“We do what we want, how we want, when we want and if people don’t like it then they can go fuck themselves.”
Just read through Harry Main’s interview on Vital and he makes some good points about things. I respect him, he’s not my kind of rider but the fact his desire is to do whatever he wants is important, because that’s the fundamentals of BMX. We do what we want, how we want, when we want and if people don’t like it then they can go fuck themselves. He’s not “ruining” BMX, that’s crap really, it’s not a smart argument, but this is….
When it comes to direct sales and the vision of the core industry he’s wrong. It’s his opinion, and I respect it but it’s naive. Selling tons of bikes direct for cheaper is great when you’re a parent and inevitably it does put kids on bikes. That’s not the full story though. BMX brands could sell direct tomorrow if they wanted and take a bigger margin by cutting out retail. Not only that, Mafia would be screwed. The biggest brands in BMX have a retail focus and they’re (thankfully) owned and run by core industry BMXers. People who have dedicated their lives to BMX and who push a solid vision for its future. They balance the books with an agenda to make BMX better, not to buy new shit for themselves.
“BMX brands could sell direct tomorrow if they wanted”
So why cut shops in, shouldn’t brands take a bigger margin and live happily ever after?
Nope! It doesn’t work like that. If you sell 10 bikes direct maybe 1 kid will continue to ride for a long time and live BMX, we’d be lucky though. Imagine how many Mafia bikes are sat in sheds doing fuck all right now. Putting kids on bikes isn’t what makes BMX, same as putting people in cars doesn’t make them an F1 driver. You need a scene and you need a focal point and I’ve got enough experience to argue with anyone that this is the case.
BMX stores have historically been that focal point. What makes BMX good is not the drifter on a Mafia with not much inspiration around him, it’s a fucking squad out there everyday killing it together, traveling together, getting wasted, getting beaten up, doing their first rails or flips or whatever all together as a crew, growing up and experiencing life. Thats how BMX grows and shops offer that slice of inspiration. Which… is why the core industry (Cult, Federal, Fit, United, Wethepeople to name a few) still opt to sell to retail. No one at Mafia Bikes has ever lived that, they look at the balance sheet and they don’t give a fuck about a longterm plan.
So if this vision is so good, why isn’t BMX in a stronger place?
Everything has its peaks and troughs. BMX is just going through another phase, it will be big again and then it’ll dip, I wouldn’t even say it’s a bad thing. It’s a niche lifestyle and it’s sad that we always have to stick a £ sign on it to figure out if it’s still popular or not. But that’s life, everything has a £ sign on it. UK shops for example struggle, high street retail generally hasn’t been as bad as it is now ever. The UK was once a Nation of Shopkeepers but the times change and other forces away from BMX would make any shop struggle. Core brands and established shops are probably finding it rough, but they know the deal and they prepare for it. Everyone I speak to personally say “yeah things are slow but we’re doing our thing and we’re still here”. They’re STILL here. What happens with a brand that sells direct and has no roots when sales inevitably dry up? They close and move on to the next thing, smart business really. But it’s not a longterm plan to ensure BMX can be passed on. You need people and culture and stories and bullshit to make BMX work and applying an Amazon business model to it won’t give you that.
“You need people and culture and stories and bullshit to make BMX work”
To a certain extent it’s companies like Mafia who have damaged the economics. It takes a smart business brain to see an opening and exploit it. That opening was a global recession and a core industry who won’t change their morals. It was hard up families looking for something cheaper, fair play to them, they’re not to blame. The core industry are torn, but the real companies are just sat, waiting, inspiring and doing their thing to ensure BMX looks sick as fuck to the world and not some scooter fad.
The future probably is direct sales though right?
Probably, I dunno. I kind of hope not. Perhaps it takes the core industry to adapt its vision and work harder together. If you look at The Source they have an awesome set up and are currently building an insane park. UK distros are still here. We’ve had stores close and we’ve had them open too.
The only way I could see Mafia for example, have any positive effect on BMX away from just sales, is to put their money where their mouth is and do something. Do something good! Build some shit, put a jam on, create and inspire. I’m just not sure it’s inside them to work like that…