Interview with Sukeats Chee of Wheel Love Skateshop


How long has Wheel Love been in operation?
Wheel Love Skateshop opened its doors in 2009. We are located in the heart of the Kuala Lumpur city centre and offer not just inline skates but also skateboards and scooters.

Are you the sole owner or are there other partners?
I run it with my partner Wei Yeng.


How did Wheel Love start?
Prior to opening our store, Wheel Love was a side project my partner and I ran to have some fun with blading. We started back in 2005, putting together skate videos, silk screening our own clothing and producing blade wheels.

How long did it take to get the store up and running and get business in?
In early 2009, my career in advertising was getting stale, it was either get another job in another agency or try our hand at starting a new business. We were both 29 that year and knew that once we hit our 30s, it would be a lot tougher to start something new. By September 2009 we opened to doors to our shop.

What made you want to start the shop?
Wei Yeng and I have been skating together since we were 13 and we've always been involved with the local scene and took a keen interest in building the blade community in Malaysia. The next logical step was have been to start a skateshop of our own.


Were there other stores in Malaysia when you began if so how was the competition with them?
There were a few other skateshops at the time, the scene is small and we've always been on good terms with all the other shops back when we were their customers and now as fellow skateshop owners.

What is the skate scene like in Malaysia? How big is aggressive skating? How big is Freeskating / Slalom?
Aggressive inline in Malaysia has always had a small but die hard community behind it. I put together the Stunts 4 Swag street rollerblading battle every year since 2004. This year will be our 14th round and we get great support with competitors showing up from around the country and neighbouring countries.

The freeskating and slalom side of things is also starting to pick up with international level competitions held around the country. In addition to that we've also got a very active roller hockey scene with the annual Malaysian International Roller Hockey Tournament organised by the Underdog Hockey team.

How important was picking your location to the success of the business?
For our first store, we chose a quiet suburban shoplot which had space in front of it for us to build our own little ghetto skatepark. We've always been fans of the “try then buy” business model. Nothing like trying the skates out right at the shop itself before getting a pair.


Does your shop offer skate lessons?
We recently started offering free skate clinic lessons at the shop on every Sunday. Response has been overwhelming and we are looking to start up our own skate school programme.

Do you do most of your sales online or in store?
At the moment its 50/50.

What other countries do you sell to?
We concentrate mainly on customers in Malaysia but we do get orders from other South East Asian countries like Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Do you travel to other countries in your region?
The South East Asian blading community is pretty tight, with bladers visiting their neighbouring countries pretty often. Our shop team, the #WheelLoveMakanForce regularly tours Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.


How many people do you think come into you store on average during the week and then on the weekend?
We get about 10 on weekdays and 20 on weekends in store.

You started doing a fitness night skate. Is that new or have you been doing it? Does it meet at the shop? How many people go?
Since we started selling the 125mm Megacruiser setups, we created the BLADE-FIT group to get everyone together to go fast on wheels. Its more of an intermediate/advance level group, not so much a casual skate, but an intense workout on skates.

We've also got the KL Car Free Morning rides that happen every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month. The City council closes up the roads in the heart of the city from 7am-9am and opens it up to skaters, bikers and runners to take over the streets of KL. Its a really fun way to explore the city and is a great morning workout.

Are there any big night skates in Malaysia
Wednesday nights are the Shah Alam Skatepark nights whilst Friday nights are the Mont Kiara Skatepark nights.


Researching online I’ve noticed Indonesia has a huge skate scene and massive night skates. Do you do any online sales there?
The scene is Indonesia is huge and growing bigger. We do get some orders from Indonesia, but the shipping cost can be prohibitive (sometimes half the price of a pair of blades!) so we concentrate more on our domestic market.

Are you handling any distribution as well?
We currently distribute Powerslide brands and Bern helmets here in Malaysia.

What are your most popular products?
USD skates and the Playlife brand skates are our best sellers.

How many rec/freestyle skates do you sell compared to aggressive?
Rec and freestyle outnumber aggressive for sure. But its always good to see customers upgrading their basic recreational skates for a pair of USDs or high end fitness skates like the Swell.


Are there any people doing off-road skating out there?
Our off road conditions aren't really suitable for skating. The jungle trails tend to be a bit too wet and soft for the SUV wheels.

Are you selling speed skates? How big is speed skating in Malaysia?
We don't carry speed skates, but we've introduced the 3 x 125mm fitness skates into the market. Once things pick up a little we will work towards introducing some entry level speed skates. The speed community in Malaysia is by far the smallest of all disciplines but we are working to help grow those numbers.

Where do you see Wheel love in the future?
I want to have a stronger and wider distribution network. I want to push to get blades into more non-skate retail outlets and even skateboard / bike shops.

What is the best things about being a rollerblader and living in Malaysia?
There are free municipal skateparks in almost every town in the country. Even if there aren't any skaters in that town! With this major hurdle crossed, it makes it easier for us to get more people on wheels.

Also, I love it that the scene in Malaysia is tight, with a lot of the old guard still skating and helping young grommets grow the community.


address:
Wheel Love Skateshop
58, the row, jalan doraisamy, 50300, Kuala Lumpur.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

phone:
+60 17-215 8664

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