Sector 9 President Marcus Valdivia weighs in on the State of Skateboarding
It’s been nearly four years since we last formally caught up with the Sector 9 crew. In honor of Go Skateboarding Day last week, and our new story series, The Archives, dedicated to highlighting and reviving past stories in our space, we sat down with President Marcus Valdivia, who took the reigns of the company in 2013 after Co-founder and longtime industry vet Steve Lake stepped down from the position.
Valdivia has also been an anchor at Sector 9, and is going on his sixteenth year with the San Diego-based company. He started his career in the warehouse, and has grown with the business over the years in roles like national sales rep and international sales manager, before taking his present position as president. Valdivia has seen a major shift in the market over the last several years, which was backed up with the most recent data—especially as it relates specifically to the longboard category— presented at the 2015 IASC Skate Summit, he says.
Through his eyes, much of what has happened over the last couple of years can be attributed to a “me too” mentality that many within the niche have taken. For Sector 9, a company that has a rich history in the space dating back to the 1990s, the idea of getting into the industry and not supporting the sport seems counterintuitive.
“We just started having fun and making skateboards and sharing that, and then it grew,” says Valdivia. “Then it became a job and this category that everyone wants to get ahold of.”
““Flooding the market with product is never good. It happens all the time. There are only so many users and so much product. We've never been territorial about this category, it’s all about the fun and camaraderie, but when it comes to business, they've shown that they don't really care.”„—Marcus Valdivia, Sector 9 President
Valdivia acknowledges that a handful of brands have taken the right steps to support growth by contributing through global events, marketing, and sponsoring riders. The gray area, in his eyes, is when companies enter the space with a different approach. He looks at this “commoditizing” of longboarding as a potential reason why the overall market share has been compromised.
“Flooding the market with product is never good. It happens all the time. There are only so many users and so much product,” Valdivia says. “We've never been territorial about this category, it’s all about the fun and camaraderie, but when it comes to business, they've shown that they don't really care.”
In the same vein, Sector 9 has been stepping up its game on the business side and evolving internally, something that Valvdivia strongly believes will also give the company an edge moving forward into 2016 and beyond. While many companies in the space are turning their focus to include vertical channels, such as e-commerce and direct to consumer, he believes that a smarter strategy—and the next step up from omni-channel— is what is being dubbed U-commerce, or the concept that anyone, anywhere holding you're product becomes the closest point for distribution.
“I hope that we can modernize our business internally so we can take advantage of systems like that,” Valdivia says. “The guys from Skateworks have a similar platform that they're pushing.”
He goes on to explain with this example:
“If Pablo down at Soul Grind in PB is sitting there and a customer is online at sector9.com and they want to get a board, they can pay us and pick it up in the store. It’s around the block, you don't have to pay shipping, and you can walk in and get it. Or, we could ship it from our place, anywhere you want it. Then the credit is shared; it doesn't matter. Pablo can even sell a board he doesn't have in stock and he can just click, order, pay, and have it shipped to their house or they can come in and get it. If you can get over who gets the margin and get to the point where you're like 'we made the sale, and it was the easiest thing for our customer to do,' that's the ultimate goal. It saves the retailers bacon.”
Valdivia believes this is a big part of the equation when it comes to the future, and wants to help facilitate that in his role at Sector 9: “I look forward to that technology, and being part of the solution for retailers.”