Industry Insider is a Transworld Business column featuring the views and opinions of, you guessed it, members of the action sports industry. If you'd like to share your thoughts, opinions, initiatives, or other industry related tidbits, drop us a line at [email protected]
In 2008, eight locally-owned San Diego skate shops closed down, and chain shops are taking their place—six Zumiez stores and three Actives replaced AM/FM, one Overboard, Gromitz, Orphanage, one Hanger 94, two Urbans, and I closed my Escondido Black Wax location.
Obviously, the economy has something to do with it, for sure. The holiday season was really soft for us—not even as good as back to school. Even taking the economy into account I thought we'd have done better. And after Christmas it slowed way down, like back to how it was in October. But I honestly think there's more to do with over-saturation. I think that without all the Zumiez' and Active's opening, even in the poor economy, we could have done better.
When Zumiez opened up right next to us here, they were telling people to come down and price-check us, and offering five-percent lower. Which to me and you is stupid, but to kids—14, 15, 16 year old kids—you know how they can make something real small real big? That was just enough to take a lot of business away. And the thing that sucks is that they don't really move hardgoods. There's a Vans store here, same thing. Both Vans and Zumiez pretty much use their hardgoods for wallpaper. Every three months they put their skateboards on sale for $39.99 with grip, and blow them out, then get the new stuff that just came out, for wall decorations. This affects me, because every few months I can't sell anything for a couple weeks.
Where we are now, in a mall in El Cajon, there are four places to buy skate gear. There used to be five, until Gromitz closed down. Now there's Black Wax, Zumiez, PacSun, and Sun Diego. But I don't hate on Sun Diego, because they actually do stuff for skateboarding. And being in the mall is good, because that's where the kids are, but now its just too saturated. We were doing fine until Zumiez opened. And then down further south, Active opened. And I'm definitely seeing more and more Active boards around.
But I think the answer lies in me getting product that those places don't have. They're able to get things I can't get, but I'm not able to do the same. Having something that the kids can only get here would give kids a reason to go to core shops. Krew is one of the few brands offering some products that are only available in core shops. I'm definitely all over that.
And for what it's worth, I can't knock companies selling to Zumiez, because I understand why they do it. Zumiez takes care of the off-the-path type markets—the Midwest, places there aren't a lot of core shops. But when they move into southern California, in a place where there are already shops taking care of business, it's too much.
I used to feel like shit for complaining about it, but then I realized that eight shops closed, while Zumiez and Active opened at least eight or nine stores. It kind of makes you think.
Black Wax is located at 311 Parkway Plaza, El Cajon, 92020.