I'm seeing a lot of just this sort of coincidence, and not just in Indianapolis. I'm seeing it, all over my tour. Wherever there's a core skate shop, there seems to be a Zumiez a mere bottle-rocket-distance away. Coincidence?! Hard sayin', not knowin'. Cool? Definitely not.
I'm just gonna lay it right out there, on the line: I Fucking Hate Zumiez. Now, four months or so ago? I'd hardly heard of 'em. Let alone, had an opinion of them. What a difference a few months makes, eh...?
Here's my problem with Zumiez. And, this is straight from a core retailer that I spoke with early in my tour, who again, shall remain un-named. Even though they, too, told me it was cool if I quoted them on the record.
Here's what he asked me: When is the last time that, Zumiez gave a kid a $5 or $10 discount on a deck, just so that they could keep skating?
"I don't know", I said. I wasn't that familiar with the store.
"Well, when's the last time that Wal-Mart gave you a half-price Coke, just 'cuz you looked really parched...?" Oh. Well, never, I guess.
"Right. That's because, the job of a corporation is to make a profit first, and fulfill needs second. How 'bout this: When's the last time that Mopar gave you a discount, for keeping your grades up?"
"Okay. How about, the last time that Camel flowed you a pack of cigs, just for supporting them for so long...?"
I prefer Djarum Cloves, of course. But still, my answer was the same: Never.
"Or, the last time that you had a major corporation attending a town council meeting, advocating for a local skatepark...?" Never, as far as I know.
"So, you see? That stuff that I mentioned? That's stuff that we, the core shops, do for everyday skaters, all the time. That's what we do for our local scenes, and then some. How does the skateboard industry support us, in return?!"
I have a bad feeling about this one...
"They sell to those bastards!!" 'Those bastards', of course, would be Zumiez. "And, they plop a store right in our backyard, undercut our prices, and just wait until they put us out of business, with their massive buying power, and shareholder equity..."
So, what you're saying is that they're profiting off of your years of hard work?
Here's the very clear and present danger for The Industry- and, mark my words on this one: There is a backlash a'coming. I've had more than a few retailers tell me that, when they go to ASR this year, they have a plan. What's the plan, you ask? Well, it's pretty simple.
"I'm going to go to every manufacturers' booth at ASR, with my order forms, catalogs, and checkbook ready to go", one retailer told me. "And, I'm going to sit down with my salesperson, and ask them one question. And, that question will be, 'Do you sell to Zumiez...?'"
"And, if they say 'Yes'?", I asked.
"Then, we're going to close our checkbooks, gather up our catalogs, and leave". No more buying from that manufacturer. End of conversation.
I'd have to suggest at this point that our manufacturing and marketing base might take some time to do a little bit of soul-searching on this issue, because it seems that a tough decision just might be fast at hand. That issue is going to be: Are we going to support our infrastructure of "independent, core retailers", and everything that they do, and represent? Or, are we going to support a corporate-owned, mall skate-store chain, and everything that they do, and represent? At some point, a choice on this issue will have to be made.
Because, as that Mike Brooke character always says, "You can't suck and blow at the same time".
Bud Stratford is a skateboarding business writer with strong roots and ties in the skateboarding industry. Feel free to contact Bud at email@example.com.