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Ten Questions With Tony Hawk & Syndrome’s Rob Mertz

Rob Mertz

Rob Mertz

In December, Tony Hawk’s  Birdhouse Skateboards announced it  has teamed up with Syndrome Distribution. Founded in 1992, Birdhouse produces skate decks, wheels, accessories, branded soft goods and completes, and boasts a team of industry elite including owner Hawk, Willy Santos, Aaron “Jaws” Homoki, Riley Hawk, David Loy, Clint Walker and more. “We’re excited about our new relationship with Syndrome Distribution,” says Hawk. “We like what they represent within the industry and feel they are the final piece in keeping Birdhouse’s long legacy intact.”

We caught up with Hawk and Syndrome President Rob Mertz to find out more about the alliance.

How and when did the partnership with Birdhouse originate?
Rob Mertz: Well, our [Sales Manager]Dave Andrecht asked me if I knew of any company or foundation that his son could intern at for school credits. My first thought was the Tony Hawk Foundation and [Executive Director] Miki Vukovich. He called them up and Miki kindly obliged. Andrecht would go over there to drop off and pick up his son and the situation eventually came around.

Why did you chose to bring on Birdhouse out of all the other potential skate brands out there? Any potential collaborations between Birdhouse and other brands under Syndrome?
Mertz:
Birdhouse is a solid brand and you can’t deny everything that Tony has done for skateboarding. Things are just starting now, but who knows…

Why does it make sense for Birdhouse?
Tony Hawk:
It is a mutually beneficial window for our businesses. With both sides being in transition over the past year or so and in need of similar solutions, it all just  fell into place. Being in close proximity is a bonus— So is their sweet training facility.

How has Birdhouse handled distribution in the past? What will change about this process with the new partnership?
Hawk:
Birdhouse was the first building block of Blitz Distribution, and remained there until 2008 when it was brought in-house to THI. We utilized the resale channels of Eastern Skateboard Supply in the transition, but we needed a master distributor with a closer proximity to our brand hub.

How will this affect production and distribution costs for Birdhouse?
Hawk:
Aside from having more priority in the manufacturing chain, we don’t foresee much short term change here. The costs associated with the brand will remain close with our plan for 2010, but ideally will be offset by higher sales.

What other opportunities does this partnership present?
Hawk:
We shall see, but we are excited to have the focused efforts that Syndrome will bring to the equation.

Mertz: Well, besides growing the brand, I’ll be skating his ramp a lot!

Will Birdhouse be able to expand the number of retailers carrying its product under Syndrome?
Hawk:
Absolutely. Syndrome has long been a key distribution partner to all of the doors that matter, and being a part of their brand mix creates a better opportunity to work with these retailers on more levels.

Tony Hawk

Tony Hawk

How does this deal strengthen both companies involved, and particularly for Birdhouse, what do you see as the next steps with the brand in the near future?
Hawk:
It will be advantageous for both parties in many ways. As far as Birdhouse goes, we will continue to build the brand through our team, graphics, coverage and overall identity. We have many things planned for the near future that have our building buzzing.

Does Syndrome have plans to bring on additional brands in the near future?
Mertz:
We’re always looking at ways to expand. There are some things on the horizon. You’ll just have to wait and see.

What is your take on the overall status of the skate market, and what are some of the biggest challenges you foresee for 2011?
Hawk:
The market is tough for just about everyone involved, and although things don’t look to improve soon, skateboarding is still very much alive and well out there.

Our new relationship will have it’s challenges, but having the experience on both sides will help to streamline working out these issues. As always in a transition like this, making sure the retailers know where to order product from will be the biggest short-term challenge.

Mertz: The skate market, like anything, is tough right now. We’re going to continue to work hard to put out great products and give the best service in the industry.