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World Industries: A Case Study in Skateboarding Brand Management

Skateboard Management

Throughout my early skateboarding days, I would regularly read through skateboard magazines. One brand kept appearing from issue to issue: World Industries. They were known for iconic designs like the Flame Boy and Wet Willy skateboard decks. Back then, it was pretty rare for skateboard deck companies to have skateboard shoes under the same brand; however World Industries even had them!

World Industries, a skateboard brand established by Steve Rocco and Rodney Mullen in 1987, once dominated the skateboarding industry. Known for its provocative graphics and innovative marketing strategies, the brand became an emblem of the rebellious spirit of skateboarding in the 90s and early 2000s. However, World Industries’ journey is marked by significant business maneuvers, acquisitions, and strategic shifts that ultimately altered its course.

World Industries, with its audacious brand image and groundbreaking skateboard graphics, carved out a niche from its inception. The brand’s financial trajectory in the 90s reflects its substantial market influence. According to Scott Drouillard, the CFO of World Industries during the peak years, the company’s gross sales escalated from $12 million in 1996 to $18 million in 1997, peaking at a staggering $25 million. This financial success underscored the brand’s powerful market presence and innovative business model. This is why they kept appearing in skateboard and video magazines during those times.

World Industries’ success was also bolstered by its association with legendary skateboarders like Kareem Campbell and Daewon Song, enhancing both its market credibility and appeal. By the end of 1998, World Industries, alongside its sister brand Blind, had secured the top positions in the skateboard hardgoods market. According to Scott Drouillard, this was also the time that logo boards were still selling at a much higher rate compared to the pro model decks.

A pivotal moment in World Industries’ history came in October 1998, when Steve Rocco and his partners sold 70% of their majority interest to Swander Pace Capital (SPC), a private equity firm. The transaction valued the company at $29 million. Notably, this sale also made World Industries the first skate brand to be publicly traded. This sale led to the formation of Kubic Marketing, which became the parent company overseeing World Industries and Dwindle Distribution.

The strategic acquisition by SPC was aimed at leveraging World Industries’ market position to drive further growth and profitability. Maintaining the existing management and employee structure ensured operational continuity and stability during this transition.

In 2002, Globe International Limited acquired Kubic Marketing, including World Industries. This acquisition marked the beginning of significant changes in the brand’s strategic direction and management approach. Globe International aimed to integrate World Industries into its broader portfolio, leveraging synergies to enhance overall market performance.

However, in 2007, i.e. Distribution acquired World Industries from Globe International for $8 million. This acquisition reflected the shifting dynamics and valuation of the brand in the skateboarding market. The changes in ownership indicated strategic repositioning efforts to rejuvenate the brand’s market presence and profitability. 

In 2014, World Industries was acquired by GVS America, under which it continues to operate today. Despite these changes, the brand’s market influence has diminished compared to its peak in the 1990s. World Industries’ products are now primarily available through All I Need Skate distribution, serving a niche market segment that still values its legacy. Currently, World Industries has several riders, including Anthony Shetler (former Zoo York professional skateboarder).

The business trajectory of World Industries underscores the complexities and challenges of maintaining market leadership in a dynamic industry. From its meteoric rise in the 90s to its subsequent acquisitions and strategic shifts, World Industries’ story is a case study in the impact of business decisions on brand evolution. While the brand’s influence has waned, its legacy in the skateboarding industry remains a significant chapter in the history of action sports business dynamics.

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