Skateboarders have more options than ever when it comes to buying new boards, skate shoes, accessories and apparel. So should you buy from your local skate shop? An online store? A multinational retailer like Zumiez? Ride alongside us as we go through the pros and cons of each choice.
Just about everything is available on Amazon nowadays, often for the lowest price and quickest arrival to your doorstep. However, we personally have never been able to find a particularly large selection of skateboard decks on their platform. You can find a great selection of skate bearings, other hardware, clothing and skate shoes.
Customer reviews and star ratings for skate products are often scant, particularly on skate decks, due to the ever changing variety of graphics and sizes. Skate shoes and apparel may have more feedback available, as these items are also bought and worn by those who do not skate.
While Amazon is one of the largest companies on the planet and takes a cut from most purchases, the sale still helps skate brands and resellers, who are often relatively small businesses.
Other Online Skate Stores like SkateWarehouse.com and CCS.com
If you live in a more rural area, or if there’s otherwise no brick and mortar skate shops around, there are a handful of large online retailers dedicated to skateboarding (or board sports in general). If you are located in California, SkateWarehouse.com offers their “Golden State Overnight” shipping option, where you can often get your order in about 48 hours or less. We also like CCS.com (originally known as California Cheap Skates) for their large selection from quality brands and long-standing dedication to skateboarding. If you are set on buying online, we recommend this option over Amazon.
Retail Chains like Zumiez and Active Ride Shop
Prices, selection, and experience vary across different multi-location brick & mortar skateboard shops, but not by much. You’ll always find a wide selection of decks, shoes, and apparel from high quality brands at reasonable prices. Store associates will typically be younger people who often either skate or have friends that do. The biggest pluses when it comes to buying skateboards at a traditional skate shop is the ability to closely examine the curvature of each skate deck as well as the fit and feel of a skate shoe.
Due to the fact that they’re a large publicly-traded company, shopping at stores like Zumiez often gets derided by skaters as being supportive of profit-centric unauthentic brands. With nearly 700 locations and a market valuation of about $560 million, this isn’t wrong (a family owned skate-shop might be valued at around $100-500k). However, a company like Nike is valued at around $95 billion. These are scales you can take into consideration when thinking about what kind of companies you want to support and what you want to see for the future of skateboarding.
Some retail chain skate shops are a bit more regional. Active Ride Shop, for example, has around 25 locations, but all of them are in Southern California. Employees are often a bit more in tune with the local skate scene and the skateparks in the area.
Your Local Family-Owned Skate Shop
Consider it a blessing to have a shop like this in your town. Your local, privately-owned skateboard shop is where you’ll find the best customer service experience and where skateboarders in your neighborhood will come to rendezvous. The store owners will often have a connection to skateboarding themselves. If you are new to the city, any of the store associates or loyal patrons will be able to point you in the direction of the nearest and best skateparks and skate spots.
In terms of prices, you may end up paying a few dollars more than larger retailers who can afford to buy wholesale in larger quantities. However, it’s at your hometown skate shop that you’ll be able to forge the best relationship with the employees or owner, and they’ll often be happy to cut deals to returning customers.
And again, the major benefit of shopping at a physical skateboard shop is that you can feel all the product offerings and simultaneously seek advice from employees and fellow customers.
Direct from Manufacturer or Distributor
This is an alternative that’s not often considered but definitely available to most skaters. Buying your skate products online directly from a manufacturer or distributor will allot the largest profit margin to those companies, which are typically relatively small businesses. The downside is that their shipping process may be less streamlined than Amazon or a larger online store so you might not find many big discounts. Another downside to this method is that you don’t get the chance to try on or handle the gear before buying. Sure, you can buy it and return it, but the return process might not be as streamlined as a platform like Amazon.
Sporting Goods or Big Box stores like Dick’s, Big 5, Target, or Wal-Mart
Avoid this option if you are serious about skateboarding. You won’t find many quality skateboard brands at these stores and certainly not a wide selection. They may have a few choices for skate shoes or helmets, but that’s about it. The store employees will typically have little to no skateboard expertise.
Skateboarding is an amazing sport, art, and way of life, but buying a toy-brand skateboard will not get your child or niece/nephew into it. That would be a waste of $25. Spend $100 and get them the real thing. Or you can even buy them a used complete skateboard for $50-70 on Craigslist.
Our Recommendations (from highest to lowest):
-Your Local Skate Shop – Strong customer service, insightful experience and a commitment to skateboarding.
-Regional or Small Chain Skate Shop – Nice blend of convenience, selection and knowledgeable staff.
-Larger Chain Stores (i.e. Zumiez) – Less of an “at-home” feeling than the above options, but still benefit from being able to touch, feel and try on product.
-Online Skate-oriented Retailers – Enjoy a wide selection of gear and occasionally find good sales.
-Amazon – Not always the best selection, but convenient to use. Good for parts like bearings.
–Direct from Manufacturer/Distributor – Buy here if you already know which brands you want to support and which products you want to use, rather than for browsing.
-Big Box Retail or Sporting Goods Store – Avoid. They typically do not carry a wide selection of the brands you want and store associates rarely have skateboarding expertise.
Final Thoughts: We think that finding the right skateboard deck, parts and shoes that work best for you involves an in-store experience. And if you’re just beginning your skateboard journey or perhaps shopping for a gift, you’ll find the best tips from your local or regional skate shop.