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Blue Tomato CEO: Skateboarding has created momentum in pants

By Ole Spötter


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Business |CEO-Interview

Adam Ellis Image: blue-tomato.com

The Austrian sporting goods retailer Blue Tomato, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, is growing steadily in Europe and expanding into new markets, including most recently Italy. In addition, the boardsport expert was also on the road with its amateur skateboard tournament 'Best Foot Forward Europa Tour'. Adam Ellis, CEO at Blue Tomato, explained what gets customers rolling, what the company's expansion plans are and what influence skateboarding has on fashion.


    Blue Tomato was founded in 1988 by former European snowboard champion Gerfried Schuller in a garage in Schladming, Austria. Over the past 35 years, the Austrian sporting goods retailer has grown into an international company with around 850 employees and more than 80 stores in eight countries. It has been owned by the US clothing retailer Zumiez since 2012.

Which items are doing well at Blue Tomato at the moment?

We have seen strong performance in mens and womens apparel, as well as in accessories and shoes. Our customer looks for brands and products that are on trend, like wide bottom pants and new brands that are differentiated from what is on the market broadly.

Which brands are particularly popular with your customers currently?

Brands that are focused on environmental sustainability continue to resonate with our customers and brands that are authentic to the lifestyles that we represent continue to overperform and see success.

Fashion brands are currently focusing on models that are reminiscent of the chunky skate shoes of the early 2000s. Does this trend also play a role for you as a specialist retailer?

We continue to partner with footwear brands to explore new trends and clearly Y2K fashion and chunky shoes were part of the recent trend in footwear. We also see resonance from footwear retailers that are offering versions of their core streetwear styles in skate.

Best Foot Forward Europa Tour Image: Hannes Mautner / Blue Tomato

What other trends derived from boardsports are now influencing fashion?

The lifestyle of skateboarding has always been closely linked to streetwear and emerging trends. While these trends can be cyclical in nature, there is always a twist of a combination that is unique to the times. Skateboarding has created momentum in pants over the last few years, but if you look at other core trends around logo basics, these have also emerged from skate lifestyle over the last few years.

Blue Tomato is now active in brick and mortar retail in eight countries. Which markets do you have your eye on next?

After opening Italy in the spring, we will look to build on our presence in the market and will be opening Belgium in the fall.

Is an expansion beyond the European borders also possible?

We are focused on going where we have customers and giving them options to shop however and whenever they want. We have had a lot of success in identifying opportunities based on our digital demand and building in markets where we have an established customer. Globally, there are clearly opportunities for Blue Tomato, but we still have a lot of opportunities to serve our customers in Europe and that is our focus.

Blue Tomato Store in Amsterdam Image: blue-tomato.com

How many new store openings are currently planned?

We will open 10 stores this year, and we feel that something around that number is a sustainable way for us to move forward in terms of number of stores. As you would imagine, opening new markets creates complexity for the business and our teams so we try to balance new market growth with store growth to make sure that we are setting our teams up for success.

After the extreme urge to move and be active during the pandemic, do you notice a downward trend in interest in boardsport products?

We have seen a decrease in hardgoods since the end of Corona. The great thing about operating a lifestyle business is that you have the flexibility to shift and meet the demand of the customer.

While hardgoods have been challenged we have seen increases across streetwear, shoes and accessories that is more than offsetting the loss we have seen in hardgoods. The teams have done a great job of understanding what appeals to our customer and meeting that need.

Blue Tomato Store in Vöcklabruck Image: http://Blue-tomato.com

What impact does the current macroeconomic situation still have on you?

The macro environment continues to be challenged relative to consumer purchasing power due to the dramatic increases in core inflation, but we have continued to run up in sales for the first half of the year. Everyone at the company has a role to play relative to creating powerful experiences for our customers and we are clear that given the conditions in the market that our employees are focused on delivering for our customers.

To wrap up. How will you close the current business year?

If you can tell me how much it’s going to snow, I will tell you how we will finish the year. Obviously, the winter seasonal business is a big part of our brand and how we serve customers so a lot will depend on the conditions in the markets where we operate. I am confident we will run gains and finish the year strong due to my confidence in our teams, our assortment strength, and the relevance of Blue Tomato to our customers.

This interview was conducted in written form.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.DE. Translation and edit by Rachel Douglass.

Blue Tomato