As it turned out after a few minutes at the beginning things calmed down and the items covered in this report were discussed.
Let's stress again; it was not an intentional move to restrict this meeting, or exclude any parties. It was just a starting point of what we hope will be more Cooperation between companies to help the sport grow and tackle some of the problems that are keeping skateboarding from moving forward.
Everyone present at the meeting supports pro skateboarding. Many have been professional skateboarders themselves. But the relationships between pro skateboarding and their companies is supposed to be a 2 way street, and in today's industry environment things have gone astray. We have gone from the Mid eighties when everything was so strict as in having to do well in am contests to turn pro, having to wear this shirt at a contest, having to go on tour etc etc to today when being a professional skateboarder you don't have to travel, enter contests, do demos, take photos wear company or ride company products. We have to find the happy medium. Something has to change for everyone to succeed. There is presently an abundance of pro's and models, but not enough buyers.
The way the industry is going looks bleak and things could get a lot worse before they get any better. If the blank war progresses any further we could find the industry regressing back to a handful of pro's. The intention of this meeting was to avoid such a collapse.
Present at this meeting in alphabetical order: Chris Carter- Alien Workshop, Bob Denike- NHS, Steve Douglas- Giant/411, Jeff Klindt- Deluxe/Real, Steve Rocco- W.I./Big Brother, Paul Schmitt- PS Stix/Giant, Todd Swank- Foundation, Mike Ternasky- Plan B, Jim Thiebaud- Deluxe/Real.
1) The need to rebuild Confidence The overall theme of the meeting was to strive toward more stability in the industry. More Consistency among companies, riders, teams and products will help rebuild confidence among distributors and retailers.
2) The state of the Industry
Everyone present agreed (to varying degrees) that the industry was shaky
and that we had a lot to blame on ourselves for creating some of these
problems. It has gotten to the point where sales are weak and the
companies have less money to use for promotion and in turn less money to
take care of the riders.
ACTION: We need to cooperate together to turn this trend around and head back in a positive direction.
3) Skateboarding doesn't seem like fun anymore Media and companies tend to concentrate on the negative side of skateboarding. At present skateboarding is not fun: Videos portray the impossible, product is not designed for fun- this all targets the hardcore market, and is not accessible to the "fun only" skater or the new skater. ACTION: We as an industry, must concentrate on a more positive future. We have narrowed down skateboarding to a very small market. Bring the fun back and get the negative out. Target beyond the hardcore market: new buyers, cruisers, recreational skaters. New kids who are not aware of all this vibing crap. We want the media to show more variety of types of skating out there. The companies will promote more accessible skating and more positive images, produce products that are more fun to ride. We need to make a wider board, bigger softer wheels etc as well as the hardcore products. Tours, demo contests have to portray skateboarding in a better light. Emphasize consistency, positive attitudes, company support and promotion of the sport. Don't send out riders who do not agree with this, otherwise we risk doing more harm than good.
4) Blank Boards We have been promoting sales of blank boards by allowing our riders to ride them. It was agreed that companies will only hand out with graphics or logos. We will encourage the media not to show boards without graphics and photographers will not shoot photos of team riders unless they are supporting their sponsor by riding a board with company graphics and wearing company T's, hats etc. No more blank boards, blank T's, Gap jeans etc etc. As one distributor said, "How can we sell the products if the pro's don't ride them?". ACTION: This will require a process of education. We need to demonstrate to the riders how supporting their companies will help the companies support the riders. The riders who help their companies in this way are the ones who should benefit themselves through increased sales, trips to contests, tours, etc.
If this takes place we hope to see increased sales, increased payment to riders and more funds to promote skateboarding. Blank products only supports an industry which is doing nothing for skateboarding's future. ACTION: Everyone agreed to talk to the vendors and suppliers who are selling the blank products. In the long term, sales of blank product will destroy the market by eliminating the funds available for promotion. It's a case of a small short term profit versus the long term health of the Industry. We will also put more logo boards on the market and stabilize product changes to re-establish the strong company identification that has been lost through blank board sales.
5) The new Graphic problem
Slowing down graphic changes was discussed briefly. It was accepted
that this was killing deck sales. A distributor will only take 10 of a
board, a shop will only take one, both then expect a new graphic next
time. Reducing the rate of change across the whole industry was brought
up but no final solution was agreed. Some in the room said that they have
been slowing down already or are about to do so, others said that it was
impossible to slow now.
ACTION: We all agreed it was a serious situation which needs further discussion.
6) Rider Guarantees It was agreed that rider's deck guarantees no longer reflected the reality of the size of the market. ACTION: $500-1000 (for 1994) is more realistic for new pro's or under fresh agreements and when a pro moves to a new company $2 per deck was fine. (If a company has an existing agreement with a pro at $2000 for example, obviously it is up to that company to keep that agreement.)
7) Team Jumping We need to protect the retailers, distributors and manufactures, and to stabilize the market by reducing the harm caused by team jumping. ACTION: If a rider leaves a company, the most that anyone can expect from a new company is $1000 a month. Also communication will take place between the 2 companies and the old company will have 90 days to clear the rider's inventory. During this period the new company can pay the rider but they can't release a model for him. The media will take an active role in not covering the team jumping, riders quitting or other info that will make inventory on a shelf or company or distributor warehouse obsolete.
8) Too many Identical Models
There are too many pro models available on the market. Distributors and
shops dare not order every different one in quantity.
ACTION: Don't turn riders pro so easily. It means nothing to be a pro today and the credibility and status of the pros suffer as a result. Have a rider know what is expected of him and what he can expect in return. Make sure they appreciate that is a two way deal. This is not a new concept, think what sponsorship and being professional means. If the two way deal isn't working out, companies should discuss the problem with the riders, but if it doesn't work, they should let them go.
9) New Companies We discussed how easy it is to enter the skateboard Industry. That it shouldn't be a problem if someone wants to start a company. But when a company is started to destroy another company, or make the stock on everyone's floor obsolete, it only contributes to the instability of the industry and erodes customer confidence in buying product. ACTION: We should stop shooting ourselves in the foot by helping a company get set up and running, especially companies who are coming in for a quick buck, or do not support the industry and magazines, or do not have long term plans.
We must encourage some changes. Modern street skating is rad but we must add to it. Just think if we could have the street scene of today PLUS the mini ramp scene from 89 PLUS the vert scene from 86 PLUS the street scene from 85 PLUS the freestyle scene of 81 PLUS the pools and park scene from the 70's etc etc . With skateboarding ten times a big, pros could earn ten times as much money and companies make money. If we want those days back we need to open our minds and not limit skateboarding. That's what skateboarding was all about when we started. There were no rules, it just mattered that you were doing it and having fun.