Customers Appear Eager to Try New Technologies and Bigger Wheels
Rollerblade is on track to record a 10 percent jump in U.S. sales this year, company officials say.
"It's been a good year for us so far!" said Nick Skally, marketing manager for Rollerblade USA.
Company officials say part of the reason for the sales jump is Rollerblade's growing share of the inline skate market.
"But we hope it's not all due to market-share growth," Skally said. "Some of it is, for sure. But we're just not sure how much is market-share growth and how much is participation growth."
Growing Market Share
Rollerblade now commands about 60 percent of the U.S. inline skate market, said company president Jeremy Stonier.
Twenty-five years ago, when Scott Olson founded the company, it had nearly 100 percent of the market, which it essentially invented.
But competitors quickly emerged and by 2000, Rollerblade was left with only about 30 percent of the market, with K2 and Salomon claiming most of the rest.
Nevertheless, Rollerblade has maintained worldwide sales of about 2 million skates a year, or about $100 million, with half the skates sold in the United States, Stonier said.
Riding the Rollercoaster!
As U.S. sales dwindled in recent years, some companies, including Nike, have quit making skates, while others, like Roces, have cut back on their U.S. sales force.
But Rollerblade, which only makes inline skates, has hung in there and continued to develop its product line.
This year, (along with K2 and Salomon) it came out with several models of Big Wheel skates, which have become popular with advanced fitness skaters who want more speed.
Online merchants are reporting that the Big Wheel skates are hot sellers.
Rollerblade is also doing well with fitness skates that are equipped with its Total Fit closure system, Skally said. The system is available on Aero 10 and Aero 90 models.
"Our Aero line is selling really well," he said. "In fact, we're almost entirely sold out."
Rollerblade is hoping that 2005, its 25th anniversary, will be an even bigger success than last year, which, Stonier said, was the company's most profitable since 1998.
(posted on June 27, 2005)
Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson
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