The skateboard lifestyle embodies freedom and coolness. Rule-breakers who take over public plazas or go flying past you on the sidewalk. It’s no wonder retailers have tried to harness that culture and sell it.
Unfortunately for retailers, skateboarding’s popularity has been rolling downhill. The number of skateboarders has decreased from 10 million in 2006 to 6.58 million in 2014, according to Statista.
Many investors have also skated away from the stocks whose revenues ride on skateboard’s fortunes. The action sport, which tends to go through cycles, could be poised for a return. Skateboarding crashed in the mid-Sixties and again near the end of the Seventies and the end of the Eighties. Each time, though, it has come roaring back.
Skateboarding could also see a resurgence as new high-tech skateboard products enter the market. Products like ZBoard’s electric skateboard, the Onewheel electric skateboard and the numerous two-wheeled self-balancing scooters available on Amazon could spark a new way to look at skateboard shoes and apparel.
Lately, skateboard shoes have struggled as the trend in men’s sportswear has skewed toward basketball. Zumiez, the retail chain known for embracing the skateboard lifestyle, has seen sales in the group remain negative. Footwear is 19 percent of Zumiez sales worldwide, but that’s down from 25 percent in 2011. The stock has dropped 38 percent in the past six months to $22.85. Yet Zumiez still has plans to open 51 new stores in North America and six in Europe in 2015.
Sneakers were also weak for PacSun in the most recent quarter. The company blamed it on port delay issues. PacSun said it featured the Nike SB sneakers in the window but didn’t have the product to support it until the windows came down. PacSun is in the process of closing 10 to 20 full-price stores, but is also opening 10 new stores this year — a first for the company in quite some time.
Quiksilver, which owns DC Shoes, a major skate shoe brand, is fighting for its retail life right now. The stock has dropped 90 percent over the past 2 years and could get delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. Quiksilver hired Peter Solomon Co. to advise it on a possible sale, but many market watchers believe that buyers will only be interested if they can pick it up in bankruptcy. In its last earnings call Quiksilver said that DC apparel sales had declined. Even with all the bad news, Quiksilver has moved ahead with its new store concept called Boardrider, which the company says has been successful.
Athletic footwear giant Nike entered the space in 2004 with its Nike SB brand just as the sport was peaking. There was rider resistance to a big corporate brand muscling in on outsider territory. Generous rider endorsements from the company and specially designed products have won over a few fans. In 2010, chief executive officer Mark Parker told analysts that he planned to double the skate category from its then-current estimate of $390 million by 2015.
Nike reported for the entire fiscal year that the action sports category, which includes SB, was $736 million, but that also now includes Hurley, so it’s difficult to see if the goal was reached. The pie may be shrinking right now but it does look like Nike is gobbling a large share.
These skateboard lifestyle brands could pin their future on these futuristic boards rather than aligning themselves with skateboarding as a sport. These high-tech versions of electric skateboards make them new urban transportation alternatives. The skateboard lifestyle may cycle back but in a completely new and different way.