Shops report record growth.
Much has been said about skateboarding’s cyclical trends in popularity, and how strong it is this time around, but until now the industry’s growth has been difficult to quantify. From boom to bust, and back again, this is skateboarding’s third peak. History suggests that the sport should be creeping toward another economic downtime, as it did in the early 80s and early 90s, but reported overall shop sales suggest that either the number of skateboarders is growing at a remarkable rate, or that significant numbers of non-skaters are shopping for clothing and shoes at traditional skate shops. Most likely, the truth lies somewhere in between. In any case, skateboarding has finally broken the billion-dollar barrier in projected retail sales for 2000–a small slice of the 100-billion dollars Generation Y teens are expected to spend this year, but a milestone for the skateboard industry.
SKATEboarding Business has been surveying shops for the past three years to track trends in sales. Responding shops range from skateboard-only retailers to mall-based beach shops. Most carry equipment for at least two sports, though 22 percent of respondents to the Spring 2000 Retailer Survey report selling skateboard-related products only (hardgoods, softgoods, and shoes). Other than skateboards and skateboard-related goods, other popular product categories sold by respondents include the following: snowboard hardgoods, boots, and apparel (carried by about 60 percent of shops surveyed); junior and girls’ apparel (carried by about 47 percent of shops surveyed); surf apparel (carried by about 32 percent of shops surveyed); and in-line hardgoods (carried by about 21 percent of shops surveyed).
The surveys focus on which brands are the strongest in the decks, wheels, trucks, apparel, and shoes categories, but other questions probe overall sales levels. With an estimated 600-million dollars in retail sales for 1997, surveys from early 1998 indicate annual growth in total shop sales averaged 26 percent, totaling 756-million dollars. In ’99 it grew another 18.5 percent to 896-million. But this spring, the skateboard boom continued as respondents to the Spring 2000 Retailer Survey reported an average 28.8-percent growth in sales since spring ’99. Only five percent of respondents noted a decline in overall sales activity, and another twelve percent reported that sales were about the same as the year before.
With the general mainstreaming of the sport, much of the growth can be attributed to apparel and shoe sales to non-participants, but hardgoods have remained a significant percentage of overall shop sales. If skateboarding hasn’t kicked its vicious ten-year boom-to-bust cycle, then it seems to at least have delayed the downturn.
The information in the TransWorld SKATEboarding Business Spring 2000 Retailer Survey Report reflects general sales activity at 132 skateboard shops across the continental United States. The information used in this report was provided via mail survey and telephone interview. These results do not reflect actual market share, nor do they imply endorsement of particular brands by TransWorld Media.
Respondents report that they order half of their inventory from independent distributors, and the other half direct from companies. In Spring 1998, respondents reported ordering 55 percent of their inventory directly from manufacturers, indicating no significant change in their purchasing habits.
As a percentage of their total skateboard-related product sales, respondents report the following: decks (29 percent), shoes (22 percent), apparel (17 percent), wheels (12 percent), trucks (11 percent), and accessories (9 percent).
When asked which brands lead sales in various categories, respondents listed their answers, beginning with the top brand and ending with the fifth best. Each position in the list was given a score of five for first place, down to one for fifth place. Individual brands therefore accrued points to determine their ranking. Points are indicated in parentheses.
Nationwide, shops surveyed report that skateboard-deck sales are led by Element (396), followed by Black Label (183), Shorty’s (166), and World Industries (163). The next best-selling deck type is the shop-logo board (138).
Respondents report that skateboard-deck sales are dominated by pro models (43 percent), followed by logo/team decks (28 percent), blank/non-graphic decks (14 percent), and shop decks (11 percent). Another four percent of sales are attributed to longboards and other nonstandard skateboards. The most popular deck width is 7.8 inches.
The most interesting change over the past three years has been the dramatic rise of the Shorty’s and Element brands, which have led the deck category of the Retailer Survey since spring 1999. Another interesting trend has been the gradual growth of shop-logo decks, apparently at the expense of the traditional blank deck, which throughout 1998 accounted for about 25 percent of reported deck sales.
Shops surveyed report that truck sales are dominated nationally by Independent (466), without exception. Other popular brands include Venture (304), Grind King (254), Destructo (244), and Tensor (136).
Independent has consistently dominated the truck category of the Retailer Survey. Venture has led the rest of the pool overall, with Grind King fluctuating in and out of the third spot. Of the newer truck brands, Destructo seems to have made the greatest impact thus far, consistently reported as a top-five brand.
Wheel sales are dominated among respondents by Spitfire (587), without exception. Other popular brands include Darkstar (130), Pig (103), and Ghetto Child (103), with blank wheels (98) following close behind. The most popular wheel size is 55 mm.
Since 1997, Spitfire has been the clear leader in the wheel category, followed by Powell, including its Mini Logo line of pricepoint wheels. Other consistently strong brands include Pig Wheels and World Industries, with Darkstar coming up in the past year.
Respondents report that the Element (155) brand leads apparel sales, followed by Shorty’s (154), Volcom (129), and Independent (100), with DC (88), Fourstar (88), and Alphanumeric (87) following close behind.
Element and Shorty’s have made a remarkable jump in the past year to occupy the top apparel spots in the Retailer Surveys that Droors and World Industries previously held. Volcom has also been a consistently strong brand.
Respondents report that éS (244) leads the skateboard-shoe category, followed by DC Shoe Co. (200), Emerica (171), Osiris (158), and Globe (152). While éS and DC Shoe Co. have been swapping the top two spots since we began surveying retailers in 1997, the Sole Technology brands (éS, Emerica, and Etnies) as a group have remained the strongest. Axion and Globe have also made an impact, with Osiris reported in the top five for the first time with the latest survey.
One section of the survey asks retailers what they’re most satisfied with and what they’re dissatisfied with overall. Unsurprisingly, 39 percent reported that they are most pleased with the sport’s increased popularity and increased sales. Another nine percent are happiest with current product quality. Other aspects of their businesses that several retailers reported being most satisfied with are increased hardgoods sales (seven percent), the growing number of skateparks in their areas (five percent), and customer service from companies and distributors (also at five percent).
On the other end of the spectrum, fourteen percent of retailers surveyed cite over distribution in their areas as their greatest concern, including mall-based chain stores that carry skateboard goods. The next most cited problem is low margins on hardgoods, as reported by nine percent of the respondents. Eight percent report
being most dissatisfied with customer service from distributors, companies, and reps, which contrasts with the shops that reported receiving exceptional customer service. Other concerns are shipping costs (eight percent), and the increased number of shoe brands (seven percent).
Further down the list of things they’re most dissatisfied with is weather, reported by only two percent of responding shops. Apparently they aren’t among the 60 percent that also sell snowboard equipment.