the perform- Price & Channel Positioning It’s always easier to bring price points down. That’s been proven time and time again. There is nothing wrong with lower price points as long as the quality is still built into the product. A tiered pricing structure tied to the performance level and channel is key to a meaningful strategy. There are certainly overlap price points, but it’s key to match the price points with the channels’ ability to sell, service and grow the sport. Nike mastered this through the AIR years: non-AIR for mass distribution, nonvisible AIR for mid-channel and visible AIR for higher-end. Strategies for each of the specialty channels can also be addressed. Differentiate products going into skate, bike, ski and outdoor adrenaline channels. Defining each channel’s consumer and building to suit is key. Only a few meaningful price points will matter. Brands in the middle will get squeezed from both sides. The core longboard brands will come down with pass-down technology, and the house brands, either licensed or bought, will look for a strategy to creep up these price points with longer margins. You can’t be at every price point in every channel. The assortment plans at retail have to be spread among vendors. Sometimes your greatest strength could also be your greatest weakness. Brands that had a great program in the mid-price points but also owned the opening price-point business found it tough to reach up in price. The retailer needs to offer an assortment of brands and can only allocate so much to one brand. Understanding where your price points are most relevant is critical to ensuring a meaningful position. Who’s Got the Ball? Longboarding feels different than snowboarding. It’s not trying to be the cool guy. In fact, longboarding is more like skiing in the snow-sports world: looking for acceptance. At this crucial turning point, the sport requires leadership. The sport needs a course; it needs commitment to keeping it real from all aspects. It needs drivers. Long term, the brands looking for a quick buck will jump ship once they see signs of slowing. The last in are always the first out, and it will be no different here. Twenty years from now, what will the business look like? The snowboard business looks like the ski business did 20 years ago. AXS WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 3 3 AXS PROFILE By Bud Smith MR. GRIPTAPE Meet the Man Who Helped Cover 30 Million Skateboards I skateboarded in the summer of 1964 with my brother, Jim. We each had a skateboard that our parents had bought for us. They were laminated oak planks about 17”-18” long and about 4 ½”-5” wide – hardly comparable to skateboards made today. The trucks and wheels were steel and were obviously taken from roller skates. Nonetheless, we had a lot of fun on those skateboards. But we lost interest, as we lived in a small town without sidewalks, with roads composed of tar with pea gravel. The hot summer weather would soften the tar and the constant traffic would drive the pea gravel into it. Little did I know that riding that skateboard back in 1964 would one day give me the opportunity to become a significant part of this incredible skateboard industry and culture. My reintroduction to skateboarding began innocently enough, back in the summer of 1984. At that time, I was working for a small manufacturing company located in McHenry, Illinois, that made and sold abrasive, nonskid tapes. I was selling tapes to Caterpillar, John Deere, J.I. Case, Komatsu, Toro, Boeing, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Universal Gym, as well as to manufacturers of running boards, fitness equipment and riding mowers. One day I came home from work one day to find my 10-yearold son, Tod, sitting on the front step of our home with his friend Jason, who was visiting from Florida. As I walked up to the steps, I noticed a skateboard lying upside down on the front sidewalk — a Vision deck with pink wheels. As soon as I turned the deck over, I noticed the incredible amount of grip tape on the top of the deck. I asked Jason about the skateboard, and he told me that skateboarding was really big in Florida and a lot of the kids were into it. “Where can I get more information on skateboarding?” I asked. This skateboard and grip tape was a whole new market, and they used a lot of grip tape! Jason told me that Thrasher magazine was the bible of skateboarding, so that’s where I started. Where could I find this Thrasher magazine, though? There was no Internet, so I looked at 3 4 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 my local bookstore. They had never heard of Thrasher, so I looked in the Yellow Pages under “Skateboards.” I found skateboards listed at The Village Pedaler, a bicycle shop in the neighboring town of Crystal Lake. My son and I went to the shop, and we were amazed by the amount of skateboards and the incredible graphics. Vision Psycho Stick, Powell Sword & Skull, Alva and Santa Cruz seemed to be the most popular skateboards. They also sold Thrasher, and that’s what I was really after! The owner of the shop, Jeff Crittenden, told us just how many kids were skateboarding in the area. He was selling about 20 decks a week, and they were using Wooster grip tape. I knew Wooster Products very well, as they were my major competitor in every market in which my company sold non-skid or anti-slip tape. Wooster is a well-run company with good products, and very competitive. So I knew it would be difficult to break into the skate market with Wooster being the major supplier. (By the way, 3M was the first company to make non-slip abrasive tape. Its product was called “Safety-Walk,” which is the trade name 3M still uses today. Originally, the grit was applied to aluminum foil, which served as a moisture barrier. Once plastics became popular, 3M changed to a plastic film to replace the aluminum foil. 3M found that their regular Safety-Walk was too abrasive for skateboarders, so they eliminated about half the grain coverage and named the new product “Grip Tape.” In every other industry, it was called non-slip, antislip or abrasive tape, but to skateboarders, it’s grip tape!) I needed to know more about the skate industry, so I found and visited a local skate distributor, AWH Sales in Evanston, Illinois, owned then (and now) by Art Harris. My first time at AWH, I was astounded by the volume of business. There was a stack of skate boxes from the floor to the ceiling, and the stack was about 35 feet long! Hundreds of boxes going to skate shops. At about 2:30 p.m., I had just started to speak with Art, when the UPS truck showed up. AWH is located on Davis Street in Evanston, in one of the main retail districts in town. The UPS truck was a semi tractor and trailer, and it blocked the street until all the boxes were loaded. The cops actually stopped by and told them to hurry up, or else they would be issued a citation for blocking traffic. It was just crazy as everyone, including me, hauled out boxes for a good 30 minutes. As we talked, Art explained the high end of the skateboard industry. I was fascinated. I learned that Powell, Vision and Santa Cruz dominated the industry and were the three biggest skateboard brands in the world. Art also told me that twice a year, there was a trade show for the skateboard industry: the Action Sports Retailer trade show in Long Beach. I had to get to that trade show! But the next one wasn’t until the following January, so meantime I continued to research the skateboard market. I subscribed to Thrasher, and every month I learned more and more. I found that Wooster was indeed the primary supplier of grip tape to the skate companies. The biggest users were actually the pricepoint boards made by Makaha, Variflex and Valterra. The amount of grip tape they were using was just incredible. On a cold, snowy Saturday in January 1985, I made my first trip to California to attend the ASR show. I had no idea about the Marty “Jinx” Jimenez with world I was about to enter or how Bud at ASR. it would change my life. We landed in Long Beach about 12:30 p.m. I was wearing my heavy leather jacket, stocking cap and gloves until I walked down the ramp onto the tarmac. It was about 75 degrees, with bright sun, blue sky and a warm breeze. I couldn’t believe this was real! I rented a car and was amazed that there were six lanes of traffic in each direction on the 405 freeway. When I got to ASR, I was blown away by the spectacle. I was really out of place as I walked the trade show in my suit and tie. Casual was one thing, but this was beyond casual. Most of the attendees wore T-shirts, jeans and sneakers. The next day I wore my blue jeans and T-shirt so I didn’t look so obviously out of place. ASR closed on Sunday, so on Monday I started to visit skate companies in my suit and tie. I remember visiting with AJ Brice of Vision, Jeff and Jerry Madrid of Madrid Skateboards, John Falahee of Alva, Jill Johnson of Powell-Peralta, Henry Hester at Gordon & Smith, PD at Skull Skates, Vic at VK Skate, Barry Asher at NHS (Santa Cruz), Larry and Linda at Tracker, Walt Tiedge at Gullwing, JJ at Toxic Skates, Jay Losi at Variflex, RAX, Sport Fun, Uncle Wiggley, Action Sports, Valterra, Makaha and a bunch of other skate brands. Once I understood the skate market and the amount of grip tape they were buying, I had to find a way to get them to try my grip tape. I figured if I was able to get one of the Big Three to buy my grip tape, I could use that as an endorsement, so to speak, and the rest would follow. I contacted Bob Denike at NHS, Everett Rosecrans at Vision and Todd Hastings at Powell. These guys were the skate team managers and had direct access to the most popular skaters. I spoke with each of them and asked them to give my grip tape to their team riders and let me know how they liked it. “AS WE TALKED, ART EXPLAINED THE HIGH END OF THE SKATEBOARD INDUSTRY. I WAS FASCINATED. I LEARNED THAT POWELL, VISION AND SANTA CRUZ DOMINATED THE INDUSTRY AND WERE THE THREE BIGGEST SKATEBOARD BRANDS IN THE WORLD.” WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 3 5 AXS PROFILE By Bud Smith A couple of weeks went by. At about 2:00 one afternoon, I got a phone call: “Hello, I’m Jill Johnson with Powell-Peralta and I want to order 50 rolls of grip tape.” Wow, I had gotten my first order! The first part of my plan had worked! I was really charged up, but now I had to get more orders. So I called Jim Muir at Dogtown. Bud: “My name is Bud Smith and I sell grip tape. Would you like to buy some? Jim: “What is the name of the grip tape? Bud: “Well, I don’t have a name for it, but I know it’s good.” Jim: “Send me some samples and I’ll let you know.” Bud: “I’ll be happy to do that, but Powell just bought 50 rolls from me.” Jim: “Powell bought 50 rolls? Really? Send me 50 rolls too.” Next I called Carol Colgate at Smoothill – same conversation with the same results. Then Bruce Walker at Ocean Avenue Distribution in Florida – another 50-roll order. Vic at VK Sports went the same way. John Falahee at Alva also ordered 50 rolls. I think I made eight phone calls and got six orders on the first day. Once I started getting orders, the volume started to increase dramatically. Fifty-roll orders started to become 100roll orders, then 200 rolls. Within the first year, 500-roll orders were coming in regularly. And I remember one time the buyer at Vision called and ordered 300 rolls a week “and don’t stop until I tell you.” About three months later, I got a phone call from Vision kingpin Brad Dorfman asking me why I was sending him all this grip tape. He had grip tape everywhere! I just told him that is what the buyer ordered. Titus Dittman in Germany would order 1,000 rolls at a time. Chris Allen of Shiner was my first U.K. distributor. John Hurren of JHS in Australia was my first Australian distributor. Foreign distributors started calling me and ordering my grip tape, and pretty soon my full-time job evolved into servicing the skateboard market. I was visiting skate customers in California about three or four times a year, plus the two trade shows, so I was starting to become recognized as “the grip tape guy.” After a few years in the industry, I came up with the idea to host an industry skate party every January at the ASR show. Those parties were nothing special, but it seemed everyone came and had a good time. After a couple of years they became a favorite as people started to ask me if I was going to host another party at the next ASR. (Free food and beer will do that!) Unfortunately, ASR got word of what we were doing and shut us down. Many people still remember those parties. I remember one ASR show in particular, in 3 6 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 1990. The show had moved to the San Diego Convention Center, and there was nothing in that area except pay parking lots. This was before the days of Gaslamp, PETCO Park and condos. On the last day of the show, I left and drove to Costa Mesa so I could start calling on customers the next morning. When I got to my hotel and opened the trunk of my car, my suitcase and all my clothes and files were gone! Someone had broken into my car in San Diego and stolen everything. All I had was the clothes I was wearing. My first call on Monday was with Steve Rocco at World Industries. I told Steve what happened and asked to buy some T-shirts and pants. Steve gave me four or five shirts and three pairs of pants for free. He also asked me if I needed some money for the rest of the week, and said, “Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.” Word traveled quickly, and just about every skate customer I visited had clothes waiting for me. When I went to VK, Vic gave me a sweatshirt; Paul Schmitt gave me a couple of shirts; and Brad Dorfman gave me some Vision Street Wear shoes. I went home with two new suitcases of skate clothes! I have never forgotten how Steve Rocco and all my friends went out of their way to help me when I needed them most, and I will never forget their generosity. Over the next 25 years, I was able to grow and maintain my company’s position as the bestselling grip tape in the skate industry, even though my company didn’t advertise and didn’t understand the skate industry. I’ve made custom grip tape for Madrid Fly Paper, H-Street, Schmitt Stix, Titus, Alva, Planet Earth, Girl, World Industries, Independent, Deluxe, Alien Workshop, G&S, Element, Plan B, Zoo York and just about every skate brand that ever existed over the past 25 years. I also made custom-printed grip tape for Etnies Game of Skate, Red Bull, DC Shoes, Zumiez and a bunch of other associated skate brands as well. But in December 2010, after I had taken a non-skid tape product made by an industrial manufacturer and built it into the dominant, best-selling grip tape brand for more than 20 consecutive years, my previous employer terminated my employment. After 32 years of working for that company and covering more than 30 million skateboards with their grip tape, they told me my job description was being eliminated. Thirty-two years of work establishing and building their brand and they gave me a lump of coal for Christmas! I am still disappointed that the owner didn’t even have the class to tell me himself. It was a tough day. But then something incredible happened. The next day I started to receive phone calls and emails from just about every skate brand, and they all expressed sympathy for my situation: Bob Denike of NHS, George Powell and Jill Johnson from Powell, Steve Lake and Dean Hunter from Sector 9, Norm Macdonald from Ultimate, Dorsey Truitt from Atlantic, Art Harris, Ed Riggins, Linda Prettyman, Michael Brooke, Carol Colgate and dozens more. I was and still am deeply touched that so many people care about me. Today, I am the sales manager for MOB Grip, and I’ve been dubbed “Mr. Griptape.” We have an incredible team, and I’m working with a group of people who fully believe in and support skateboarding. I am honored to be a founding member of our industry association, the International Association of Skateboard Companies (IASC), and I was one of three people responsible for building the McHenry Zone Skate Park in McHenry, Illinois. I love the people in the skateboard industry. I’ve had an incredible career, but by far, my most prized possession is the many friends that I have made in our skateboard industry. AXS Contact Bud at firstname.lastname@example.org DISTRIBUTOR ROUNDTABLE By AXS Staff LONGBOARD DISTRIBUTORS: The Future Looks Bright Did the growth of longQ: boarding over the past year or so surprise you? Krijn Moens, Surf2Go – Netherlands Reggie Barnes, Eastern Skateboard Supply – USA: We really were not surprised. We have seen it coming for a while now. Having carried longboard brands for many years, we have seen it gradually grow into a major category for us. Steve Greenidge, S&J Sales – Canada: Perhaps a bit of surprise. I think it has created some frustration in the industry due to product shortages. In many cases product that rocketed to popularity became very scarce due to the industry’s inability to forecast the growth. Damian Hebert, South Shore Distribution – USA: Yes and no: Yes, considering it’s a weak economy, and no because of the new group of kids getting into it. Youth breeds growth, so once I saw the youth going after longboards it was easy to guess growth. The real surprise is the fact the kids were jumping on downhill speedboards and longboards. Norm Macdonald, Ultimate Skateboard Distribution – Canada: Not really; we knew it was solid and growing. Certain regions were slower taking up longboarding and are now on board, while others regions have increased what they already bought. Rich Auden, Lush Longboards – United Kingdom: We’ve seen it coming for a long time, though as we’ve not been working internationally until quite recently, it still came as a bit of a shock. Krijn Moens, Surf2Go – Netherlands: No, actually it didn’t. I still feel it is quite early stage. Awareness of longboards in Europe is far more recent than in the U.S. So we still have some catching up to do. Why do you think longQ: boarding has become so popular? Barnes: It appeals to a much larger audience than other types of skateboarding. It’s a great 4 0 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 form of transportation, and longboards have almost become a fashion statement on college campuses. You don’t have to be able to ollie or kickflip a longboard to be able to have fun; you can just put four wheels down and go. Macdonald: Accessibility, transportation, no age or gender barriers, former or new skaters taking up longboarding themselves or with their kids, exercise, green thinking. No need to huck oneself down 10 stairs. Ride, carve, cruise at one’s own pace. Greenidge: I think longboarding has an inherently larger demographic. This allows for more participation from a wide variety of participants, from commuters to hardcore racers, teens to oldschoolers, and not to underestimate the female enthusiasts. With less focus on tricks, it is a bit less intimidating for newbies. Auden: It’s accessible, has a broad appeal, has many uses and looks cool. I think it has a long way to go before we hit the market ceiling. Hebert: People like to go fast. Street skating takes so much fine tech skills that kids are scared to try such tech stuff. It’s easy to jump on a longboard and start going, and that’s all that is expected. Then the really aggressive kids go after more thrills and start bombing hills. That’s why scooters and rollerblades got popular; their learning curves were very short. And progression was also short, thus they were fads. Longboarding is looked at by many as a fad, but there is progression in longboarding. The only question is how much. That progression will determine the real future of longboarding. Moens: The popularity of surfing has grown quite significantly in Europe the last years. But there are only few places with really good surf spots. Longboarding offers a great alternative and is also a great way to practice. That was one of the first movements. The image of someone riding the streets on a longboard is quite strong. It makes others also want to join – it creates a very high “me too” impulse. It just looks like fun, and of course the people who longboard are happy people. It is all about surfing, beaches, sun and holiday feeling. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? With a modest budget everyone can do it; you don’t need snow, mountains or waves. This is supported by really strong social media — I dare to say one of the first industries "This phase of longboarding needs dealers with real vision and entrepreneurial skills." – Krijn Moens, Surf2Go Reggie Barnes, Eastern Skateboard Supply – USA Hebert: I redesigned my website a bit to include a large amount of details to give the dealers more information, allowing them to make educated buying decisions in a part of the industry where trends are changing on a dime. We have more upgrades in the pipeline to further their buying experience in a positive way. This also gives our established sales crew a deeper understanding of what they are selling. And we’ve always supported our retailers when it comes to contests and events. Macdonald: We have separate longboard reps, promotions and marketing. If even a small percentage of all bicyclers starts longboarding, we have still a long way to go. And last but not least important, boys will be boys. We are all looking for something that appeals to our youth and makes us feel young again. I certainly am. What are some things you’ve Q: done to help support your network of dealers as it relates to longboarding? Barnes: We offer our dealers the top-selling brands in longboarding. We work hard to keep up with new products as they come available and update our site daily with those products. We also educate our dealers about the potential sales growth in adding longboards to their mix if they haven’t already done so. Steve Greenidge, S&J Sales – Canada that understood the strength of social media. In my belief anyone between 6 and 60 who can walk or ride a bike is a potential longboarder. That is quite a big demographic group. It is a sport, but also a means of transportation. Being a Dutchman, I am quite familiar with bicycling. Greenidge: Our focus as we present all of our brands across the categories we serve is authenticity. It is vital that our brands are represented by people who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. With longboarding specifically, we brought Matt Livingston on board to help us get the message of our LB brands out to the retailers. Matt is a great resource for our dealers, sales reps and end user customers. As for promotion and marketing, LB has its own ways of doing things, and we have adapted to suit. We sponsor the larger international events like Danger Bay, Giant’s Head, Maryhill, etc. This differs from street skate, in which we direct more resources to print, team and regional events. Auden: Introducing our Shopatron platform is probably the biggest thing. It takes orders from our websites and farms them out to local dealers to fulfill. We’re the first to do this internationally. The idea is to complement all the other POS stuff we’re already doing by adding value to the brands for our bricks-and-mortar stockists – who are usually the retailers giving the most back to their local scenes. Moens: First, we have tried to bring many of the well-known, high-end U.S. brands to Europe and make them available to the European consumer. We also help young brands or small manufacturers with their brand. We believe the European market needs that kind of choice of product. It is also one of my weak spots, having done business consultancy for many years. I really like helping companies to grow. Moreover, we have aimed to make dealers more aware. This phase of longboarding [requires] dealers with real vision and entrepreneurial skills. These type of dealers have done really well. We try to help the high-conviction dealer with their growth. Longboarding has many different disciplines of skating, and therefore it offers so many options. Sometimes we support dealers by giving them a longboard clinic after work hours to educate the staff. We also try to support events or to be present ourselves as much as we can. Are you concerned about Q: the immense amount of longboard companies out there? Barnes: The fact that there are so many longboard companies out there is a testament to how popular longboarding has become. I’m not that concerned about it. I think that it will shake out over time and the stronger brands will survive. WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 4 1 DISTRIBUTOR ROUNDTABLE By AXS Staff Rich Auden, Lush Longboards – United Kingdom Greenidge: As with many genres — like snowboarding, for instance — longboarding will go through a growth curve, which will include an increase in brands. As with snowboarding, the market will regulate itself. The good product will prevail, and better business models will win out over those just jumping in to make a fast buck. Hebert: Yeah, to a point. It was inevitable with something growing like LB. But it’s a part of doing business in a fast-paced growth sector of skateboarding as a whole. Macdonald: Not really. While there are far too many companies, some will never make it any further than their introduction stages. We do not jump on new projects. We have a solid program with Sector 9 and a few offerings from the traditional shortboard companies. Auden: Not really; many won’t be around forever, and the market is evolving so fast that true innovation with product and distribution is rewarded with a big market share. Moens: No, not yet, but ask me again in 12 months. The market is big enough and it is part of the growth. There will be many new companies out there, but eventually some are not here to stay. Things will balance out in due course. But we are concerned about the spirit of skating. We hope the fun stays in the business. What advice would you give Q: to a longboarding company wishing to place their product with your distribution company? What should their expectations be like? Barnes: They should contact ESS via email at email@example.com with pictures and pricing of their products. We are always openminded and willing to consider new skateboarding companies to distribute. If we decide to distribute a new company they can expect to be treated like a partner. We will show their product on our website as soon as it is in stock. We will display it in our booth at trade shows and advertise it online and in magazines. It is also important that they understand that it is their job to create the demand and our job to educate our dealers about the products and get it to the stores in a timely manner. Greenidge: We do our best to bring our brands to market in the most efficient manner to enable our dealers and ultimately the retail customer to make their selection. Distributors are responsible to do this. We can’t make a brand popular; we can help it grow in many ways, but ultimately it is up to the brand owner to create a buzz for the brand. My ad4 2 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 Norm Macdonald, Ultimate Skateboard Distribution – Canada vice is to do your homework. Make a great product and create a brand that has integrity, authenticity and timeliness. Customers can see through a smoke screen. Realistic expectations of your international and domestic business are important. If you are doing 50 grand in sales in the USA, don’t expect Canada or the U.K. to do a million. Hebert: Get national recognition on a regular basis. Make it affordable for retailers to stock the product as well as for distributors, but don’t expect distributors and retailers to be advertisers and promoters. You know you’re the marketing arm; we as distributors [and] retailers are the supply arm. Point-of-purchase items are great, and making a consistent quality product is a major part of it. Macdonald: As I said, we have a solid line in place now with Sector 9 and are not looking at expanding our distribution at this point. Moens: First, we are looking for products that stand out; that is obvious. It needs to have an edge. It is also important there is some chemistry between the company and Surf2Go. We feel the personal relationship is part of the fun. The brand needs to have a clear business strategy as well as product strategy, or we can help achieving that. The product line needs to make sense – something for different tastes within a certain area of expertise. But it needs to maintain its image. You’ll see that with a lot of brands we do. Expectations are always difficult. We are able to open doors in Europe, but I am always careful [about] raising expectations. We take it step by step, and we really need to be sure the company is able to supply while growing. There needs to be some synchronization between demand in Europe and availability of product. Managing growth is a challenge. Do you see longboarding Q: going through the same cycle as the street skating market? Boom and then bust – a flood of blanks, shop decks, etc. Barnes: First of all, I don’t think street skating is busted. The main reason that blanks and shop decks have affected sales of street decks is because there is not enough differentiation between the shape and construction of street decks. It’s pretty easy to copy a seven-ply maple popsicle shape. Hopefully the longboard brands can learn from this and will focus on developing products that are unique in shape as well as construction and avoid the negative effects that blanks and shop decks have had on the street skating market. Greenidge: That’s a hard question because there are things that are a reality in LB that are not so in Skate and vice versa. LB will go through a similar cycle as snowboarding and street skating in terms of a proliferation of brands. I don’t expect LB to have quite as much of an issue with blanks, as in LB the consumable is wheels, not decks like Street. Street customers need a steady supply of cheaper decks if they are avid skaters, as they break them consistently. LB will need wheels more often; however, I believe there are many choices and differing price points in the market already. We are a ways off from the private-label problem that street skating has. However, you are starting to see some chain stores starting to private-label the longboard product in addition to street product. I don’t believe that core shops will bother trying to follow the same direction in shop boards. Complete LB packages are too expensive to economically manufacture at private label, unless you have large buying power like some chains do. Hebert: Not sure. Yeah, I already see the blank and discount thing seeping in, but they are way behind the progressive brands. The seven-ply brands are the ones that will feel the “importer” brand/blank effect, but brands that keep true to their quality and progression toward newer and better ways to make a board will keep those importer/blank issues at bay. But they must be ahead all the time, or we will see a repeat of the A perfect shop in my dream would be a shop that has all levels of skateboarding: longboards, ditch boards, pool/park boards and street boards. That way the shop will be a better shop compared to the big-box/mall shops. – Damien Hebert, South Shore Distribution regular board market. You have to produce a product that shows a real value to it – be that special shapes or special additions to the item like fiberglass or Kevlar [or] something – and make it hard for China to duplicate. trade show, last year, and only about 20 out of 2,050 brands were about longboarding. It has been a while [since] a movement in action sports has been that strong. Probably it is best to compare with snowboarding in the ’70s. Macdonald: Yes, somewhat; it will level off but not bust. I do not see much potential in shop or blank longboards, a far more expensive proposition than short boards. Areas that have been strong may level off somewhat; other areas late in the game will grow. Q:Any final comments? Auden: Yes and no. Certainly there will be a peak, then things will die off a little, but longboarding has such a wide appeal and a greater adaptability that the trough will be nowhere near as bad. Street skating has pigeonholed itself in a way that longboarding probably never will. Greenidge: Authentic is the word of the day. Moens: Partially. I believe it won’t be that severe. Longboarding has a much more relaxed culture, and it is driven very strong from within the industry. There are also so many more options in shapes of the decks. Many brands have now a far more technical, advanced product. These are not that easily made in large volume. And capacity issues and meeting demand are still an issue. But for the less advanced products, the cheaper range of products, the risk is certainly there. It is a cycle, so what goes up, must come down. Do you see more growth in the longboard market over Q: the next few years? Barnes: Yes, I think we will see continued growth for at least a few more years in the longboard market. Hopefully when it does level off it will continue to be a healthy category for many years to come. Greenidge: I do believe that LB will continue to grow into a category in and of itself in action sports shops and not be regarded as an offshoot of street skate. There is already a vibrant international roster of great brands with complete legitimacy. This will help the growth and longevity of the genre. Hebert: I think so – as long as everyone stays focused on advancing this part of skateboarding. Moens: Yes, still. As I mentioned, I believe we are still in the early years of a potential huge market. I was at ISPO, Europe’s biggest sports Barnes: I’d just like to say that we should all be grateful for the growth in the longboarding market. It has helped our industry in this tough economy. Hebert: A perfect shop in my dream would be a shop that has all levels of skateboarding: longboards, ditch boards, pool/park boards and street boards. That way the shop will be a better shop compared to the big-box/mall shops. And [it would have] all the gear to support it. No mall or big-box shop could even think about competing! Just imagine: A 16-year-old walks into a shop to get a new set of LB wheels, but his little brother wants a street board because he saw someone like Nyjah Houston on ESPN ripping it up. Both get what they want, and the shop can still sell Dad a nice cruiser board or ditch board like he used to ride “back in the day,” or some nice shoes so dad can look cool while hanging out with his kids. Basically, the best option in my opinion for retailers to survive is to be completely diverse in the industry they love. Shunning street boards or longboards just isn’t a smart way of thinking. Both have value and both will ebb and flow, thus you’ll be relevant either way. Macdonald: Skating has been around for a long time and will continue well into the future. Longboarding is and will be an integral part of skating forever. Moens: I have great sympathy for the relaxed atmosphere and social character of longboarding. In a time of growing individualism, there is a community sharing their love for longboarding and each other’s well being while skating. Longboarding just connects people. I just looked at a couple of videos of the Broadway Bomb – what fun! My next goal is to participate myself and be one of them. I hope longboarding maintains these positive characteristics. AXS WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 4 3 TA ILE RS AT TE NT IO N AC TIO N SP OR TS RE JOIN US FOR A COMPLIMENTARY LUNCH AT TO CELEBRATE THE LAUNCH OF AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER COVERS THE WORLD OF LONGBOARDING EXCLUSIVELY. THE MAGAZINE PROVIDES DETAILED INFORMATION THAT WILL ARM SALES STAFF WITH THE PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE THEY NEED TO SELL MORE EFFECTIVELY. THURSDAY, JANUARY 5th, 2012 FROM THE HOURS OF 11 AM TO 3PM Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que is located at 300 South Pine Drive in Long Beach (right next to the Convention Center). Please RSVP and your add your shop to our mailing list by visiting http://bit.ly/pamhWx For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Michael Brooke at 905-738-0804 4 4 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 4 5 PUBLIC PROFILE By Michael Brooke BEHIND THE SCENES AT AXS GEAR The magazine you are holding grew out of the AXS Gear longboard website created by Rick Tetz. When I first met Rick three years ago, we had no idea we’d find ourselves one day publishing a longboard trade magazine. But that’s the great thing about longboarding – anything can happen as long as you are determined. These are still early days and opportunities are plentiful, should you wish to invest the energy. Believe me when I say that we’ve both invested a great deal of energy on longboarding! Rick created the AXS Gear website to provide consumers with information on where to purchase longboards and to give companies an opportunity to showcase their products. The response has been tremendous; there are now more than 4,000 registered longboard shops at the site. This magazine aims to be an extension of the site. But we wanted to give you a little more insight into Rick and share with our readership some of his knowledge. Since most readers are familiar with my work with Concrete Wave magazine, I wanted to give you some background on Rick. Ours is a unique partnership, and we are both very strongly committed to the success of longboarding via print and pixels. Rick rode for the Sims Canadian Team back in the day. Photo: Mark Gilmore Opposite page: Interview for a piece on helmet safety at CalStreets. 4 6 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 R ick started skateboarding in 1975. Back in the late ’70s, he opened up a very successful skate shop in Vancouver called CalStreets. “A number of years ago, I hurt my back and my doctor forbade me from skateboarding,” says Rick. “But I had a friend, Pat Montgomery, who had a longboard, and that’s what drew me back into skateboarding.” After Rick hurt his back, he had the opportunity to learn about Web programming and design. “With my first company, WebLab, I designed security protocols and put together camera arrays to help [reduce] shrinkage at various retail shops. I had learned about shoplifting when I ran my own shop. I knew how kids did it.” Rick also created a website, calstreets.com, that received an enormous amount of traffic for something fairly unusual – scanned advertisements from old skateboard magazines. The site has become extremely successful; people spend hours looking at the old ads. “There is something about the history of skateboarding that just draws them in,” Rick says. But something else was also drawing folks to the site, and it has tremendous implications for shops. “When I created calstreets.com, I didn’t use HTML,” Rick says. “The whole site is databasedriven. Every skateboard name from the past 30 years is on my site. Everything is meta/alttagged, including videos and photos. So when I launched, Google just ate it up. This gets calstreets.com ranked high in the search engines. When it comes to helping shops gain some traction on the Web, Rick is adamant that they don’t keep only to third-party sites. “Some skate shops and companies only have a Facebook page,” he says. “This is not a huge confidence builder. They need to plan properly – have their own dedicated server, their own website, just in case something goes wrong.” Rick is also skeptical about the use of Gmail for a shop’s email address. “I don’t want a third party having access to my information,” he says. “It too is not a huge confidence builder.” What does impress Rick is how a website like Daddies Board Shop integrates reviews into the product offering. “Their cart allows easy upselling of products,” he says. “They also concentrate on product description and info. You simply click the product you’re interested in, and up pops a comprehensive review – simple and yet extremely valuable.” As a former retailer, Rick is deeply concerned about the fate of the current crop of shops that are strictly bricks and mortar. He says shops that fail to embrace digital are taking a huge risk. “They must work towards having an-online presence,” he says. Rick feels there are a number of other things that skate retailers can learn from other successful online shops, citing the example of ncix.com, which sells a wide variety of computer products. they either point us to another store or just say, ‘I don’t know.’” Rick acknowledges that a number of shops sell lots of longboards without a huge amount of product knowledge, but says a day of reckoning is coming soon. “There is a bit of a disconnect between the retailer and many longboard consumers who have little patience for weak product knowledge and limited brand selection,” he says. “A lot of skate shops made decent money selling street skateboards for years and years. Longboarding started to gain a following, and a number of shop owners were puzzled. They were out of their comfort zone and still refuse to adapt to what is happening. The shops who ignore longboarding do so at their own risk.” Rick has seen what happens when a category gets hot. “I remember when BMX suddenly became FIVE IDEAS THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR LONGBOARD BUSINESS RUN CLINICS ON LONGBOARDING • Hold intro classes for all who wish to attend. • Make them weekly or monthly, but be consistent. • Teach people how to skate safe, maintain their longboard and learn advanced riding techniques. • Target different clinics to beginners, intermediates and advanced riders. • As you get more comfortable and word spreads, offer private instruction. RENT OUT YOUR LONGBOARDS • A great way for folks who might want to ride, but are without their board. • A great way to for people to try before they buy. • Make sure the rider signs a waiver, and secure the transaction with a credit card. Keep a piece of ID, too. BUILD A WALL OF WHEELS “They have these crazy ‘Blue Light Specials’ promotions that they’ll do at 3:30 a.m.,” he says. “People flock to the site for an item that is 85% off and then wind up purchasing other things.” Website translation is another key thing that Rick has zeroed in on. “It’s more than just getting a plug-in for translation,” he says. “The power to draw more overseas visitors comes from getting Google’s international sites to find you. This can be tricky, but it is worth pursuing.” Rick wouldn’t disclose how he works with Google translation, but if you’re interested, you can contact him at email@example.com. The one key element that runs throughout this magazine and on the website is education. Rick says he has seen firsthand what happens when the folks behind the counter are out of their depth. “My team and I at AXS have gone out to visit a number of action sports shops. When we ask detailed questions about longboards, popular in the early 1980s and skateboarding took a dive,” he says. “Thankfully, I had BMX product in my skate shop, but that was only because I kept my finger on the pulse of what customers wanted.” Shops and longboard companies are encouraged to add their information to the database at axsgear.com. There is no charge to do this. If desired, listings can be upgraded for a nominal fee. The site also features a wide variety of news from the longboard community. Like Rick, I truly believe this is just the beginning. For the past 15 or so years, longboarding has grown organically, winding its way through the consciousness of many different demographics. What started within the surf community slowly became absorbed by college kids. Things started to heat up with the advent of sliding and freeriding, and now we have 8-yearolds bombing hills and wearing full-face helmets. AXS is here to inspire, to educate and to ensure that the spirit of longboarding continues for many decades to come. AXS • A simple but extremely effective way of showcasing the multitudes of wheels on the market. • Customers LOVE to touch the merchandise, and this way, they can actually spin the wheels, squeeze the urethane and compare and contrast different wheels. • Have short explanations next to each wheel (size, durometer, intended use, etc.). • It makes a huge statement when you walk into a shop and see a wall of wheels – it screams, “We are focused!” USE SOFTRUCKS™ ON YOUR DEMO DECKS • Customers love to take boards and ride them, but this can cause chaos in the store. • Mounting a set of Softrucks™ on your bestselling decks or the ones you wish to promote allows folks to stand, lean and bounce on the deck without rolling. • Softrucks™ are available via garagemfg.com. PUT EXPLANATORY NOTES ON ALL DECKS • Categories include: Beginner-entry level/sliding/ downhill/long-distance/carving/slalom. • Helps customers make sense of the many different deck styles and types. • Categorizing your product helps consumers be informed, and when they are better informed, they make the right purchasing decisions. WINTER 2011 | AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER 4 7 4 8 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 BOOK SHELF BRANDWASHED THE FOUR KINDS OF SALES PEOPLE By Martin Lindstrom OVERVIEW Martin Lindstrom gets into people's heads — literally — to find out what they feel about certain brands and why they make specific buying decisions: He conducts fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) studies that show how the brain “lights up” when exposed to certain brands. He gets heavily involved with neuroscience to examine how consumers become addicted to their possessions. He even conducts a multimillion-dollar experiment on word-of-mouth marketing. What does this all add up to? Well, for one thing, I was stunned by some of the revelations that Lindstrom presents. Marketers are doing some amazing things to trigger our subconscious. There are some truly frightening insights about how companies use personal data to target their customers. WHY READ IT? Of all the information that Lindstrom presents, the chapter on word-of-mouth marketing will resonate the most with action sports retailers. We all know that word of mouth is incredibly persuasive, but Lindstrom explains in exquisite detail just how effective it can be. While most shops can’t afford the ridiculous marketing budgets of the chain stores or Fortune 500 companies, they can definitely modify some of Lindstrom’s concepts and ideas; it’s just a matter of scaling them to size. This book is about the psychology of desire and how our emotions play a huge role in our purchase decisions. If you’re in the business of retail, I am quite confident it will give you at least half a dozen excellent ideas on how to sell more product. That’s well worth the $25 investment. WE ARE ALL WEIRD By Seth Godin By Chuck Mache OVERVIEW This gem of a book was published more than four years ago, but that shouldn’t stop you from picking it up. Mache presents this timeless information in a very different way than most business books. He uses a story to expose the traits and characteristics of four types of salespeople: Parker the Performer, Paula the Professional, Craig the Caretaker and Sarah the Searcher. This book explains how and why salespeople excel — or don’t. It provides a clear and precise description of how each type goes about selling, exposes their strengths and weaknesses and provides expert insight on what each type of salesperson requires to achieve next-level success. WHY READ IT? We all recognize it’s important to hire the right people for the job. But when it comes to hiring sales staff, it’s vital that you hire correctly, because if sales aren’t happening, you’re in big trouble. This book can be the catalyst to motivating your top salespeople to become even stronger, and it can offer piercing yet thoughtful insights to those who may not really be cut out for a career in sales. A great tool for separating the wheat from the chaff without burning up the farm. OVERVIEW I am big fan of Seth Godin. In fact, I own most of the books he’s written and always come away with a few good ideas. If you’ve never read his work, I recommend you start with The Purple Cow. We Are All Weird combines some of his greatest ideas from Tribes, The Purple Cow and Linchpin. This book is a manifesto about creating something remarkable that competes with the “middle-of-theroad normal.” He pleads with readers to embrace the fringe: “If you persist in trying to be all things to all people, you will fail. The alternative, then, is to be something important to a few people.” Specialty retailers are living, breathing examples of being on the cutting edge. They offer unique products and support to their customers. The question is how you continually move things forward in this age of aggressive competition. WHY READ IT? Although this book is slim, clocking in at just under 100 pages, it delivers some thought-provoking ideas. However, it’s not simply another manifesto on “niche” marketing. It’s about embracing your passion and doing productive and useful work for the tribe that cares about you. Finding, cultivating, organizing and leading this tribe and embracing their weirdness can be a challenge, but, Godin says, the rewards are truly wonderful. AXS AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER NEXT ISSUE – Arrives Early Spring 2012 • Satisfying Gear Heads • Brooklyn’s Longboard Loft • More on Bearings MARKETING WEBSITES WORTH CHECKING OUT ries.typepad.com adcontrarian.blogspot.com Laura Ries has some terrific insights on the power of focus and branding. While the pace of her posts has slowed somewhat, there is enough information to keep you thinking for days. Here are just two examples: For a dose of marketing reality, you can do no better than to jump over to this site, written by Bob Hoffman. He’s an advertising guru with decades of experience in the business. Hoffman revels in calling BS on a lot of what we are told is correct about social media, marketing and advertising. You might not always agree with him, but you’ll be fascinated by his insights. Google is a monster today. And like most monsters, it thinks it is invincible and not subject to the laws of marketing. But nothing could be further than the truth. Google should study history. They don’t want to be the AOL or Yahoo of tomorrow. Google needs to surround its strong search brand with other brands and other brand names that dominate new emerging categories. Toyota did that with Lexus, Prius and Scion. Google that Google. Broad ideas like confidence and quality aren’t specific enough to be ownable. And even if you want own something like “great customer service,” you don’t do it with a “we love our customers Facebook page.” You do it with a specific and tangible concept like: “Free shipping. Both ways.” The concept that put Zappos in the mind and gave Tony Hsieh something to tweet about. 5 0 AXS LONGBOARD RETAILER | WINTER 2011 Top-down branding works in a few categories – fashion, booze, cigarets and some luxury goods. Account planners, marketing coordinators and others with limited vision think that because these are heavily advertised categories this is how advertising works in general. In fact, about 95% of the stuff we buy is not fashion, booze, cigarets or luxury goods. It’s mayonnaise and toothbrushes and shower curtains and socks. If you are not in the business of selling fashion, booze, cigarets or luxury goods, you would be wise to forget about “brand” advertising and focus your ad dollars on differentiating your products. The strongest brands are built “bottom-up” – by outstanding product advertising. As we always say around Ad Contrarian headquarters, we don’t get them to try our product by convincing them to love our brand. We get them to love our brand by convincing them to try our product.