The Longboard Industry A Look Forward
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Q:Will 2012 be a strong year in 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 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 taketime 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.
Q:What are one or two key things 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 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.
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!
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 shop out there. Giving back to your local market has always been good business. Lake: Educate themselves on the products they are selling.
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.
Q:What is one of your key goals 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 having our mainstream Attack trucks ready to assemble completes with is the key to our early success in 2012.
Imbrie: Continuing expanding on our compositeexpertise. 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).
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.
Gesmer: Our primary goal is the same as always: to radically ex pand 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 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