Many athletes endorse sneakers or liquid refreshment. It's rare, though, when one comes along who has as much influence and allure over his audience to warrant a retail store concept catered to his essence. But that's exactly the kind of following skateboarding legend Tony Hawk has.
There are currently three Hawk Skate retail stores geared to skateboarding enthusiasts. Having been involved with the sport for more than 20 years, Tony Hawk is its most recognizable name. The stores-located in California, New Jersey and Utah-are owned by Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Quiksilver Inc., the apparel retailer and manufacturer.
"The idea for the Hawk Skate store came after our sponsorship deal with Tony and the clothing line we created with him," says Gregg Solomon, senior VP of Quiksilver retail division. "It's a great opportunity to get his brand and name out there."
Hawk developed his own skate-clothing company in 1998 called, appropriately. Hawk Clothing. It was acquired by Quiksilver in early 2000. Hawk was already under sponsorship at that time and had been since he was 12 years old.
The first Hawk Skate store opened with much success in November 2000 at the Garden State Plaza in New Jersey. The store was designed by Quiksilver VP of visual, Steve Jones, with some outside help from a consultant. A second store opened the following November at The Gateway in Salt Lake City and a third opened last March at The Grove in Los Angeles. The stores average 1,400 sq. ft.
Tony Hawk put more than his name into the concept. Quiksilver made a presentation to him prior to building the first store, and some minor changes were included based on his recommendations for the other locations.
That's not to say that his presence in the stores is not prominent. Each store has an area where shoppers can play his video game: Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Developed by Activision in 1999, it is in its third edition and is one of the most popular games on the market, enjoyed by nonskaters, as well.
"While we try to incorporate Tony into the store as much as possible, he feels it's important that the store is not just about him," says Solomon. "He will be an icon forever, but the store has to have legs to endure regardless of what path he takes."
In addition to selling the Hawk Clothing line, the three Hawk Skate stores also sell apparel from Quiksilver, Volcom and other lines. However, one store manager attests that it's the Tony Hawk merchandise that sells the best. They also sell skateboarding equipment, including Tony's own line from his Birdhouse skateboarding company, videos and even his video game. The core customers of the stores are mostly young men and boys.
"Some girls come in and shop around--Tony has a large following," explains Solomon. "But it's too small of a store to be everything to everybody."
Likewise, the managers and employees of the stores are young and relate to the brand. Sales associates range from 16- to 21-year olds, supervisors and managers are in their mid- to late-20s. Most of the workers are skateboarding enthusiasts themselves.
While skateboarding is currently one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States--an estimated 1 million kids pick up the sport every year-- Quiksilver has no plans at the moment to greatly expand the concept.
"We're taking a slow approach toward growth," says Solomon.
Still, with 11 million kids and young adults already attempting to emulate Tony Hawk, who recently retired from competition, there is plenty of market out there for Hawk Skate.