LocoSkates is an inline skate shop located in Eastbourne, England which opened in December 2004. It is owned by longtime aggressive skater Jake Eley, who has spent much of life supporting the British skate scene. Jake also owns the wheel brand Go Project.
How long have you been skating? What is your skating background?
I watched NISS on the TV in 1996, bought Oxygen Argons and skated a doggy-rail in a car park every day for 2 years. I met some awesome people and started riding for K2 Skates in the UK. I also filmed for two videos called EF and E2F and formed a clothing brand called Occulture, which had a bit of a cult following in the UK. During my skating career I won some contests, travelled with K2, received a pro frame and then injured myself. After a year on the bench I started LocoSkates and haven’t had a day off since!
Have you noticed any significant change in the numbers of people participating in recreational skating vs. aggressive skating in the UK in the past decade?
Yes. There are clearly less skaters in both disciplines. It’s a bit hard for me to objectively judge though, because all I see all day is skaters!
What can people do in their hometowns to promote inline skating?
Just go skating and try and make it look cool and refined. The wide world will embrace skating when it’s ready and when somebody makes it look good on a large enough platform. You can’t force another boom though.
What sets your store apart from others?
I think we benefit from being a good balance of core skaters and dependable humans. We have spent the past 13 years putting all our profits back into inventory. As a result I think our stock level is pretty unrivalled.
What achievement are you most proud off?
My proudest achievement is Go Project. The model is really clean. It’s a much easier business to deal with and I’m proud of the quality and branding.
What was the most successful period for you?
It’s funny because our most successful periods have been anytime there was a boom on a non-skating related item which we could sell. The best years for sales for us were in 2006 (Heelys boom,) 20011/12 (scooter boom) and in 2015 (Hoverboard Boom). There is a tendency in some of the more hardcore bladers to consider retailing these items as ‘selling out’, but the reality is, we would never have been able to build our blading stock in the way we did without these items.
Did you ever have any periods where you thought you may not make it?
Yes, just a couple of months ago, for the first time since opening it got really scary. We’re growing the business, new premises, staff, website and that costs money. We had terrible sales over Christmas and lost a lot of money. Since then I’ve had to take more precautions. Oddly, January and February have been really encouraging months though. Not just for sales, but the scene felt like it had a bit of a kick on the butt.
Have your rec skates sales increased with the popularity of big wheel blading?
Well, sales of high-end big wheeled skates have replaced the declining traditional soft-boot rec skate. It’s actually a fantastic movement. You can see all the old aggressive skaters getting into ‘Big Wheel Blading’. It’s making the sport look better as a whole. Less Baywatch style and flashing lights, but who knows, it might be what we needed to see that boom.
Have your aggressive skating sales taken a hit with the rise of people skating on bigger wheels?
No, the aggressive skaters who bought big wheel skates own at least two pairs of skates. One with bigger wheels and one with smaller wheels for aggressive.
Within aggressive skating you have a trend of bigger frames like the GC Bigs & Megas as well as Kaltik and Oysi frames fitting bigger wheel sizes then traditional frames. Have people stepped away from skating 55-58mm wheels?
For sure. Now that some of the newer frames have given you the opportunity to ride a 62 or 65mm wheel flat with no wheel-bite why WOULDNT you skate them. There are still exceptions, but the average wheel size has gotten bigger. I’d like to think the Go Project 65mm wheel had a small part to play in that. We released that in the blind hope that people would buy an aggressive wheel that big even though they almost always had to modify their skates to make them fit. It paid off. Since then we’ve seen quite a few compatible products being released, maybe even as a result of the Go Project 65’s being so popular.
Do you think the people who made the switch will ever go back to skating a smaller wheel or anti-rocker or do you think these new frames designs have made that kind of skating a thing of the past?
People are always going to experiment. Anti-rocker is still awesome and Alex Broskow, the best blader in the world, is still riding anti. I couldn’t see myself going back to that long-term though, I enjoy rolling too much. I think ‘mid size’ is here for good. I have faith in it, hence why I committed to creating a mold for a 62mm Go Project wheel. It’ll take a few years to recover the set-up costs of that.
Would you ever open a second retail location?
No, our website is responsible for 70-80% of our sales and a second location would just double our overhead but not our sales. The only exception to this would be if I could somehow make it work in a location like Bali, Sydney or Dubai.
Where do you see LocoSkates in the future?
I see LocoSkates growing more internationally. We have some really cool features on our new website (dropping soon), which will hopefully allow us to serve other countries better. I see us being more grown up and more professional with better imagery, better stock system, more efficiency.
What are your best selling products?
Tri-Blades are great right now, especially the Powerslide Kaze and similar models. High-end big wheel skates are all doing well, I love the fact that there is a market out there for these eccentric top-end skates. It attracts some awesome people, people who care about the details and engineering. For aggressive skating the USD Aeons and Razors Shifts are doing the best.
What countries outside of the UK do you get the most orders from?
Most of our orders outside the UK come from the USA, France, Spain, Australia and Middle East. Brazil would be a great market if we could get skates there easier, but their import duty is ridiculously high.
Are there any group night skates in your town? Have you been to any around the UK?
Yes, there’s one in Brighton. It’s the gay capital of Europe so the Brighton-skate is super bright, fun and camp. I prefer to big wheel blade with a lower profile though, putting some headphones on and trying to skate as fast as possible!
How important was picking your location to the success of your business?
The fact we were in a seaside town in a relatively affluent country helped us infinitely when we first opened. We certainly wouldn’t have survived without the rec sales to the seafront skaters. However, location doesn’t matter any more. We just moved to a business park that is pretty difficult to find, but people still come in to buy skates.
Does the website draw people into the retail store?
Although we do most of our business online, loads of people visit the shop from far away just because they found our website online. Having all these different people show up at the shop makes it a lot more interesting than if we just had a web business.
How many people come into you store on average during the week and then on the weekend?
Shit, some weeks it feels like no one walks through that door on weekdays. Some Saturdays can be super busy though. We actually have four staff members working now on Saturdays and they are paid well, so if it’s quiet you can end up making a hefty loss!
Do you offer skating lessons through the shop?
We’ve always given away vouchers for 3rd party skate lessons when we sell skates. We don’t teach them ourselves though. I went to take an Inline Certification Program (ICP) instructor course a while back but quit after the first day. I found it a little weird that a board of people had ‘officially’ decided the best way to teach skating. I didn’t necessarily agree with the techniques taught, although I have friends who teach to ICP standards and its definitely all a positive thing. When we eventually teach lessons from Loco, we’ll make our own teaching standard, not ICP.
Do you sponsor skaters? If so who is on the team?
Yes, we have an aggressive team with Joe Atkinson, Richie Eisler, Alex Burston, Elliot Stevens, Leon Humphries, Sam Crofts and Dan Collins.
What are your favorite blading events?
Now that I’m a bit older it takes a little more to keep me interested! Winterclash is my all time favorite event. It is just so awesome in every way. I think it could have something to do with the beer on tap in the skatepark. I really enjoyed the British Championships this year and Shred Cologne has been consistently great. For non-aggressive events, I think the Berlin Marathon is an incredible weekend.
What brand of tea is drank the most in your shop?
Just standard PG tips! We have several coffee devices and we’re still trying to perfect that on-site, difficult if you don’t have an elaborate set-up! We just hooked up the Aeropress, which produces the best Joe to date!
How many skate shops exist in the UK today? Do you have any major competition there?
There are maybe ten shops selling ‘big-wheel’ skates and two or three selling aggressive. I wouldn’t consider any of them being ‘direct’ competition to us, because each shop has their own style of surviving in this industry. One will sell a lot of scooters on the side, while another will depend on having a ‘day job’ to keep it running. They all have a USP and I guess we can co-exist as a result.
Any advice for someone who wants to start a shop in their town?
Oooh. Hmmm. Controversially I’d say give it some REALLY good thought. I think it’s a bigger financial risk now than it was when we started in 2004. It is difficult to build a good stock of inventory because modern skates are more expensive and require you to carry many styles in multiple size variants. This can make it very difficult for a start-up.
However, if you think you could make it work, just remember to always do things properly. Doing things well takes a really long time… but that is the point, if it didn’t then everyone would be doing it. Just because we are bladers does not mean we can’t live up to the design, efficiency and professionalism of bigger industries. We can look just as good as the market leaders in those fields!
Unit 6 Redward Business Park
Telephone: +44 1323 411030