X Concepts’ Tech Deck finger boards may be one-hundredth the size of the average skateboard, but their diminutive stature hasn’t discouraged kids from rolling out record numbers of them from retailers. The Escondido, California-based company has moved over nine million units since it introduced the tiny boards a little over a year ago, and currently controls 60% of the US$15-million to US$20-million finger board market.
Starting this month, XC will try to make good on its product’s popularity by moving full-throttle into franchise-building mode with the release of the first wave of licensed TD merchandise. The line includes: handheld skate and snowboarding games from Playmates (US$19.99 to US$24.99); boys apparel from R.S. Trading (US$12.99 to US$16.99); and board games (US$14.99 to US$19.99) from Pressman Toys. All will be available at mass, sports and specialty toy stores, except for the apparel, which R.S. Trading is distributing through select mid-tier accounts.
Creating a licensing program around the boards is the first step in X Concepts’ strategy of turning Tech Deck into the preeminent brand for all things skateboarding-related.
‘The industry is now recognizing Tech Deck as an umbrella brand under which you can take skateboarding into a unified brand to the mass market as something that’s more approachable for kids of all ages,’ says Russell Binder, partner at J.A. Roth and Associates, licensing agent for X-Concepts.
To make Tech Deck palatable to the younger set, X Concepts has created The Tech Deck Pee Wee brand, for which it will be issuing licenses to companies to create product for kids younger than TD’s core customer demo of boys ages eight to 14. California toyco Playmates has already signed on to make Pee Wee action figures called Trick Boarders, which begin shipping this month. Additionally, Binder says there are deals pending for TD books and instructional videos. And, of course, there is the fourth generation of Tech Deck boards that XC is currently developing for release in January 2000.
X Concepts’ boards, which retail for US$3.99 to US$5.99 each, feature authentic artwork that the company licenses from leading skateboard vendors, removable wheels and a miniature screwdriver and ratchet that kids can use to customize their board. It’s the ability to tinker with the boards, as well as their sheer number, that has driven kids to want to collect Tech Deck, says Susan Taylor, product manager at X Concepts.
To date, XC has produced over 300 boards. It manufactures each series in limited quantities and eventually retires them as a way of driving demand. To enhance the appeal of the product, the company recently joined forces with the current behemoth of collectible toy crazes, Pokémon, to produce licensed boards sporting images of Pikachu and other pocket monsters, which began shipping in September.
Although Tech Deck is nowhere near the Pokémon sales stratosphere (in fact, some retailers have reported that overall sales for the category dipped during the summer), Rich Brady, CEO of California toy chain Playco Toys, believes they will be a hot item as the Christmas season approaches. ‘We expect it to do well as a stocking stuffer this quarter,’ he says.
It is also due to their size that the boards have proven a target for shoplifters, which has motivated most retailers to position them near the front of the store in counter displays or cross-merchandised on end-caps with other XC products, such as its miniature TD ramps and skate parks.