The Great Consolidation

Prominent brands feel the pinch.

It was long in coming, but it seems to have hit so suddenly and so hard – skateboarding is undergoing the correction that every oversaturated market eventually does. It happened to snowboarding a few years ago, and now it’s our turn.

A new company that seemed to have a bright future, another East Coast hardgoods institution, and one of modern skateboarding’s most established brands have all suffered the fate that others will likely follow as the skateboard market finally begins to contract under the weight of so many brands. That being the case, business overall continues to grow, with U.S. shops reporting summer sales up 23 percent* from last year.

Board brands seem to be the hardest hit, with deck sales leveling or dropping for most companies. Even so, SKATEboarding Businesswas shocked to learn that Plan B and two East Coast companies, New Jersey’s Transit Skateboard Authority and Maryland’s East Coast Urethane, have folded.

Tommy Caudill of Armageddon Distribution was careful to point out that Plan B’s fate was strictly a business decision – in the tough hardgoods market, it became impossible to pay Plan B’s all-star team their salaries. Caudill and partner Danny Way, who also co-owned Plan B with Colin McKay, see the change as a positive step in the development of Armageddon, which still carries XYZ clothing and Platinum skateboards. In the meantime, Way has joined the Platinum team, and the other members of the Plan B team began entertaining offers soon after the news got out that the company folded.

Mike Vallely of Transit doesn’t see the demise of the brand he put his heart and soul into building up as a positive development, and is taking some time off with teammates Charlie Wilkins, Stacey Lowery, and Tom Boyleto weigh their options. He says they’ll try to stick together and join something as positive as their vision for Transit was. But with the industry in flux right now, he’d rather wait a while.

Another East Coast operation, East Coast Urethane, also eliminated all but one of its hardgoods brands. Owner Mike Agnew says that diminishing sales for Silverstar and Capital skateboards forced him to reconsider his priorities. Agnew has been operating a retail store and Intensity Mailorder in a Washington, D.C. suburb for over a decade, and will continue with those businesses plus his original hardgoods brand, Nicotine wheels. Like Caudill, Agnew is relieved to be free of the administrative and manufacturing headaches associated with board companies, and to focus on his core businesses.

For some perspective on this trend toward consolidation and what some companies are doing about it, see Something NewIn Skateboards (page 10), The Future Of Skateboarding?(page 23), and New Pro – Just Add Water(page 32).

* Based on the TransWorld SKATEboarding BusinessSummer 1998 Retailer Survey.