The global skateboard market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 3.5% from 2023-2030. The market reached nearly $3.22 billion in 2022 according to according to Grand View Research.
With more people taking up skateboarding as a hobby and sport, small businesses have an opportunity to capitalize on this growth by opening specialty retail shops catering to skaters’ equipment needs. From complete skateboards and decks to wheels, trucks, bearings, hardware, safety gear, and apparel – skate shops can become community hubs.
This guide will walk you through how to open a skate shop. Topics include obtaining business insurance, forming an LLC, opening a business bank account, market research, competitive analysis, and more.
1. Conduct Skate Shop Market Research
Market research is an important part of starting a successful skate shop. It provides valuable insight into sourcing equipment for skate parks, pricing products and services, learning about your target audience, and more.
Some details you’ll learn through market research include:
- The North American region holds the highest share (over 40%) of the global skateboard market currently.
- Specialty shops focused on skater culture and community retain dominance with close to 60% value share currently.
- California and Florida have the highest number of skateboarders based on population metrics.
- Opening a shop near popular skate parks in major cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Tampa, and America offers the biggest addressable markets.
- Profit margins for skate shop owners range from 30% on hard goods like decks, wheels and to 50% on apparel and footwear.
- Shops sponsored by major skateboard brands can command even higher margins.
- The used/second-hand skateboard gear market is also substantial, with sites like eBay reporting over 90,000 skate items sold monthly.
- Retail shops can capitalize on buy-sell-trade opportunities.
- While opening costs vary based on location and size, small startups can launch with around $50K in capital investment.
Specialty retail shops catering to local skate communities in U.S. regions like California and Florida offer strong competitive positioning to capture share. The used gear market also presents untapped potential. Market research will help you tap into yours.
2. Analyze the Competition
Understanding the competitive landscape is crucial for any new small business, and opening a profitable skate shop is no exception.
There are a few key areas entrepreneurs should analyze:
Identifying existing brick-and-mortar skate shops in the target geographic area. Analyze their location proximity to schools and skateparks. Estimate foot traffic at various times and their peak hours. Talk to skaters locally and evaluate community perception.
Evaluate the e-commerce presence of competitors using Alexa web traffic rankings and Google search volume metrics through Keyword Planner. This indicates their online visibility and sales capability beyond just physical retail.
Using email outreach and anonymous accounts when needed, engage the customer service of competitors to evaluate response times, product pricing, and catalog depth. Running this ‘secret shopper’ style auditing spotlights any weaknesses to capitalize on.
Monitoring competitor social media followings on Instagram and TikTok shows their community engagement levels. Use HypeAuditor to analyze follower authenticity, critical for judging true reach versus vanity metrics.
In summary, combining online and offline intelligence gathering on nearby skate shops provides an accurate picture of market competitiveness. It also gives entrepreneurs opening their store data-driven insights on positioning, pricing, inventory selection, and traffic-building strategy from launch onwards.
3. Costs to Start a Skate Shop Business
When launching a new skate shop venture, entrepreneurs need to budget for both initial start-up costs as well as ongoing operational expenses once open for business. Properly estimating these costs is crucial for securing enough capital, setting realistic financial expectations, and ensuring adequate cash flow to keep the doors open.
- In terms of start-up costs, one of the first will be registering your skate shop as a formal business.
- Expect administrator fees of $50-$150 depending on your state and whether you operate as an LLC, sole proprietorship, or corporation. T
- rademarking a unique brand name nationally averages around $275 in upfront USPTO fees.
- Leasing a good-sized retail space for a skate shop typically runs $15-$30 per square foot annually, with many spaces 2,000 ft2 or larger.
- This equates to $30,000-$60,000+ yearly depending on location and market rents, not counting property taxes and maintenance which can add 25%.
- Purchasing starting skate shop inventory including boards, trucks, wheels, and safety gear from wholesale brands/distributors averages around $15,000 for 300 units of various items according to industry experts.
- Shop fittings like racks, shelves, and counters run $8,000 to $12,000 on average. Investing in an elevated aesthetic reflecting local youth culture pays dividends driving social buzz and foot traffic.
- You’ll need small business insurance covering general liability, commercial property damage, inventory/equipment damage, worker’s compensation for any employees, etc. Quotes for $1 million policies average $150 monthly.
- Required tech gear like an iPad POS retail system, security cameras, high-speed internet, and a basic e-commerce site add roughly $3,000 more in start-up costs.
- Ongoing web hosting, domain renewal, email marketing, and potential paid online ad spend require a $300 monthly digital marketing budget.
- If hiring part-time shop staff, budget $15/hour base pay at a minimum.
- For a Manager plus 1-2 Sales Associates working evenings/weekends, this tallies $45,000 in annual payroll at 20 hours each per week.
In total, starting a skate shop from scratch requires an estimated $125,000-$175,000 in upfront capital investment accounting for all key costs mentioned.
- On the ongoing side, fixed costs like rent, insurance, web services, and payroll will tally $60,000 yearly depending on the above factors.
- Variable costs tied directly to sales include restocking inventory, planning for needing $30,000 annually to replace bestselling items and staying current with the latest merchandise.
- Enterprising shops may also allot sponsorships and localized event marketing budgets to connect with community skaters.
- Other monthly outflows like shopkeeper’s insurance, accounting software, legal/consulting fees, advertising, and facility maintenance should be projected between $500-$1,500 on average.
Managing both fixed and variable costs tightly while focused on profit margin levels per product category sold is key to making your skate shop sustainably profitable. With proper capitalization, prime location, and tapping into a vibrant local skate community, solid returns on investment are achievable.
4. Form a Legal Business Entity
When starting a skate shop, choosing the right formal business structure is an important legal and financial decision for entrepreneurs. The four main options each have pros and cons to weigh for this retail industry:
A sole proprietorship is the simplest as you operate using your identity without any formal company filing. However, you take on unlimited liability, meaning your assets can be seized if the business is sued for property damage, injuries, etc. This makes adequate insurance extra critical. Sole proprietors also pay higher income tax rates and have fewer options for investor partnerships as the shop grows.
Partnerships let multiple owners split management and liability risk. However, any co-owned property or inventory investments likely need legal partnership agreements drafted to control decision-making and protect individual investor interests. Partners also share tax burdens and debts jointly. Formal rules for partners exiting or joining need addressed upfront.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Forming a limited liability corporation (LLC) offers key advantages for skate shop owners per small business legal experts. Unlike sole proprietors, LLC status gives complete separation between business and personal assets, protecting owners’ homes or vehicles if sued for shop accidents. This legal ‘liability shield’ brings great peace of mind in a risk-heavy industry working with youth and selling gear tied to physical sports.
Transitioning to a formal corporation in the future remains an option offering stocks and company shares to outside investors. But for early-stage skate retail businesses, LLC status offers the best protections and flexibility according to most legal and tax experts.
5. Register Your Business For Taxes
One key legal task for new skate shop entrepreneurs is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the federal IRS. Also referred to as a federal tax ID number, an EIN is crucial for starting any business to handle important steps like opening business bank accounts properly, applying for any needed licenses/permits, hiring employees later on, and interfacing smoothly with state/federal agencies.
Thankfully applying takes less than 10 minutes online. Simply access the official IRS EIN Assistant tool and answer a short questionnaire about your fledgling skate shop. Provide basic contact/address information and specify your LLC status if organized that way, you’ll receive an EIN immediately upon submission of the form.
Save this unique 9-digit EIN to file away with all your other skate shop business records. It serves as your entity’s official federal tax ID number going forward for all government correspondence, paperwork, tax documents, etc.
After being assigned an EIN, skate retailers must also register with their Secretary of State’s office for rules surrounding state sales tax collection, filing quarterly statements, and remitting owed monies. Useful sales tax resources for small business owners.
The EIN application itself through the IRS is free. However legal/accounting guidance for properly organizing state tax compliance after opening your doors will cost between $200-$500. Consider these nominal start-up expenses wise long-term investments however for smoothly operating a legal retail business.
6. Setup Your Accounting
Carefully managing finances separates successful small businesses from those that unfortunately fail. For new skate shop owners, investing in organized accounting from day one avoids headaches with the IRS and ensures you have accurate visibility into your store’s true profitability.
Quality affordable accounting software like QuickBooks can automate the tracking of all transactions from your business bank/credit card accounts. QuickBooks syncs seamlessly with major banks to log expenses, sales deposits, payroll, and taxes in one dashboard. This lets you generate real-time reports on daily, monthly, and annual cash flow to make data-driven decisions.
Hire an Accountant
Accountants charge from $200 to $500 monthly for routine small business financial work. But most crucially, having an accountant prepare annual income tax filings and advise on legal tax reduction strategies saves shop owners thousands long-term. Expect CPA prep fees from $600 but far less than potential IRS audit penalties.
Open a Business Bank Account
On the banking side, keep your personal and business accounts 100% separate from your accounts for simplicity. Use your company EIN to open dedicated small business checking/savings accounts and credit cards solely for store needs. This critical accounting rule maintains clear records for taxes and ensures an accurate picture of actual retained business earnings.
Apply for Business Credit Cards
Applying for a small business credit card also provides convenient access to credit lines while building an independent credit profile to support bigger retailer financing requests down the road. Issuers like Capital One Spark Cards pre-approve entrepreneurs for $500+ limits based on personal credit data with room to increase alongside sales growth.
7. Obtain Licenses and Permits
While eager new skateboarding entrepreneurs naturally focus first on perfecting their half-pipe-inspired launch campaigns, permit bureaucracy remains critical. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.
According to the US Small Business Administration (SBA), the phrase “ignorance of the law is no excuse” firmly applies to new small business owners across industries from restaurants to skate shops alike. Luckily avoiding missteps is straightforward once equipped with the right municipal cheat sheet.
Nearly all US states require collecting sales tax on goods sold under a seller’s permit, but we’ll table diving into those details for another day! From there required permits and rules vary by city. For example in Los Angeles where skate culture thrives, new storefront retailers need a municipal business license to legally hang an Open sign on their door.
LA Business License fees start below $100 annually covering your physical address. However specialized land use permits with zoning boards may be necessary pending your shop’s location. Water discharge or waste management permits come into play when working with varnish and grip tape.
Ignore these less thrilling but required steps and not only do thousand-dollar citations await, but some cities enforce business license rules to the extent of physically chaining store doors shut!
The moral of this skate shop owner cautionary tale – handle the mundane compliance work seriously to keep local officials happy. But know also that emerging small business ecosystems from LA to New York now offer proactive help and free consultations navigating licenses pre-launch instead of just wielding a penalty hammer.
State and local governments genuinely want entrepreneurial ventures like yours to thrive. Seek them out as partners, not opponents, during your journey from blueprint to ribbon cutting.
8. Get Business Insurance
While the thrills of skateboarding entail daring physicality, smart skate shop owners approach protecting their burgeoning retail venture with careful planning. Few investments provide peace of mind like customized business insurance.
Imagine a simple slushy rain day leading to a hardwood floor water leak. Thousands in decks, trucks and apparel soak water damage not covered by your landlord’s policy. Or an overnight burglary nets criminals your entire wheel inventory. Property insurance is crucial in covering these unpredictable theft and weather incidents.
Alternatively, consider if a visiting amateur skater badly breaks their wrist attempting tricks on their brand new but incorrectly sized board from your shop. Lawsuits and legal liability add up fast. General liability insurance covers 3rd party injury claims, which data shows arise frequently within sports retail. Pricey lawsuits sink businesses without warning.
However, securing adequate small business insurance coverage need not overwhelm shop owners. Online tools like CoverWallet simplify quoting comprehensive protection tailored for specialty retail. Answer a quick questionnaire about your shop’s size, location, and inventory values to receive customized policy options from leading insurers.
Protect your passion and livelihood from uncontrollable threats. Safeguard the vibrance of your local skate community hub with thorough insurance, then confidently get back to bringing innovative action sports inspiration to new generations.
9. Create an Office Space
While much of a skateboarding retailer’s workflow revolves around the high-energy sales floor and keeping coveted decks stacked tall, having some form of back office space delivers useful versatility.
For mobile skate entrepreneurs still testing ideas or with flexible lease situations, a basic home office can work temporarily. Setting up an organizing command center to handle inventory orders, QuickBooks accounting, email campaigns, and managing the online shop ads allows focus for just a few hundred dollars in basic desk and computer gear.
If already operating a leased storefront, simply reserving a storage room or quiet corner of the property to multitask on administrative obligations allows easy access while giving some work-life separation. Just beware inventory can creep into the makeshift office area rather quickly if not diligent. But if space allows, this efficient integrated setup runs no extra costs.
Seeking a vibrant creative community outside the home? Coworking spaces like WeWork offer open lounge work environments combining the focus of private offices with the energy of cafes – perfect for taking sales calls or collaborating with fellow entrepreneurs. Hot desk rentals start around $300 monthly with converted warehouse spaces providing quirky backdrops reflecting startup culture.
10. Source Your Equipment
Bringing together an enticing array of quality skateboards, protective gear, and on-trend skate apparel requires thoughtful planning before launch. Fortunately, fledgling skate retail owners have options when acquiring those first crucial inventory orders – balancing affordability and cultivating their ideal brand mix.
Purchasing entirely new gear from leading skate brands like NHS Fun Factory comes with perks. Bulk order discounts from these established partners let new skate shops open with solid product selections that legitimize them with customers from day one. Just expect upfront wholesale purchase minimums of around $15,000.
Gently used boards, trucks and helmets offer budget-friendly inventory sourcing to minimize initial capital risk. Vibrant secondary markets at sites like eBay and regional Facebook Marketplace listings provide constant lightly-used skate product turnover from everyday skaters. Expect deep 50%+ discounts purchasing second-hand while still showcasing recognizable brands – just beware of sizing availability.
11. Establish Your Brand Assets
Beyond just selling quality skate products, savvy new entrepreneurs build community pillars by nurturing a distinctive local shop identity from day one. Thoughtfully branding your passionate vision pays dividends earning customer loyalty.
Get a Business Phone Number
Start by securing a business phone number through Ring Central with a custom greeting that sets an inclusive tone for every caller. Choose vanity digits spelling out your shop name for extra memorability. Don’t underestimate the power of voice-based first impressions.
Design a Logo
A polished logo turns a novice startup into a professional brand locally recognized from boardwalks to hangout parking lots. Consider an illustrated image like Santa Cruz’s screaming hand icon or Animal’s gnarly anthropomorphized slogans as inspiration when designing your iconic mark. Expert digital design marketplaces like Looka create custom logos for under $100 tailored to your shop.
Print Business Cards
Business cards and word-of-mouth marketing are important steps in opening a local skate shop. The best place to print cards is through Vistaprint. Vistaprint offers top rates on business cards, signage, merchandise, and more.
Buy a Domain Name
Purchasing your .com domain locks in simplistic web visibility primed to drive online and foot traffic. Check domain availability at registrars like Namecheap for under $20 annually.
Design a Website
Building out an engaging one-page site on DIY platforms like Wix takes just hours while showcasing your products, promotions, and rad local skater bios. For under $5 monthly this basic web presence lets search engines index your brand 24/7 to bubble up across Google Maps/Facebook and customer bookmarks.
12. Join Associations and Groups
While seasoned skate shop owners certainly possess sales floor wisdom, even legends like Tony Hawk still treasure networking opportunities to sharpen their entrepreneurial edge. Skateboarding’s communal ethos means dozens of local groups and associations eagerly welcome fresh retail faces.
For example, the nonprofit Association of Skateboarders offers members exclusive access to events plus business mentorship guiding new owners on profitability or sourcing eco-friendly products to stock. Regional groups provide construction grants and organize skilled labor teams volunteering to help build your mini ramps.
Attending monthly startup meetups hosted through Meetup.com delivers more informal chances to connect with other small business owners facing similar ground-level challenges. Local connections translate into vendor referrals and creative troubleshooting.
Niche Facebook groups like LONGBOARD SKATEBOARD MARKETPLACE and Electric Skateboards Scooters Bikes Buy and Sell in the USA offer 24/7 online forums to tap universal wisdom from hundreds of industry insiders. Search for posts mirroring your specific questions or make your own asking the community. Access these digital networks whenever you need trusted guidance operating or marketing your indie operation.
13. How to Market a Skate Shop Business
While perfecting your kickflip product selection and welcoming hangout atmosphere drives first-time sales, marketing deliberately expands your shop’s visibility so ideal new customers discover your welcoming oasis organically.
Your network is your best asset early on. Offer happy customers a 10% off coupon code for every paying referral they send your way. Local influencers like prominent middle/high school skaters can be given pro-model branded decks to stoke exclusive hype. Incentivize advocates and watch word-of-mouth spread faster than a stylish line hitting Instagram Explore.
Digital channels in particular enable targeted and cost-efficient exposure growth leveraging data:
- Run Google Ads campaigns optimized to surface your shop among local searchers seeking skate products in your geographic area. Target by interests like ‘skateboarding culture’ and ‘action sports’.
- Facebook and Instagram ads help connect your brand with fresh online audiences that align with defined demographics, locations, and hobby interests transparently provided to advertisers.
- Upload snappy behind-the-scenes product overviews showcasing the latest gear or adrenaline-pumping skater highlights filmed at your park events. Fuel organic reach through YouTube and TikTok.
- Publishing stories on your blog highlighting famous visiting pro skaters or reviewing hot new decks reinforces your shop as the pulse of the regional community.
Traditional channels still provide value albeit with less measurable data:
- Eye-catching local newspaper ads before major competitions grab new families’ attention.
- Sponsoring events, clinics, and free lessons establishes goodwill with newcomers while serving core customers.
- Loyalty punch-card promotions reward passionate regulars with new branded swag after milestone store visits.
The days of relying solely on word-of-mouth referrals are over. But thoughtful skate shops blend digital commerce convenience with in-real-life loyalist rewards – that magical community retail formula remains irreplaceable, even in 2023.
14. Focus on the Customer
In an era where clicks drive commerce, nourishing real bonds with customers fuels skate shops’ livelihood more than ever.
Some ways skateboard shops can improve customer focus include:
- Consider a local teen who excitedly shares iPhone clips of their latest kickflip attempt that somehow keeps going awry.
- Take five genuine minutes to analyze their technique and offer tailored tips correcting the issues noticed.
- Recommend trying a specific wider deck from your inventory that lends more stability to build confidence.
- When they return the next week eager to share their trick thanks to your pointers, that spark becomes a loyal customer for life eagerly touting your shop’s service to friends for years.
- Consider making recommendations for the most efficient shoe type, board type, wheel type, and more, based on the customers’ preferences.
- Quell those fears through thoughtful dialogue and connections blossom into vocal brand advocates referring countless others to your supportive oasis.
Sales follow relationships when rooted in understanding people’s needs because skating solves more than just boredom, it fulfills identity for so many. Offer both gear and empowerment as your special sauce.