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Skatepark of Tampa
4215 East Columbus Drive
Tampa, Florida 33605
TransWorld Business caught up with Barak Wiser, Rob Meronek and Ryan Clements from the Skatepark of Tampa to talk to them about what’s been happening on the retail level. Check out what they had to say below.
What's the square footage of the store?
BW: I think it's like 1300 sq ft.
Had you ever thought about expanding the store by opening other locations ("SkatePark Of Des Moines" has a nice ring to it)? And if so, why haven’t you done it yet?
RC: Funny that you ask this because it’s something that we discuss literally all of the time. I can’t really say what has held us back thus far, other than the fact that we’re always slammed with our current projects. Between the Shop, Online, events at SPoT, SPoTlight, and Damn Am, we literally always have something going on. I think in the near future we’re going to break out and do something new. I highly doubt that it would be a full-blown skate park. It would be really tough to duplicate the way we’ve done it and we’ve got a great deal with the buildings, etc. here, so I’m thinking more of a satellite store in the right part of town, or in the right town near Tampa.
What percentage of the business is online vs. brick and mortar?
BW: It's about 50/50
When developing the site and online store, what were some of the hiccups you encountered along the way?
RM:We went through a few different processes on how to handle product photography. I think we got it down to be pretty efficient today. Adam Kearley our product photographer is doing great. I am constantly writing new features into our billing and customer service system to help catch credit card fraud. Most things are small tweaks here and there to make a business process run more efficient. We’ve been doing the online store since 2001 so over all those years of small tweaks and improvements in our software and business processes, we’ve got it pretty dialed now.
None of that matters, however, if you have bad employees. We’ve got Jeff Lako handling all online orders and service with us now and it’s the best it can be. One thing I did recently was modify our software and a bunch of steps in the entire business process of handling an order so that all paper was eliminated in the process. We even eliminated toner by switching to thermal printers. The shipping label is the only paper used and UPS hooks us up with that for free. When a customer orders, they only get an electronic receipt, no printed one in the box. They can get their receipt online and print it themselves if needed. When customers return things or contact us for service, we can easily look up a customer’s order history with any piece of information they can give us whether it’s their email address, actual order number, or even narrow it down by the product they’re returning. No caveman receipt for anything is needed.
I have also recently learned that customers appreciate good service more than free shipping with “X” order amount. This year, we jumped off that bandwagon. Our service and selection is at the top of the scale and we made the decision to stop the standard free shipping offers. Our sales have not been affected by that.
Rob, you're in charge of the lion's share of the content on the Web site. How has all the content helped business? Does it translate to sales online?
RM: I like to believe it does. The top two most viewed pages on the site are the front page and the new shoes page being a close second. I’ve been doing the site for a decade now and have always thought of it as just a way to make my friends laugh by putting random stuff about skateboarding and hanging out on there. I have always also focused on making the site a place for good information. Quality information and content I think will bring you back to a site better than an animated GIF or Flash ad ever will. We have pretty much no ads on our site. The few we do are ones we make ourselves or hook up our friends at skate companies with. We rely solely on the store’s sales to pay for 500gig per month bandwidth bills and website hosting fees. It’s worked out well so far.
What are the closest competing skate shops?
BW: We are the only skate shop in Tampa. There are several malls in the area with Zumiez if you classify that as a skate shop. Then there's West Side, The Finest and Southern Boarder but they're 30 or so miles away.
What product(s) is/ are currently your top performers online?
BW:Nike SB Footwear, Vans Footwear
What’s the percentage of inventory dedicated to:
Accessories (sunglasses, watches, bags, etc)?
What's the percentage of inventory dedicated to footwear?
What are the top three most profitable product categories?
BW: Footwear, denim, T-shirts.
What are the top three best selling brands from each category?
BW: Footwear, Nike SB, Vans, Emerica. Jeans/Pants, KR3W, Altamont, Fourstar. T-Shirts, Nike SB, Altamont, Diamond.
Are you altering the way you buy for 09? If so, how?
BW: Yes, I'm always taking a look at everything and the changes and how they may apply to ordering. I'm ordering more with plans to be flat but room to reorder as needed at this point. That can change slightly each month as well.
What do you see, in a macro-economical sense in skateboarding?
RC: We've seen lots of layoffs, budget cuts, and everyone's tightening their belts.
I never made it to micro or macro-economics in college, so I’ll give it my best shot here. What we’re seeing here at SPoT are flat numbers. We have literally been the same for the last three years. During that time we have done a better job of managing our money with expenses, but we’ve seen literally the same number of participants and gross sales at the counter.
So as we’ve tightened up operations behind the scenes to accommodate for increased expenses, we were sort of “ready” for what’s going on with the economy by default. However, although the overall economy is down, it seems for some reason that consumers are still spending on the small items. I’ve
read that attendance at movie theaters is up and fast food restaurants are killing it. We are in the same boat price-wise as those types of businesses, so that’s my guess on why we’re doing okay. As far as light at the end of the tunnel: We’re always doing our best to keep things afloat and run a well-oiled machine and we will continue to do that during a good, bad, or indifferent economy.
Due to the Tough Economic Times, are you working closer with any particular brands?
Collabs, partnerships, etc?
BW: Yeah, we're trying to work closer with more and more brands to see what works best mutually. For example, Element is working on sponsoring our lessons, Altamont is sponsoring our Back to School Bash, DVS is sponsoring our Spring Roll Contest, Es is installing an amazing new shoe wall, as well as several other brands have stepped it up and installed custom displays to help merchandise and showcase their product better.
How do you spot trends?
BW: Sometimes it's just instinct, I think. But for the most part it's become a way of thinking and looking at everything. Working at a skate park is a big help because with all the events we host, we see all the rippers, of all ages and it helps keep the ear to the streets without leaving the park. Other ways are asking certain questions, looking at what people are wearing constantly, who that person is and why they're wearing it, where they're from ,how old they are, their swagger, music, and of course the obvious: what the most influential skaters are wearing and skating in. We also have a great reporting system that keeps me up to date in all categories and brands with what's moving and what's not.
If you could run a skate company for one day, which brand would it be and what would you do differently?
RC: I would take over Deathwish and fire Antwuan. Wait, I can come up with a better answer than that. Actually, no, I can’t. That’s a really good question, but a tough one at the same time. The brands I respect are already doing the right thing. How about this? I take over all of the brands for a day and dedicate enormous marketing budgets to support Skatepark of Tampa, Damn Am, and SPoTlight Productions. Talk about a win-win for everyone! We get support and the brands’ sales increase. Brand managers and marketing managers, just email me right now and let’s get this going!