Economically, Italy seems to have stayed in the same spot for years now. Only small growth rates can be seen, so people still aren’t happy. But complaining about politicians and taxes has become quite normal in Italy. Let’s see how the new government constellation will improve our political system, as this is what many citizens are waiting for. Our minister for inner state affairs, Mr Matteo Salvini, promised lower taxes for small and middle income brackets and that is something that could really help our boardsport business. Let’s hope he can make that happen within this year so that more money remains in our people’s pockets.
Starting into 2019, unfortunately, we’ve seen many smaller skate shops close their doors from north to south. With very low margins on hardgoods and then losing most of their shoe sales to big players like Nike, Adidas and Vans are ruling the market many of them just don´t make enough profit to pay rent and are not able to make a living out of a skate shop. It is very sad but the hard truth is that it has become nearly impossible to run a core skate shop without selling lifestyle or hype products, including running shoes or outdoor jackets and backpacks. Skateboarding and its lifestyle has become a big trend in the fashion industry and is hyped everywhere but it has created a business which is not controlled by the skate shop, and instead by corporate companies who make a profit out of it. When switching to snowboarding, we’ve already had the loss of core stores for a few seasons and now the remaining stores seem stable, of course with a smaller choice in products, but they still manage to stay in business. Surprisingly, the north suffers more as freestyle skiing becomes a bigger trend in the regions located in the very north of Italy, whereas the south really stays true to snowboarding when looking at teenagers and kids. The closing of stores that we have seen in skateboarding is also happening in surfing but on a smaller scale as surf stores have already become more fashionable recently, but the brands now sold at surf stores have changed a lot and are now more in fashion than ever.
A trend that is now seen in every store category from core skate, snow and surf to fashion is the outdoor trend with nearly every store carrying at least one outdoor brand in their selection with The North Face leading the pack and Patagonia becoming the new must-have brand. The popularity of US streetwear brands is still strong, much like with Italian streetwear labels. Brands from a snow and skate background like Iuter and Octopus coming out of Milan are steadily growing and can compete easily with US brands on the shelves. The strongest Italian brands in the boardsport and streetwear marketplace right now are Iuter, Octopus, Doomsday and Dolly Noire all with innovative designs and good quality, a good sign as the Italian customer really shows loyalty when purchasing.
What store owners really agree on, is that products nowadays must be showcased and explained well. Hardgoods in general still seem very price driven with online competition dictating the price, which means you have to be equal on pricing or offer a better service. The online business has most likely beaten the physical stores by numbers as it is very easy with hardgoods to buy online, and when the price is right the sale is done.
To support physical core stores more, it’s only the brands themselves that can help by giving the core stores exclusive products or a better margin on certain products as the physical store is crucial to keep the skate scene healthy. It’s the only direct contact with the consumer and we should never forget that almost all skate parks and events are only possible with the push of skate shops and their passionate owners. Alex Berger from
Fakiestores in Merano and Silandro concludes, “with our 20 years in the business this year we want to go back to our roots and carry only brands we feel and like and on the other hand support us in what we do for the scene in general as for us it’s still the passion which drives us not the profit.”