The Introduction, March 2018
By Bud Stratford
Tuesday, February 20th, 2018
During the course of planning and preparing the March issue of Everything Skateboarding, I quickly (and quietly) decided that the theme of this issue should be the “Spotlight On The Skateshop”. There were a few inspirations for this that all came together in a flurry throughout January and February, that ultimately led to my decision. That’s where I’m gonna start my introduction this month.
The biggest inspiration was obviously my Summer Camper Tour 2016/2017 , which is represented on Everything Skateboarding by January’s Tucson article and February’s Buckeye article. Having finally finished those two pieces, I started to round up the rest of the unpublished (and previously published) Summer Camper Tour Reports for the April issue (which will be christened “The Travel Issue”, naturally enough).
Art by March’s Featured Artist, Keith Harder. Read more about Keith elsewhere in this issue.
Through the course of my summer travels, I made several firsthand observations that struck me as critical not only to our communities, but also to our industry. I saw a direct and irrefutable correlation between a failing industry, and a failing skate shop infrastructure. I traveled through communities that had lost their local brick-and-mortar retailer, and I felt the crushing lack of energy and inspiration in those communities. I also experienced some pretty lackluster skate shops that left me un-energized, un-inspired, and depressed. It really wasn’t the best of summers in that regard. That’s when I realized that something… anything… had to be done. And done very, very quickly. We’re losing far too many shops, far too fast. And everybody shares in the blame for that. Including the shops themselves.
“Through the course of my summer travels, I made several firsthand observations that struck me as critical not only to our communities, but also to our industry. I saw a direct and irrefutable correlation between a failing industry, and a failing skate shop infrastructure.”
I also suspected that The Industry wasn’t going to be in any position to demonstrate any real leadership on this issue. Let alone, to do anything to effectively address it. This industry is pretty fucked right now. I don’t think they could navigate themselves out of a wet paper sack, let alone do anything meaningful to address such a pertinent, persistent, and hopelessly widespread industry issue as the current struggles, and the future standing, of an entire industry infrastructure.
Nope. It was gonna have to be up to us, The Media, to do something about it. I had no idea what we could really do, of course. We don’t exactly have unlimited means over here to work with. On the other hand: doing anything is better than doing nothing at all. It was time to suck it up, go for the gusto, and fucking wing it. If I’m good at anything at all, then I’m pretty good at that.
If we could do nothing else, we could at least instigate some shit. We could discuss the issues, and guide the conversation. And we could demand change. We might not have many tools at our fingertips, but we’ll always have our voices and our keyboards. Sometimes, that’s all you really need to make a difference in this world.
In this issue, Everything Skateboarding is laying down the gauntlet across the whole industry. We’re demanding that IASC and BRA work together in some meaningful, mutually beneficial manner, and to launch an initiative directly aimed at shoring up our retail infrastructure. We’re challenging them to recognize the brick-and-mortar as critical (and irreplaceable) industry infrastructure, and to say so publicly. We’re also calling on brands to immediately implement sensible MSRP’s (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Prices) into their DTC (Direct To Consumer) ambitions, in order to protect retailer margins. That is far, far overdue already. Patiently waiting forever and a day for meaningful change to happen, is doing nothing at all to hasten it. The time for tangible action is now.
“We’re challenging [IASC] to recognize the brick-and-mortar as critical (and irreplaceable) industry infrastructure, and to say so publicly.”
We’re also challenging shops to do a far better job than they’re doing at building truly energized, grassroots skate communities. We’re challenging those same shops to organize themselves (by any means necessary), and to work together toward common goals. We’re still calling for a Free-To-Join Skateshop Coalition; we published that piece in January, and we are sticking to it harder than ever. It’s just too good of an idea to pass up. But most of all, we’re calling on shops to do a far better job than they’re doing of caring for the customer (and the potential customer), as evidenced by Claudia’s “Let’s Talk Shop” piece last month, and my “Five Things Every Shop Should Be Doing Right Now (But Aren’t)” piece this month.
This is an issue that is going to require all hands on deck to solve. If we do not show some leadership and some initiative, we will lose the critical industry infrastructure that is the brick-and-mortar, core retailer. I spent a lot of my summer experiencing with my own eyes, ears, and heart what happens when a skate shop fails. A skateboarding dead zone of Armageddon proportions ensues. It’s already happening; the nightmare is already unfolding, and fast. If we don’t stop it soon, our scenes and our industry will suffer a train wreck of consequences that may take years, decades perhaps, to fully undo and put back onto the rails. And nobody with a fraction of a brain in their heads wants that.
“We’re also challenging shops to do a far better job than they’re doing at building truly energized, grassroots skate communities.”
Lastly: it’s up to the consumer to be the final arbitrator in this debate. If you have a good, solid, customer-friendly, and activist skate shop, please… support the hell out of that shop. Even if it means voicing your concerns or your unhappiness with the status quo… that’s still a sign of support, as harsh as it may feel at first glance.
At the very least, it’s a sign that you care about the future of the core retailer. I’m not sure that we can ask for much more than that.
Best regards, as always-