Here is an interesting video produced by business publication The Financial Times, anaylizing the changing economics of the skateboard industry. Featuring legendary pro Lance Mountain and Sole Technologies CEO Pierre André Senizergues who each give contrasting opinions as to which direction the slumping industry should take. Overall sales exceeded 7 billion dollars last year, hard goods (meaning, decks, bearings, trucks, etc.) only accounted for 10 percent of this income. Actual participation in the sport had reached an all time peak in 2002, but has dropped by 1/3 over the last 10 years.
The numbers lead you to the conclusion that the majority of the people who support the skate industry do not actually ride a skateboard. As the skateboard industry has gained acceptance into the mainstream wearing skateboard related apparel and sneakers (especially the sneakers) has become a statement and being associated with the culture has become cool. The “swag” movement of the last several years has embraced the skater fashion and culture on a large scale, while maybe not so much actual skating. Brands which remain totally skate focused are the ones that are hit the hardest by the industry down turn, as companies look to those who have become fascinated by skateboarding but do not skate to increase profit margins.
The opinion of Mountain seems to be one of the hardcore skater in that the emphasis should be on the core of skating that being skateboards, while Senizergues moves in the direction of collaborations with companies such as Disney. While some companies seem eager to invite in whatever elements that may increase their bottom line, other’s use more discretion in this area and maintain credibility. It’s the question of am I going to sponsor Lil Wayne’s skating? The video gives us the picture of an industry at a crossroads, trying to find the delicate balance of profiting on it’s popularity while not alienating it’s core demographic, skaters.