When we received an email from Sam Wolff of the Thane Store, we had no idea that it would kick off a whole other discussion about how small brands can market their wares.
If you have a small skate company, or you are thinking about starting one, you might want to look at Direct PB.
What kind of role can Direct PB play for up and coming skate companies?
Sam Wolff: Thane Store, and our parent company Direct Premium Buys, put a lot of focus on new and small companies. We look for opportunities that others haven’t noticed, and we try to help them get noticed through our site and social media. Phil and I noticed early on as skaters that there is an endless sea of gear out there, and more brands coming out all the time. Despite that, all our friends were riding stuff from the same 4 or 5 brands. That’s not necessarily bad, those top American brands make great stuff, but eventually we saw many of the new companies going under before we got to try the gear. We saw an opportunity to make an impact and provide some resources to those skaters brave enough to act on their ideas and innovate.
Some of the resources that Direct Premium Buys can provide include wholesale, distribution, and fulfillment so that they can get onto even more shelves. Our idea is to create a market for the product in the US first, and then get it into the hands of retail stores around the country. We use our background in eCommerce and logistics to offer consulting, product photography, and marketing strategy services to these companies as well.
Many people have great ideas for companies but find it challenging to get their product into shops – do you see your company as an incubator?
Getting into shops these days gets harder and harder as more people flock towards what’s popular. You have to have everything in place… trademarks, patents, shipping, branding, word-of-mouth exposure, consistent manufacturing. If anything is lacking, a shop that may see less than a hundred visitors a day couldn’t justify the risk of the initial investment. That’s where we come in. If you have a good product, we’ll store it, mail it, promote it, try it, review it, and show you what we know works for getting it into more skater’s hands. Granted, not every egg in the incubator hatches. But when a baby bird leaves the nest, it’s a great feeling.
What are some of your success stories?
I think our biggest accomplishments so far is our line up of international brands. Before, if a customer wanted to try a product from say, the UK, they would need to pay expensive shipping costs to get that product into the US. Needless to say, this discourages a lot of would-be customers. We’re giving these companies the ability to sell directly to the US market, without incurring high costs of shipping on their end, and to the customer as well. We’ve got wheels from places like Malaysia, South Africa, the UK, and Israel all under one roof, and to us, that’s a huge accomplishment.
How do you determine what brands to carry?
As much as we want to pick up every new brand we find and have a massive selection, it’s challenging logistically. Some brands have unreasonable expectations. We have to balance our safe bets with our risks like every other company, but we know our fan base is different and they’re down to try something out. So we look for what people are saying about the product. If we can get our hands on it, we try it out. If not, we assess what we can find out online, make an order and give a set to the team to pass around. Importing a box of wheels from across the world is expensive, and it doesn’t always sell right away, but we feel that it’s worth it if we can get our scene riding on new, underrated stuff and finding new ways to have fun skating.
What’s your current take on the overall skate market?
The skate market isn’t like other markets, as DPB has definitely learned. The same principles don’t apply, you have to think like a skater to sell to skaters. The market right now, as we’ve all noticed, it’s sort of plateauing after the explosion of downhill in the last 5 years. I think dramatic shifts like S9 changing hands and the whole Arbor thing have people a little nervous, but from what I can see, stoke is still high. It’s easier said than done, but the American scene especially needs more accessible events, safe places to skate like Kamloops, and riders that won’t judge you for riding a certain way or not being good enough. We need more skating for the sake of it, and less fiending for sponsorships and status. The companies that put their efforts into these areas while producing consistently great gear will make it through to the next huge wave of hype. It will come. Stay stoked.