Alton Premium Board Store is a shop steeped in history, in the Western Austrian town of Altenstadt in Feldkirch. Previously a shoe shop started by his grandfather Josef Alton in 1950, the store was then passed down to Thomas Alton’s father in 1980, before Thomas himself too it on in 1995, and turned it into a skate shop. Now a pivotal hub in the local boardsport scene, Thomas has talked us through the family history and what makes the business tick today.
Please give a brief history of your store including when it was started, who started it, who the owners and key players are.
Our grandpa (Josef Alton) started the shop as a shoemaker in 1950, his son (our dad) came along in 1967 and turned the shop into a shoe-fashion-sportshop in 1980. I´m Thomas Alton, and in 1995 I started Altons Skatehouse. Four years later my sister Sabine Alton joined the team, and four years after this our other sister Elisabeth came on board.
In 2012 we changed the name from Altons Skatehouse to Alton Premium Board Store. The change in name was to show our customers that we provide a special a limited selection of product, delivered with personal customer service.
No we have 15 employees, five of which are from the Alton family.
Owner: Franz & Christine Alton
Premium Boardstore: Thomas Alton
Fashion: Sabine Alton
Shoes: Elisabeth Alton & Christine
Outdoor Sports: Thomas Alton
What percentage of your sales are from online business compared to your brick-and-mortar sales?
First of all… we don´t look to online business. Our mission is to educate the customer in order to allow them to product offering through our service and advice.
What are the benefits of having a physical shop over simply having an online store?
To have the direct connection to your customer! Nothing is better!!!
What are five products you couldn’t live without right now?
Burton Custom twin 156, Volcom crew necks, RVCA shorts, Reef sandals, Lakai Echelon shoe series.
What are your secrets for selling high-end products?
We ride and wear these products to give us the best possible insight. Our customers trust us, and we show and tell our customers how riding better quality products has its benefits.
Are new lines important to your product mix?
Yes new lines and new styles are really important. This means we’ll never stagnate and this is our biggest advantage over the bigger stores.
Did your store’s sales increase or decrease over last year? To what do you attribute your gain or loss in sales? What will you do to either maintain your growth or to reverse the decline?
We stayed consistent. But it’s hard. We have to constantly have direct contact with the customer and we do this through grassroots events in both summer and winter, special events in the shop, video premieres, parties and so forth. We also make sure to keep our heads, and don’t go ‘on sale’ too early in the season, as this devalues our brands and products.
What makes your store different and in what ways does your store excel beyond your competition?
Locally, we off the best: advice, we are unique, we are real, we have the best choice of products, we ride and wear all of our products, we make parties and follow a true path without all the sales offers.
How do you stay in touch with the wants and needs of your customers?
We stay in touch with mailings, flyers, events and our winter catalog gives our customers the latest news.
We also have an up to date website with news-blogs and a strong social media presence.
What trends do you see upcoming in skate? women’s streetwear? skate shoes? shades? Accessories?
Skate: this year we got a new park… the scene is growing an we are looking for a great Spring season.
Women’s streetwear: is back in town…perfect! The ladies are motivated and we have a good selection for the girls. Easy streetwear and special clothing… no basics!
Skateshoes: slim, skateable, but also street styles, such as the Element Bovery.
Shades: chrome –coloured shades, material: matte
What kind of advice can you give other independent retailers who are trying to compete against the big box megastores?
Be real, go back your roots and put on make events. Don´t be lazy, stand up and do something!
And make sure your customers see that early sales are bad!
Does your store sponsor athletes, competitions, etc? If so, what are the benefits to the store and to the boardsports community?
Yes we have a big shop team, we make events like the famous ARC Austrian rookie challenge (austrianrookiechallenge.at) and the Alton tournament, where we’ve built a snow park for the last 15 years (snowparkdamuels.com). We make contests with big companies such as our Analog DUF contest, video premieres parties and so on.