Retail Traffic

ramping up

teens may not be simply wandering the mall anymore. Yesterday's mall rats are today's energetic showmen of the skates, finding some bowls to dice it up with sausage grinds, stale fish grabs and shoveits.

Vans Inc. is bringing the sport of skateboarding - along with the quirky jargon - to major shopping destinations with its Vans Skatepark. The first location opened at Block at Orange in Orange, Calif., in November 1998. Since then, the Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based company has opened Skateparks in Bakersfield and Ontario, Calif.

"We wanted to create the best facility in the world to showcase the sport of skateboarding, and let kids have a great time doing something they really enjoy," says Gary Schoenfeld, president and CEO of Vans.

Skateboarding is one of a group of sports that Vans calls Core Sports, activities that are individually oriented and appeal to Generation Y. Snowboarding, surfing, wakeboarding and mountain biking also fit the category. With its Skateparks, Vans is aiming to prove its commitment to the Core Sports lifestyle.

"There are other skateparks, but not with this kind of scale," Schoenfeld says of the new facilities, which range from 50,000 to 60,000 sq. ft. While the features vary slightly at the three parks, they all have three in-ground cement pools, a halfpipe ramp, a pee-wee area for young children and beginners, and an indoor and outdoor course.

Ontario Mills, the newest and largest of Vans Skatepark locations, boasts the most technically advanced indoor and outdoor BMX dirt bike facility in the world, as well as GameWorks, a retail store and a skate shop.

"The retail store carries just our skate product and our athletic product," says Neal Lyons, president of retail for Vans. "The skate shop carries over 150 skateboards, BMX dirt bikes, helmets, pads, wheels and every little piece you would need for a skateboard, down to grip tape. We even sell ramps that go into your driveway."

The retail in Vans Skatepark is just one of the company's three retail divisions. The other two - full-price stores in regional malls and outlet stores - have a total of 125 stores in the United States and Europe.

because of Vans' previous experience with retail and with the teen market, Vans Skatepark is an ideal tenant for centers wanting to draw teens, Lyons says. "Who else attracts the teen market?" he asks. "There are no department stores that attract teens."

Vans wants its future Skateparks to anchor major shopping destinations, whether regional malls or entertainment centers. Four more skateparks are currently on the drawing board. Construction begins next month on parks in Milpitas, Calif., and Potomac Mills in Prince William, Va., with completion set for May. In April, construction begins on parks in Denver and Orlando, Fla., with the former completed in August and the latter in December.

Negotiations are also under way for Skateparks in Philadelphia; Charlotte, N.C.; San Diego; and Novi, Mich. "We're targeting metropolitan areas," Lyons says, adding that a wide variety of factors go into site selection. "We're looking for malls with substantial surrounding homes so kids can get there easily. We're looking at areas where we know there is a skater community. There are rankings for communities on how many kids skate per capita."

Location of existing Vans retail stores is also a factor. If those do well in a certain center, and if other teen stores do well, it's an indication the teen market is prominent at that center. While Vans is considering a few types of centers for future locations, an entertainment center is ideal for the concept, Lyons adds. Parents feel comfortable dropping their kidsoff at Vans Skatepark while they shop, see a movie or go out to dinner, he says.

i think this is the way of the future in these malls," Lyons says. Besides learning tricks like a noseslide and a frontslide pop shove-it, teens can surf the web on site-controlled Internet stations and can play video games. "We have an arcade with just alternative sports. We have the 20 games that teens rate the top 20, and we change them every month."

Lyons notes that Vans Skatepark is such a traffic generator, especially for the teen market, that other retailers often follow it to centers. "With several of the deals we made, they (developers) had five to 10 leasing plans contingent on us opening," he says.

As more developers realize that Vans Skatepark draws teens, and families, to their centers, Vans expects more offers for new locations. "There is a lot of interest in getting this new generation of kids back into the malls," Schoenfeld says.

At Vans Skateparks, the kids are returning to controlled environments where safety is a central concern, he emphasizes. "We make all skaters, whether they're beginners or professionals, wear helmets, elbow pads and knee pads," he says. "We have people out on the floor who can provide instruction for those who want it. It's a sport where you get some bumps and bruises, but as a whole, if people are trained how to do it and have the right equipment, they'll be OK."

Considering teens are wagging some tailslide and doing fakie kickflips, parents will be glad to know their kids are safe.

Frontside Flip - making the board turn upside-down, in forward direction, and landing on wheels.

The Manual - traveling on the two rear wheels of skateboard (a wheelie).

Grind - moving along the edge or on top of an object with the axles of both trucks. Variations include 50-50, 5-0, tail, nose, K-grind, smith, sausage, feeble and slappy.

Wallie - skating onto, up and over a street object.

Stale Fish Grab - grabbing the board behind you with the rear hand, around the back of rear leg.

Shoveit - turning board without turning your body so the board spins around under your feet.

Fakie Kickflip - while traveling backward, flipping board with kicking motion.

Nollie - placing front foot on nose and popping board up into air using the nose (rather than the tail, as in an ollie). Same as switch-stance fakie ollie.

Tailslide - sliding with tail of board upon the object and the rest hanging off the object.

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