Posts Tagged ‘Zumiez’

Industry Meta-Post

July 7, 2009


“It’s on”

So: in the last few weeks, JR Blastoff retired to the tune of a logo graphic, Nike scooped Koston, Heath Kirchart channeled Joaquin Phoenix on the TWS red carpet and Brewce Martin clung to life following a freak accident with a tire mounting machine. Strictly speaking yall can be forgiven if you didn’t notice that the yellow, coned wheels are coming off the skateboard business, while the powers that be do their damnedest to hold it all together, up to and including pro model shoes for Kyle Leeper and Shuriken Shannon. Perhaps it is time for a collective Bad Boys 2 moment.

First there was the nasty fight over who would be the lucky duck to nurse Active Mailorder back to health… because sometimes, “buy-two-clearance-items-get-one-free” deals just can’t get the bros buying flame graphic boardshorts again. Zumiez made a play with designs toward creating some sort of unholy mall-shop monstrosity, but couldn’t close the deal. The ultimate winners of the $5.2 million Active auction chose to remain nameless for reasons that remain their own (think they’re from Florida) but remember, you cannot put a price on the personal brand of Active Erica, though many have tried.

In a similar battle for a skate brand nobody cares about, Kareem Campbell issued a big “nuh uh” Tweet towards Circa, regarding the latter’s claimed ownership of the storied Axion footwear trademark. It’s hard to think who’d do better by this company, which had little going for it in its heyday besides the Guy Mariano model, a hot team and Kevin Taylor’s stab at a running shoe. As far as I know they’re currently counting on Brian Wenning to lead the charge back into the mosh pit that is the skate shoe market, which seems like the type of crazy-like-a-fox move the post-MNC Kareem would green-light, so maybe there’s room for the two parties to get together on this.

Elsewhere, Jamie Thomas’s Black Box distribution recruited Frank Messman, a known wizard with powers to conjure profits from skateboard sales. His brief is said to include constructing elaborate financial hedges against the shifting prices of Canadian hard-rock maple, urethane and black leather dye. Messman is familiar to some as the dude who “turned World around,” if that gives you any idea as to his credentials, but considering Messman’s rumored supernatural powers this actually could have been a back-door Trojan Horse power move by the Chief to head off competition in the past through time travel. (Terminator part 4 release this summer only a coincidence?) Regardless these are tough times indeed. Jamie Thomas famously tests the work ethic of his flow kids in the trenches of the Black Box warehouse; could traveling sales rep responsibilities await willing amateurs? Highly paid pros set to work devising a comeback strategy for Monster Trucks?

One idea to get the industry back on the rails that’s been floated by multiple “industry leaders is that old chestnut, the Olympics. This would “Grow the Sport” while simultaneously putting skateboarders alongside soccer and basketball players, thus earning them the respect of overweight middle-Americans that they so richly deserve. A similar gambit in the late 1980s resurrected the ping-pong industry, which had been all but dead after star paddleman Jerry Rogerman quit the sport to focus on a career in hair rock.

We at Boil the Ocean tend to believe that skateboarding in the Olympics is a bad idea, not because of any evil intentions by the IOC or the IASC or even Tony Iommi, all of whom are upstanding persons with nothing but the purest of intentions for athletic pursuits of all varieties. More problematic is the still-fresh memory of poor Bode Miller, pilloried in the press for his love of the bottle, and to make it plain I fear the same thing might happen to the gentle Fred Gall. Also certain sectors may object to putting professional skateboard riders in close proximity with teen girls in tights.

A better plan, of course, was already dreamed up by the wits at K-Swiss, who stunned the skate industry and rational thinkers everywhere by naming none other than Greg Lutzka “creative director.” Video evidence follows, if you somehow haven’t seen it already, it’s amazing.

BTO votes we put Billy Rohan in charge of everything. View his platform here around the 1:00 minute mark.

And Then We Came To The End!

June 11, 2009


Eric Koston scouts his last-minute trick for “Debacle.” Interesting fact: The truck, made of crepe paper, was designed by Swedish architect Johan Fredrik Ă…bom and cost $850,000.

Nike’s final, successful attempt to crack the shoe-chewing skateboard market is probably the story of our lil pasttime in the ’00 decade, even if it’s sort of a bass-ackwards version of what the rest of the industry has undergone. Skate shoe companies took center stage as the big-money game beyond boards and wheels, muddling through the thankless game of trying to maintain credibility with the dirty, scabbed kids that brung em to the dance, while signing pro wakeboarders and serving up juicy discounts to big-box retailers that will happily put your trucks on backwards as you shop for carabiners. Meanwhile, the suits at Nike were cherry-picking independent skate shops and aging East-coast pros that together would ride the wave of sneakerhead largesse and make it hard for even the die-hard purists to argue that Nike was the bloodthirsty corporate monster we’d all been led to believe.

It was an interesting story that died a boring death today, as Nike SB signed Eric Koston and can no longer be seen in any shape or form as an underdog in skateboarding. The Birdos were half-right in that Nike eventually decided to be Nike and throw its wallet around, buying up top talent as they see fit, flowing everybody in the industry who isn’t skating for another shoe company, reigning supreme over Tampa, flooding the mall shops with SB’s and pushing “Jocks Suck” 6.0s elsewhere. Meanwhile the current generation doesn’t remember a time when people didn’t skate Nike shoes, pre-fab skateparks are awash with swooshes, and the SB branch has more or less figured out how to act like a skateboard company as far as putting out videos, doing demos, getting tour articles into the magazines; eventually they can be expected to start blowing video deadlines I guess.

Getting Koston has seemed so much like the predestined move for Nike from the beginning that you wonder what’s next, except it appears Nike’s already provided the answer in the form of Sacto-birthed pro models for Stefan Janoski and Omar Salazar, both Vans knock-offs that make it pretty clear Nike’s given up on trying to be any kind of leader, the way they were when they came in with the Dunk a few years ago and helped the Es Accel usher in the wave of low-tech simple shoes. Beyond the staple Blazers and Dunks Nike SB is/was the one company making teched-out shoes that A. had serious space technology behind them and B. actually sold despite said low-tech shoe trend, so seeing their operation fall into line with the parade of Vans imitators (belatedly) communicates complacency at best, surrender at worst, or perhaps an Antarctic sabbatical with Marty Stouffer for the shoe design squad.

There have been and will be long and usually boring debates on Nike’s role in this big teddy bear picnic, but at this point the threads feel like they’ve been played out — Nike came on the scene and boosted some half-forgotten pros* like Danny Supa, Reese Forbes, Gino, etc.; they proceeded to make the expected power moves via P-Rod, Janoski, Salazar, and now Koston. For a few years there SB sales, restricted to actual real skateboard stores, translated to serious loot for the operators that they weren’t seeing selling other shoes, for various reasons; now you can order “CCS Exclusive” colors of Nike Dunks off the internet or get them at Zumiez. Nike takes good care of its people, pros to reps, and they do joint ventures with Blueprint and Slam City and the SPOT and Slap and Skate Mental; they should do all this stuff because they can and it keeps cranks like me from complaining too much.

But now that Nike’s at last acting like the 800-pound gorilla it is, it’s hard not to feel wary about what comes next. Best case scenario is they generallhy follow the rest of the shoe pack, make good videos and do right by the proper people. Or, perhaps they scoop up Ryan Sheckler, appoint him president of the 6.0 division, and sponsor nationwide skate camps hooked up to Rob Dyrdek’s proposed “skateboard league”… clearing the way for a generation of talent scouts and parent-managers hanging off the skatepark chain-link fence, calling the cops on the oldsters and scaring away all the precious weirdos that came up with the screaming hand and the idea to jump a skateboard on a handrail.

*By the other shoe companies, anyway

Active Ride Shop Attacks Bankruptcy Monster With +30 Sword of Discounts

March 26, 2009


Free shoelace belt, schadenfreude included with every order

Wherefore art thou, Active Erica lifestyle spin-off brand? Dark whispers surround the retail business these days and while the cynical among us may chuckle at the tumbling same-store comparisons of megamall corpo-goons, the Chapter 11 filing of Active Ride Shop, despite its generic clothing line and often clue-deprived layabout employees, hits a bit closer to home as a skateboarder-established business that has maintained at least one foot in the legit skateboard sphere, even while riding the web/mailorder blimp to untold riches during the boom years.

Ah yes. The boom years, when Brian Wenning leased a Bentley, filming video parts on American soil was tres gauche and a spacious suburban California home was just a shoe deal/zero-down mortgage away. In many ways it was a simpler time, free of the heated and conflicted emotions that troubled us in the aftermath of the Osiris video (embodied by the Aftermath Tour, and to a lesser extent Aftermath Records). My memory is not what it used to be, but I remember it more or less exactly like this.

What does a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing mean for Active? Jeff Harbaugh, an action sports industry consultant who I can imagine sporting a goatee, explains in 1500 or so words over at TWS Business. Now I’m no lawyer, though I served as an understudy for this kid who played one in a poorly received junior high play, but I will attempt the same feat in 150 words: Basically Active has four months to get their shit together, conferring with legal wizards and big suppliers (read: skateboard distributors) to figure out how best to keep the crazy blimp afloat, as in the current climate you can imagine no skate company is especially eager to see a major buyer of hard and soft goods snuff it.

(Only 57 words! Note, the remaining unused words I have divided into several tranches according to their relative risk, packaged as securities and sold the lot off to investment banks, where noisy professionals are already at work structuring complex debt instruments around them – a plan assured to reward everyone handsomely and forever.)

There have been convincing arguments made to separate Active out from the likes of Zumiez*, PacSun and even famed Steve Rocco flip-job CCS, but the fact remains that on-premises miniramps or not, those semi-monthly catalogs and website saw Active eat off the plate of many a local skateboard shop, in the US and elsewhere, who haven’t had an easy ride either. I can’t say if Active is more or less worthy as far as “giving back to skating,” whatever that means in 2009, but I suppose the coming months will determine whether it’s worthy as a commercial enterprise. You would imagine that it is, though maybe in slimmed-down form. (There is an easy Active Erica joke in there somewhere for those who seek it.) If not, we’ll survive, yeah, but I can’t imagine things will be looking too hot for other entities on the brink of the abyss.

Regardless, people losing jobs is scary and not funny even when the economy isn’t in the toilet. Unless you’re one of those reptilian demons who works for AIG and bathes in kitten blood during your spare time. Because those guys are the total blurst.

*By the way, TWSB’s Josh Hunter earns a gold star for slogging through the Zumiez 10K filing

24 Hour Party People

November 15, 2008


Irrational exuberance

It’s not without a certain jealousy that I peruse the photos of Rob Dyrdek’s shoe release party and wonder just how long the skateboard industry (or, if you prefer, the action sports/energy drink/reality TV industry) can sustain this mode of operation – race cars, pro-level pussy, multiple TV crews and all the Monster energy drink one can stomach, I assume. Why not throw a party for the 30-somethingth shoe from a 30-something pro? Why not rent out a spot to premiere the new 411? (If memory serves, they were doing this at one point.) Meanwhile we’ll print up big ol’ hardbound magazines – er, books – and hand ‘em out for free. And shit, go right ahead and build that $1.7 million ramp so Danny Way can jump the Great Wall of China.

Oh, I just wonder about all this stuff as retail sales drop through the floor and factories shut down and houses go into foreclosure and shit. (Oil’s down to $60 per barrel though, so maybe they’ll do King of the Road next summer.) Certain of the skateboard internet sphere almost giddily predicts the next 1993 year in and year out, and while I don’t expect Tony Hawk to go back to living out of his Lexus anytime soon, you kind of wonder when the skateboard business as a whole is gonna have to take a step back.

I mean it wasn’t even two years ago that blank boards killed the industry – remember how they stole food from the mouths of pros’ kids? How are dudes supposed to make their Cadillac payments? Meanwhile kids are downloading videos off the Napster and now we’re in a recession. It’s almost noble, the way Dyrdek maintains a stiff upper lip while the ice swans in his Candyland bunker slowly lose shape.

For serious though, where does the money come from? And is it gonna keep coming? Zumiez and PacSun are bleeding cash. Rumors are a-float about layoffs at hard and softgood suppliers alike. From what I hear, the real shops are still doing okay. Hopefully those crazy sneakerheads manage their trust funds wisely through this trying time in our nation’s economic history.

But if boards aren’t selling, videos aren’t selling, clothes and shoes are sitting on the shelves longer and, erm, I guess I’m not clued in on the movements of wheel markets… well you get the idea. Who’s gonna keep the free drinks flowing at the magazine/shoe collabo release parties? Is Panasonic Car Audio going to keep flying 300 of Sheckler’s tightest brahs from way back to Vegas for his sweet nineteenth? How many Red Bull hats does JR-Blastoff gotta wear every month to keep current on his Bentley lease?

Like with the government bailout or the Firm video, the questions don’t stop. Will the industry ever have to live with less? If it does, will that mean we have to wear giant pants again? Would the wise investor purchase stocks in a canvas wholesaler now, ahead of our return to 44″ waistlines? And is Wade D way ahead of everybody on this?


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