TWMX All Access: SMP America’s Jimbo Gaskin

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Back in the early days of FMX, the initials SMP were a common sight, and were seen on the baggy gear of some of the most prominent pro riders back in the day.

Over the years, the SMP name had a variety of possible acronyms attributed to the three-letter combo, including Smoke More Pot; or Sex, Money, Power. Skaters went for Skate More Parks, while the surfers preferred Surf More Peaks. The new President of SMP, Jimbo Gaskin ,is a surf industry veteran who says with a laugh, “For me, it could be small midget people. I’m 5’7″, and have probably shrunk since that measurement was taken.”

After SMP suffered a few fumbles in the U.S. and was teetering on the edge of permanent extinction, Jimbo took over the reins of the brand, is has been working with the rest of his staff to get it back up to speed. They’re catering to multiple sports with their full line of apparel casual and riding apparel, including surf, skate and motocross.

TransWorld Motocross: How about the low-down on your background?

Jimbo Gaskin: I grew up as a kid in Florida, and got to surf, fish, dive, ride…all that stuff. Then got to surf on the National Team for like four years, which was cool, and I got to spend a lot of time in California. I went and got my marketing degree, and then got a job at Surfing magazine as their ad director for 10 years, and got to work with all kinds of killer companies. After that I went to Billabong for 10 years.

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TWMX: What were you doing at Billabong?

JG: I was the Orange County rep. We really helped it grow, and did some of the first stuff that was pretty cool. It was very good to me, and I got to learn from a bunch of amazing people. Guys like Bob Hurley, who was my boss, to competitors like Michael Thompson, Bob McNight. All those men are so smart, and I got to learn a lot from them. I consider a lot of those guys mentors, either directly or indirectly.

TWMX: How about the prior history on SMP?

JG: Wow, SMP. The thought is, that there was a guy whose last name was Stanley, and he made like six little backpacks and sold a couple. That’s where SMP really came from, which was like Stanley’s Mobile Packs. I don’t know that that’s totally legitimate, but that’s kind of the underground story.

Milo, who has Hangar 94 the retail store, and Larry, who has Emerald City, came out with SMP the apparel company. Those guys did a killer job. This is about the same time Volcom started, and it was totally underground and legit, but the thing that they did so cool was go into the different markets instead of just surf. They were into skate, and snow…they were big into snow. They were into moto, and they even had their logo on a few races cars. It was pretty cool. So these guys were thinking way different than anybody else, When you’d go to the trade show, they had really cool people hanging in their booth. Their clothes were different, and it was cool.

Well at some point they sold to the brand to Ride, who was a big snowboard company. They acquired like four or five other brands, and I think they were trying to offset their down months, how snow was structured. So then what happened was thatt was getting the full red-headed stepchild treatment. It was getting battered around. A guy came over from Australia, got the license, went to Australia when cargo shorts and pants hit big and did really well with it. He came back when the whole ride thing was getting really bad and acquired the brand. Bought the whole thing and took it to Australia. Then they came back to America through a licensing deal, had different people involved, and it never really happened. There was some good people involved, but it just wasn’t the right mix. They couldn’t get product, they couldn’t get it shipped, whoever was driving the boat, it just wasn’t working.

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So they closed that entire company in April of last year. It may have happened earlier than that, but by April it was gone. The old SMP was gone, out of business…it didn’t exist. they contacted me in like July, saying, “Hey, we’re looking for someone to run the thing. Would you be interested?” I said, “I don’t know, let me talk around.” I talked around, came back and said no. We talked some more, and said let me talk to some guys, so that’s what we did. I went and found out how legitimate is the brand name SMP. I went to moto stores, I went to surf, skate, and went to consumers. That’s when I found out overwhelmingly that the name was still on fire, the kids just couldn’t find it. That’s what we did to get to this point.

TWMX: Why did you say no the first time?

JG: They way that they wanted to put it together just wouldn’t have worked. I’d gone into the old building, and we weren’t going to take over the old building. It wasn’t where this company should be. They were up in Costa Mesa, and we’re down here in San Clemente now. We’re now halfway between L.A. and San Diego. San Clemente is known for having incredible riders. Even Cameron Steele, who does all the TV, he talks to me all the time and helps me a lot. A lot of these guys are really helpful.

Then Riverside’s right there, and Temecula’s right there. So think about where we are. Off our left flank is Temecula, right is Riverside, and we’ve got L.A. and San Diego, plus the surfing world. I thought we should be in the middle where we can deal with everyone. We’re a new company, We’re all new people, all new ideas, so our location had to change, too. It was a big deal. We decided that we’re going to be a new company, do things differently—good, bad or indifferent—so we wanted to be in a different place and have a whole new deal. Kind of a fresh start for the brand, so that’s what we did.

TWMX: How hard is it to try and juggle multiple sports?

JG: The cool thing is, that it is cool. It’s fun. And the people we have understand it. Ryan Smith is so plugged into the moto world. He’s so plugged into the moto world that it’s crazy. We have athletes in here all the time talking to us, both amateurs and pros. We believe in the amateurs. Pros? We will grow into as we feel the brand is ready. This isn’t one of those companies where you buy a couple top athletes, and that’s what your brand’s built on. No, SMP is built on legitimacy from the bottom. We have amateur skaters, we have amateur surfers, and amateur motocross riders right now. The good part of that is, and why we can do this is, my background is surf. Ryan’s is moto. We have a couple guys in here, including one of our designers, who’s an ex-pro skater. So there’s your three that we’re focusing on.

I believe that surf, skate and moto—they’re high-visibility, they’re passionate—you have to be passionate to do all of them, and they all have this common denominator of music. They also all appeal to kids from five to 105 years old. So how hard is it to do? Not that hard. You make good board shorts, which is equipment for surfing. You make good denim…good pants to skate in, and you make good riding gear. We have guys that are experts that do each of those. Then we bring in things that goes with it; tops, jackets, so we cater to the athletes, but also the people who want to look like them. It’s not that hard to do, because we’ve been lucky in accumulating this group of people that we have.

Something that’s interesting is that one of my partners owns our production facilities in Shanghai, so we have vertical production. It’s pretty uncommon in a company of our size. We’re very, very fortunate. We can be competitive in our pricing right off the bat, yet deliver really good quality. Is that important? Yeah. Because we want our retailers to be stoked with us. We want them to make money. We want to be able to deliver. Will we still have problem? You betcha. We will. But the cool thing is we can deliver. We can get them good product at a really fair price. That’s important.

We’re also trying to do a good balance. Some of the gear will be made domestically, while some of it will be made by our people offshore.

The retailers throughout the country have also been fantastic. There are retailers who really want to see us make it. They’ve just been bummed that the brand never could put it all together. They’re backing us, and those are the people who are most important. We’re not selling to everybody. But the people who are backing us, those are the ones that we’re going to work with.

TWMX: Are you chasing the bigger chain stores?

JG: Nope. Distribution is all levels. There are the ultra-small hard-core stores. There are the mom and pop stores. There are the two to five store chains, and the ten to twenty store chains. Then there’s the sporting goods, and the big department stores. Right now we’re in the bottom tiers. We deal with shops like Beach Access. They’re a mall store, but I’ll tell you if you’ve ever gone into one, they’re a super-cool mall store. They’re near music stores, and the mix of product they sell is unreal. It’s not just all the big brands. The kids in the store are plugged in. You can get your eyewear, your footwear, everything. They have three stores. Yeah, we do that.

We’re also down here at Doheny Board Center, and at Renegade Racing. But you don’t see us in anything where we have department stores, sporting good, or even the chains where they have more than five locations that we’re in, they’re all good image stores. All of them. That’s what we’re about right now. We’re not ready for the bigger guys, nor is the brand ready. There are some fantastic companies out there like Billabong and Quicksilver that do a great job. We don’t need to fill that void, we need to fill the void back at the little shop where they’re asking, “Where’s the new brands? Where’s the one for the kid who doesn’t want to look like everybody else?”

TWMX: And you don’t have a traditional Parts Unlimited or Tucker Rocky distribution.

JG: We’re not doing anything like that—not that I don’t think those guys don’t do a great job, I just come from a different background. Bob Hurley, who has Hurley now; he had Billabong when I was there. I watched what guys like Bob Hurley, and what Bob McNight over at Quicksilver did, and those guys made sure that you always took care of your retailer with a rep relationship. I 100% believe in that. Not that those other guys don’t, but they can do other stuff and not always worry about where it’s going. This is our baby. We have to know exactly where it’s going, and we have to support them. Don’t be in 200 stores if you can only support 73. We want that relationship.

It’s also how we stay in touch. If we give one of the guys a pair of pants and he goes out riding and comes back and says, “These are the greatest thing I’ve ever ridden in,” he’ll tell 100 of his friends. If he comes back and says, “Hey, if you make this one change…” We can listen to him. He’ll help us. That’s what we want. That’s growth. I that do each of those. Then we bring in things that goes with it; tops, jackets, so we cater to the athletes, but also the people who want to look like them. It’s not that hard to do, because we’ve been lucky in accumulating this group of people that we have.

Something that’s interesting is that one of my partners owns our production facilities in Shanghai, so we have vertical production. It’s pretty uncommon in a company of our size. We’re very, very fortunate. We can be competitive in our pricing right off the bat, yet deliver really good quality. Is that important? Yeah. Because we want our retailers to be stoked with us. We want them to make money. We want to be able to deliver. Will we still have problem? You betcha. We will. But the cool thing is we can deliver. We can get them good product at a really fair price. That’s important.

We’re also trying to do a good balance. Some of the gear will be made domestically, while some of it will be made by our people offshore.

The retailers throughout the country have also been fantastic. There are retailers who really want to see us make it. They’ve just been bummed that the brand never could put it all together. They’re backing us, and those are the people who are most important. We’re not selling to everybody. But the people who are backing us, those are the ones that we’re going to work with.

TWMX: Are you chasing the bigger chain stores?

JG: Nope. Distribution is all levels. There are the ultra-small hard-core stores. There are the mom and pop stores. There are the two to five store chains, and the ten to twenty store chains. Then there’s the sporting goods, and the big department stores. Right now we’re in the bottom tiers. We deal with shops like Beach Access. They’re a mall store, but I’ll tell you if you’ve ever gone into one, they’re a super-cool mall store. They’re near music stores, and the mix of product they sell is unreal. It’s not just all the big brands. The kids in the store are plugged in. You can get your eyewear, your footwear, everything. They have three stores. Yeah, we do that.

We’re also down here at Doheny Board Center, and at Renegade Racing. But you don’t see us in anything where we have department stores, sporting good, or even the chains where they have more than five locations that we’re in, they’re all good image stores. All of them. That’s what we’re about right now. We’re not ready for the bigger guys, nor is the brand ready. There are some fantastic companies out there like Billabong and Quicksilver that do a great job. We don’t need to fill that void, we need to fill the void back at the little shop where they’re asking, “Where’s the new brands? Where’s the one for the kid who doesn’t want to look like everybody else?”

TWMX: And you don’t have a traditional Parts Unlimited or Tucker Rocky distribution.

JG: We’re not doing anything like that—not that I don’t think those guys don’t do a great job, I just come from a different background. Bob Hurley, who has Hurley now; he had Billabong when I was there. I watched what guys like Bob Hurley, and what Bob McNight over at Quicksilver did, and those guys made sure that you always took care of your retailer with a rep relationship. I 100% believe in that. Not that those other guys don’t, but they can do other stuff and not always worry about where it’s going. This is our baby. We have to know exactly where it’s going, and we have to support them. Don’t be in 200 stores if you can only support 73. We want that relationship.

It’s also how we stay in touch. If we give one of the guys a pair of pants and he goes out riding and comes back and says, “These are the greatest thing I’ve ever ridden in,” he’ll tell 100 of his friends. If he comes back and says, “Hey, if you make this one change…” We can listen to him. He’ll help us. That’s what we want. That’s growth. It happens with everyone, but it’s really hard to maintain that. People lose vision of that when big dollar signs are over their head. We don’t have to grow this thing that quick, so that’s a good opportunity that we have.

TWMX: Do you do any sales from the web site?

JG: We do not sell off the SMP web site to the consumer. The reason is, we believe in backing our retailers. Now, if there’s a retailer, and they have a site, and they bought a product for their brick and mortar store from us, they then can sell it. But we won’t sell it direct from us. We get calls every day, people are wanting stuff, and we direct them to other stores.

I had a meeting with a retailer today, and he couldn’t believe it. It’s hard to find SMP still, We still have rep territories open that we haven’t finished. The reason is, we’re trying to take care of the stores, slowly grow it, and this guy’s excited because he’ll have his site up in two weeks, and wants to have the entire SMP thing on there. We want to support people who want to support us, so if they support us with their store, and an online presence, we’re all about that. But we’re not going to circumvent them and go around so that you don’t have to go to them.

TWMX: What’s coming for new riding gear?

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JG: The thing that cracks me up is when I came into this whole thing and I got to sit down and read 10 years of information on SMP. That’s what I did the first month. The throttle pant, oh my gosh…the over-the-boot pant, that’s what put SMP on the map in the motocross world in a huge way. Now everything is going to in-the-boot pants and we still get three to five inquiries about them a week…and this is people who are sending e-mails, and they have to find that first. We’re SMP America (www.smpamerica.com).

The stuff we have now is the short and over-the-boot pants. Right now we have two different styles of race gear. There’s a matching bottom and top. The quality is very good, and I attribute a lot of that to Ryan and to the younger guys who have helped him. I’m not going to mention the names, because we’ve had guys that are employed at other places that really want to see SMP make it. I appreciate all their help and don’t want to blow any of that. .

We’re going to have a mid-price pant and jersey, and what I would call a mid-to-lower end price. We’ll have two colors in that…red and blue, and then in the upper end we’ll have red blue and white. A little after that you’ll see us progressing and we’ll have gloves and a few other things. The main thing we want to do is to make sure that before the holidays we have 4,000 bottoms and 4,000 tops sitting here in this building. So that when retailers go, “Yeah, I want it, but is it coming?” We can say, “Yeah, it’s here right now, would you like it tomorrow?” That’s a big thing for us is to deliver on quality and have it here. That puts a little bit more stress on us to carry that kind of inventory, but we’re willing to do that to show that, “Hey, we’re serious about this.” We’re there for you. Not everyone needs us, but the stores that want us and want something different, I think now’s the time. I’m looking at what’s going on, and big guys dominate the surf world, big guys dominate the skate world, and big guys dominate the moto world. Not every kid wants to be in the top three or four brand names. They want other stuff. SMP is all about attitude and fun. It’s not your dad’s brand, that’s for sure.

When we work with the customers who don’t know us, they’re kind of amazed. “You guys do exactly what you say, and you care. You help us with merchandising. You help us with new product categories. You have ideas on how to help me sell groupings differently ” We know how to do that. We’re just a little company. We want to have great customer service, fulfill customer expectations. Under-promise and over-delivver, and not beat our chests. We’re just going to take it nice and smooth but try to be aggressive where we need to be, and be a good partner for retailers. The signs are there and sales are growing nicely, so if we just stay persistent, I think we’ll do really good.

Contact:

SMP America
920 Calle Negocio, Ste. C
San Clemente, CA 92673

Tel: (949) 361-0767
Fax: (949) 361-0765

www.smpamerica.com

Sponsored by:

appens with everyone, but it’s really hard to maintain that. People lose vision of that when big dollar signs are over their head. We don’t have to grow this thing that quick, so that’s a good opportunity that we have.

TWMX: Do you do any sales from the web site?

JG: We do not sell off the SMP web site to the consumer. The reason is, we believe in backing our retailers. Now, if there’s a retailer, and they have a site, and they bought a product for their brick and mortar store from us, they then can sell it. But we won’t sell it direct from us. We get calls every day, people are wanting stuff, and we direct them to other stores.

I had a meeting with a retailer today, and he couldn’t believe it. It’s hard to find SMP still, We still have rep territories open that we haven’t finished. The reason is, we’re trying to take care of the stores, slowly grow it, and this guy’s excited because he’ll have his site up in two weeks, and wants to have the entire SMP thing on there. We want to support people who want to support us, so if they support us with their store, and an online presence, we’re all about that. But we’re not going to circumvent them and go around so that you don’t have to go to them.

TWMX: What’s coming for new riding gear?

[IMAGE 3]

JG: The thing that cracks me up is when I came into this whole thing and I got to sit down and read 10 years of information on SMP. That’s what I did the first month. The throttle pant, oh my gosh…the over-the-boot pant, that’s what put SMP on the map in the motocross world in a huge way. Now everything is going to in-the-boot pants and we still get three to five inquiries about them a week…and this is people who are sending e-mails, and they have to find that first. We’re SMP America (www.smpamerica.com).

The stuff we have now is the short and over-the-boot pants. Right now we have two different styles of race gear. There’s a matching bottom and top. The quality is very good, and I attribute a lot of that to Ryan and to the younger guys who have helped him. I’m not going to mention the names, because we’ve had guys that are employed at other places that really want to see SMP make it. I appreciate all their help and don’t want to blow any of that. .

We’re going to have a mid-price pant and jersey, and what I would call a mid-to-lower end price. We’ll have two colors in that…red and blue, and then in the upper end we’ll have red blue and white. A little after that you’ll see us progressing and we’ll have gloves and a few other things. The main thing we want to do is to make sure that before the holidays we have 4,000 bottoms and 4,000 tops sitting here in this building. So that when retailers go, “Yeah, I want it, but is it coming?” We can say, “Yeah, it’s here right now, would you like it tomorrow?” That’s a big thing for us is to deliver on quality and have it here. That puts a little bit more stress on us to carry that kind of inventory, but we’re willing to do that to show that, “Hey, we’re serious about this.” We’re there for you. Not everyone needs us, but the stores that want us and want something different, I think now’s the time. I’m looking at what’s going on, and big guys dominate the surf world, big guys dominate the skate world, and big guys dominate the moto world. Not every kid wants to be in the top three or four brand names. They want other stuff. SMP is all about attitude and fun. It’s not your dad’s brand, that’s for sure.

When we work with the customers who don’t know us, they’re kind of amazed. “You guys do exactly what you say, and you care. You help us with merchandising. You help us with new product categories. You have ideas on how to help me sell groupings differently ” We know how to do that. We’re just a little company. We want to have great customer service, fulfill customer expectations. Under-promise and over-deliver, and not beat our chests. We’re just going to take it nice and smooth but try to be aggressive where we need to be, and be a good partner for retailers. The signs are there and sales are growing nicely, so if we just stay persistent, I think we’ll do really good.

Contact:

SMP America
920 Calle Negocio, Ste. C
San Clemente, CA 92673

Tel: (949) 361-0767
Fax: (949) 361-0765

www.smpamerica.com

Sponsored by:

er-deliver, and not beat our chests. We’re just going to take it nice and smooth but try to be aggressive where we need to be, and be a good partner for retailers. The signs are there and sales are growing nicely, so if we just stay persistent, I think we’ll do really good.

Contact:

SMP America
920 Calle Negocio, Ste. C
San Clemente, CA 92673

Tel: (949) 361-0767
Fax: (949) 361-0765

www.smpamerica.com

Sponsored by: