So, let's talk about BRA, to BRA. The Board Retailers' Association. A good group of folks, that stand up for retailers' issues. And, that is a noble cause to be supported. However, there are things that could be addressed. And, I have spent time talking to shops on this, as well.
BRA- if you don't know this, already- is an organization that advocates for shop owners' issues, to the 'skateboard industry', ie, other shops, and our manufacturers, distributors, etc. Like I said, it's a noble cause. But, does it work, for most shops, on a day-to-day basis? The answer from most shops that I spoke to, is: No. It doesn't.
So, what's the problem?! Well, I've heard a few:
- First of all, it costs money to join BRA. This automatically makes shops a bit hesitant, right off the bat. Couple that with,
- It's not entirely clear, what shops are getting for their money. Then, we have
- There's no published member list, of who else is a BRA Member, and
- By BRA's own website data, they only have about 300 members. Which is only about 10% of all the shops in the country. Which makes the other 90% of shops question their effectiveness. Then, we'll add that:
- There's a perception that, BRA doesn't stand up for all shops, big and small. Lastly, we have the fact that:
- BRA serves not only skate shops, but surf and snowboard shops as well, and they do not necessarily have common issues. So, the question of 'prioritization' comes into play. Which issues, exactly, is BRA tackling these days?!
Are all of these true, fair, and accurate perceptions of what BRA is all about? Well, the problem is, it doesn't matter what the truth is. It's the perception that counts. And, unfortunately, that list up there sums up the perceptions, mighty fast.
On the other hand, shops... and, again, I'm speaking about "independent, core skate retailers" here, I'm sure that Zumiez, with their 240+ shops, and bazillions of shareholders, can probably stand up just fine for their own damn selves... do need to realize that, sooner or later, they are going to have to learn to work together toward common goals, as a united front. Whether it's via an organization like BRA, or an alternative organization, is an open question. It's not mine to answer. I'm just the messenger. You guys have to figure that one out on your own.
I talked to quite a few shops about this, in detail. And, shops do have a lot of concerns about their futures. They do vocalize these concerns... at least, they did to me. Not that I'm in a position to help or anything.
"Why don't you join BRA, then...?!", I'd ask. And, usually, I got one of the answers that I outlined above.
"Well, what else can I do...?!?!"
Well, for one, we- as shop owners, and advocates- could just say 'screw it!', and form our own organization. One that addresses the problems that I outlined above. Don't wanna pay $150 a year to join BRA? Make a free-to-join organization by and for skate shops, then. Take some initiative. Make it happen. Do something.
"That's much, much easier said than done..." is the usual reply. My question? "Is it really...?" The fact is very simple. In this day and age of critical issues at hand, and an uncertain future, it is far more of a risk to tell me stuff like, "Well, it's easier said than done...", and do nothing... than it is to take an initiative, and so something. I doubt that you'll find anyone that would argue with me, on that one.
And, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone that will argue with this one, either: There Is Strength, In Numbers. That is an age-old truth that just can't be denied. I even told one shop, "Look. If you're pissed off about margins on hardgoods?" I believe that the topic, of course, was overall profitability of his shop... "...the fact is that you, speaking alone, to a single manufacturer, about your little problem, isn't going to accomplish jack shit, in the grand scheme of things. However...", I went on, "... if you, and 2,999 other shops, all ganged up on IASC, as a combined voice? You'd probably get better margins tomorrow..."
And, it's true. If one dude... and, that "dude" would be Neal Boyd, in my opinion... could wrangle up a mere $30 or so, spend a few hours pecking away at a keyboard, building a simple little, 5-page website... and in the process, almost single-handedly bring down IASC's "Blank Initiative"...? (read about it) Well, s**t! What the hell kind of damage could the combined efforts of 3,000 independent skate shops do?! In my opinion, that's a damn interesting question. Don't you agree...?!
As the old adage goes: There's no better time than the present. And, I doubt that we really have the time to lose, at this point. Times are tough, skateboarding is in a lull, and already, shops have gone belly up. The time for change, is now. And, the first guy in line to make that change happen, is you. Get on it, or get your ass kicked. The choice is yours.
I strongly recommend that all shops- regardless of size, or location- at the very least, call BRA, and ask them some questions about what they're doing, and what they can do to help you. They want your input, they're nice enough folks, and supporting you is their job. E-mail Melissa Clary at email@example.com, or phone her at 910-509-0109, ext. 1005.
And, for Pete's sakes, please: Support your local skate shop whenever possible. If they go the way of the Edsel, well, who's gonna be left to support your local scene? Think about it.
Bud Stratford is a skateboarding business writer with strong roots and ties in the skateboarding industry. Feel free to contact Bud at firstname.lastname@example.org.