Railslide has been THE place to go for Frankfurt’s skate, snowboard and streetwear fans for about 20 years. After operating a nearly 1000 sqm large sales area at Frankfurt’s Rossmarkt, the shop has recently moved to a beautiful but drastically smaller location in Neue Kräme, close to the city’s popular tourist spots in the historic center. Here, Railslide mainly presents its assortment of clothing – a suitable second location for selling boards, equipment and other hardware still has yet to be found. SI talked to Railslide’s Marketing Manager Tobias Mertins about bestsellers, the city of Frankfurt and how international mono-brand stores and retail chains challenge individually operated shop concepts. Interview by Maria Hunstig

Tobias Mertins, Marketing Manager
Tobias Mertins, Marketing Manager
What are your current bestsellers?
The brands with the best performance are Cleptomanicx, Volcom, Carhartt, Levi’s, Reel, Nike SB, Vans, Adidas, Etnies, Element, New Era and Wesc. My personal favorites are Levi’s, Insight 51, Makia, Rvca, Nike SB and Vans.

Which are today’s trend labels and looks in terms of denim? What makes people want to buy a pair of jeans?
Our denim customers love Levi`s, Carhartt, Reel and Emerica. People decide to purchase a pair of jeans rather spontaneously; the crucial factors are cut, fit and price of the model. We see a trend towards denims in colors like wine red or cobalt blue. And we still sell chinos very well.

Would your customers rather buy individual pieces or complete looks?
The majority of our customers tend to rather purchase individual styles and items.

Where do you get inspiration for the shop?
We get inspired by magazines, different cities and shops and at trade shows. Additionally, skate or snowboard DVDs form a source of inspiration for the team. And, of course, the constant dialogue with our customers is of great significance to us!

Which are this year’s most important pieces of clothing for summer and winter?
Speaking of Railslide customers, chinos are of great relevance in summer. In winter, parkas are one of our key items.

Which are your most important product groups?
Our main goods are trousers, jackets/coats and shoes.

Interior view, Railslide
Interior view, Railslide

Do you have any new brands in your assortment?
We just started to stock the Finish label Makia. It’s important that there is always something new and fresh to discover in the shop!

Why does your store stand out from others?
At Railslide, consumers receive friendly and qualified advice and service. Moreover, the store has a kind and enjoyable atmosphere and I believe that these sort of things are of great importance.

Why did you choose Frankfurt as your location?
That decision was made more than 20 years ago. We are attached to the region, especially because most of the people on our team come from the Frankfurt area. As we are all part of the local skate and snowboarding scene ourselves, we were of course interested in pushing the scene and offering its representatives a shop where they can find exactly what they are looking for.

What do you like about the city?

Frankfurt is full of tourists from all over the world. The city is very multi-cultural and therefore benefits from many different influences and opinions.

In your opinion, in which direction is the consumer behavior going? Classics or rather a more individual/special style?
Both concepts are important. It’s the mix that matters.

Do you think that mono-brand stores can mean a threat to multi-brand concepts or do people value a diverse mix of labels?
By now, a few of the brands we sell have opened their own shops in town. We have decided to cut some of the less important suppliers and instead add a range of smaller labels to the portfolio to give those a professional selling platform.
Generally, we have experienced that customers often come into our shop first. They are usually looking for more than just one specific piece and this is why we are still the first stop on their shopping tour. In some cases, we offer an even broader selection of mono-brand products than the brand does in its own store.

Interior view, Railslide
Interior view, Railslide

What do you think about the ongoing expansion of international chain stores – do they provide additional customers or do they pose a threa to individual shops?
This development is rather fatal for individual and owner-managed stores as they get pushed out of city locations. Rent is exploding, and not only in top locations.
We're going through this problem ourselves, as we are currently searching for an extra location to present our skate and snowboard assortment. We want the venue to be in a rather unusual, outstanding property. In that respect, we have to compete with huge international players for which renting costs seem to be rather marginal.
Customers notice that cities and their look and offerings resemble each other more and more – and they criticize the lack of flair and individuality which is offered by shops like ours.

Are there plans for an online shop? Do you believe that traditional retail stores are a fading model?
We have been making plans for an online shop for quite a while now, but nothing is fixed or realised yet and we don't have a kick-off date at this time. We want to get everything right from the beginning, so we're trying not to rush things.
As for ourselves, we don’t do online shopping very much. We believe and hope that there will always be shops like ours. Certain product groups, like pants or shoes especially, will always have a need for traditional shops!