From the April 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

What's the latest thing in the wild world of extreme sports? Believe it or not, sliding down hand-rails--wearing specially designed sneakers--is the latest craze among thrill-seekers.

Credit Chris Morris and his Torrance, California, footwear company, Soap, for getting this trend going. "I've never seen demand for a product grow this fast in my life," says Morris, 35, of Soap's shoes with built-in plastic plates that enable sliding. "It's really fun."

According to Morris, this kind of sliding--technically termed "grinding"--is much easier than, say, skateboarding.

"Humans love to slide," says Morris, pointing to his company's successful expansion into more than a dozen countries. Even more gripping is Soap's projected 1999 sales of $15 million. With momentum like this, Morris expects grinding to quickly slide further into the spotlight. As with other extreme sports, however, there is an element of risk. "You can definitely fall down," admits Morris, who says he's only been hurt (mildly) once. Hey, gravity is one mean competitor.

Class Action

Plan now for the back-to-school craze.

Next to the holiday shopping season, it's the most wonderful time of the year--for retailers, that is. A real buying bonanza, this register-ringing period gets high marks for not only generating demand for a wide variety of merchandise but boasting a ready-made market of eager young consumers. We speak, of course, of back-to-school shopping.

According to a recent study by the International Mass Retail Association, parents allot about $70 for school supplies. Even more striking is the roughly $300 per child that's earmarked for new clothes. Factor in the occasional purchase of a calculator or a computer, and you're talking a whole lot of reading, writing and 'rithmetic.

And with the baby boom echo in full reverberation, school enrollment is expected to surge to 54 million-plus students by 2006. Now that's a learning curve.

Yellow Fever

A Beatles classic resurfaces.

Blue meanie alert! As if the recent go-round of Beatles anthologies weren't enough of a British reinvasion, the Fab Four's licensing agent Sony Signature Pictures is charting more merchandising waters with this year's re-release of the animated classic Yellow Submarine--with new music to boot. For forward-thinking entrepreneurs, it's a sure sign Beatles items will be in demand.

Look for John, Paul, George and Ringo's colorfully animated mugs to surface on plenty of sub-obilia, including campy inflatable furniture. In a year that also marks the induction of Paul McCartney into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it's clear the drumbeat of Beatlemania remains strong. Sure, you could tune it out--but then you'd be missing the boat, wouldn't you?

Flash!

Hawaiian Punch: Exotic and flavorful, Hawaiian cuisine is making a splash on the mainland at such popular chains as Maui Beach Cafe and Maui Tacos. Think fish, sweet bread and pineapple...

Break Out the Bagpipes: Scotland is back in brogue--er, vogue--thanks to its prominence in TV ads hawking everything from automobiles to fast food.

Shelf Life: The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company (212-989-3660) hopes for licensing gold from the kids' TV show The Animal Shelf, expected for fall release.

Contact Source

Soap, (310) 891-1961, http://www.soapshoes.com