Please start by sharing your perspective on the current health of the European longboard market in a few words.
Expecting a positive continuation of 2015 sales trends. Shops and distributors found themselves overstocked in 2016. Around mid-summer 2016 there was a shift in retailers’ focus to reducing inventory, mostly by discounting. When Loaded noticed this pattern, they proactively offered to buy back a significant amount of product from their distributors (who then bought back from their shops) to avoid the need for retailers to resort to discounting.
All this said, Loaded feels that the beginning of 2017 will be the trailing end of this overstock clean-up, and the industry is making an effort to continue creating innovative product that will both spark the interest of experienced riders and also draw in more newcomers to the sport.
Will the current exchange rates and trade climate affect the end prices of longboard equipment in Europe?
Loaded expects that one of two scenarios will occur. If MSRPs remain the same, then supply chain margins will be reduced. This puts strain on the manufacturers, distributors, and shops, making it more difficult for them to stay operational.
Because Loaded manufactures in the US, they have less flexibility in adjusting their margins compared to a brand that manufactures abroad. Thus they are in favor of raising MSRPs to ensure that their distributors and shops are able to maintain healthy margins to continue operating successfully. The tradeoff in this scenario, of course, is that higher MSRPs may then impact sales (at least temporarily). This impact would depend on the economic conditions in each country; for instance, if salaries rise and unemployment drops, consumers would likely continue being able to afford products despite the increase in price.
What are customers looking for in boards right now in terms of materials, finishes and shapes? Even in terms of graphics?
There’s definitely a range in what different customers are looking for in a board. While the cruiser market seems to still be interested in low-cost and fashionable product, there seems to be a resurgence in the number of customers passionate about products that reflect more sophisticated design, both in terms of aesthetics and materials and construction. That is evident as the shops make an effort to clear out stagnant and oversaturated inventory in favor of bringing in more exciting and innovative products.
Which accessories should retailers stock to keep customers stoked?
As far as products go, wheels are important because they’re accessible, consumable, and have such a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and formulas that customers are always excited to buy multiple sets to broaden their riding experience.
Ultimately, however, Loaded feels that the very most important “accessory” a shop can provide to customers is a passionate local community. Weekly sessions, events, fostering a sense of family and belonging at the shop, and really engaging with the locals to keep them stoked on riding and coming back to the shop regularly.