Of all the difficulties that skate shops face, having a solid web store is more important and tricky than you might expect. Enticing consumers to visit their shop’s site instead of buying directly from brands or larger retailers is the most obvious hurdle. But raising their search engine optimization (SEO) scores to actually show up on Google is more of a pole vault than a hurdle.
That’s where Parade World comes in. Parade is an online “marketplace” that brings together skate shops and brands in a new model that helps shops thrive in an e-commerce world. So when you buy skate goods online, your money goes to actual shops as well.
Initially operating only in the UK, Parade has recently expanded to skate shops in the U.S.
Parade’s model, in which they facilitate sales without ever holding inventory themselves, was adopted from a fashion retailer called Farfetch.
So unlike existing online skate retailers like CCS and Skate Warehouse, which have their own warehouses and inventories, Parade doesn’t technically hold any product themselves. Instead, when you shop on their site, the sale will be fulfilled through a skate shop’s inventory, and Parade pays for shipping and takes a percentage of the sale as commission. For the skate shop, it’s almost as if you had bought it directly from them.
The two guys behind Parade are Neil Chester and Craig Smith. Before starting Parade, Neil was the manager of skate marketing for Adidas and Craig was the vice president of online product for Burberry. With Craig’s e-commerce know-how and Neil’s industry experience, they’re confident they have the right combination of expertise to help skate shops succeed.
“We believe that we bring something to the table that can help these guys out and offer a different model,” Neil said. “Core skate stores have a business model, but that’s becoming more and more challenging. When it comes to online, and especially the nuances of e-com in 2019, which are only getting gnarlier and gnarlier in terms of skill and various things you need to adapt to survive, it becomes difficult.”
Neil and Craig also pride themselves on hosting smaller and more cutty brands. “Skate shops are the ones to take chances on new brands and support the brands,” Craig said. “So in terms of the consumer, we’ll be able to bring in those brands they can’t get on Zumiez.”
As some shops, like New York’s Labor, have pointed out, one of their biggest challenges is brands selling directly to consumers. You can pretty much always get the size and color you want when you order straight from a brand, but when you go to a skate shop, they may not always have exactly what you were looking for.
With Parade, you get the ease and selection of buying straight from a brand while making sure your dollar goes to a skate shop.
Parade even started a skate team with Heitor Da Silva.
“A Monday morning at a skate shop? I can’t imagine it’s that productive in a non-large city environment,” Craig said. “A lot of our retailers, now, when they come in on a Monday morning, they’re packing boxes.”
For small shops, competing against huge retailers in the e-commerce sector can be daunting. “Right now, if a teenage girl or boy wants a Thrasher hoodie and Vans Old Skools, they Google it and who is going to get that hit? Urban Outfitters. So maybe we can take a slice of that market and bring it to legit skate stores,” Neil said.
Overall, Parade is trying to relieve some of the online burdens from shop owners and allow them to focus more on their physical stores and building their communities.
Normally, for a skate shop to sell online, they have to run their own online store and constantly update it by taking photos of the products, editing and uploading them, and writing product descriptions. But if they become a part of Parade, all shops have to do is get a Shopify store account. Parade handles all the backend hassle, saving shops time, money, and stress.
I spoke with Travis Clayton, owner and manager of Illicit Skate Shop in Kettering, UK, to see what Parade is like from a shop’s perspective. He’s fully on board and sees a bright future ahead.
“I believe if enough shops were to join, there is huge potential. I have skated for 20 years and believe a huge percentage of skaters want to support core independent skate shops. There is a huge appeal and convenience to ordering online, so if you can ensure your money is going to [the] right place, everyone’s a winner.”
If their business model works out, Parade could benefit skate shop owners and consumers alike. Now, shopping conveniently online and shopping responsibly at a local store don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can feel good about supporting a shop without having to put out your joint, or even put on pants.