Let's face a simple fact: Besides a good product selection, at good prices, the shops have one last variable that e-tailers don't really have to contend with. And, that variable is: Kick-Ass Customer Service.
True: To some extent, everyone is concerned with customer service. Even e-tailers have to handle the occasional returns, or the stray call-in order. It's not entirely outside of their responsibility, to concern themselves with customer care. It's just that, it's much less of an issue with an e-tailer, than it is for the brick-and-mortar. Customer service, at the e-tailer level, is widely seen as a "bonus", by most consumers. At the b&m level, it's much more critical. Because here, it's a much, much more integral part of what you do. When everything else is a constant, then it becomes the defining attribute of your shop.
The skate shop of the future, I suspect, is going to look an awful lot like the skate shop of the past. Colorful, clean, tidy, fully stocked with a wide array of hardgoods of all shapes and sizes, for all of those different types of skateboarding... with a variety of softgoods, and skate shoes that are actually built with 'skateboarding' in mind, as opposed to today's trend of 'fashion-before-function', trend-shoes... and, those shops will be the local experts on everything skateboarding, from decks and wheels, right down to spacers and wedged riser pads. So, if you're a shop owner reading this, and you don't know what the hell a 'spacer', or a 'wedged riser pad' are?! It's high time for you to go back to Skate Setups 101, and figure that stuff out. It's your job to know that sort of stuff.
If, and when, your customers know more about those sorts of things, than your own salespeople? You are in a whole world of trouble. Believe it or not, this is a regular complaint that I hear from skaters, regarding their local skate shops.
This is a problem that the shops themselves, have to directly address, and solve. And the quicker, the better.
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.