Shop Talk: How to avoid sticker shock to buy what you really need
Occasionally, a customer walks through the doors of one of our locations and makes their way past the sea of sticks to the skate display.
Their eyes go to the top row of the skate wall and on cue, they say, “Wow, is hockey equipment expensive.”
Some are newer players, while some have been in the game a long time, but have not purchased new gear for a while.
The ones that have played for years or decades tell us how their mom or dad bought CCM Tacks skates in the ‘60s, ’70s or ‘80s and the cost. Given the cost of inflation, the skates they bought compared to the quality and price of the comparable skate today, they paid much more.
Once we pull the new skates down, a smile comes over their face as they feel the weight and stiffness of the skates. They usually want to feel what $900+ feels like, but once we move down the skate line, they are amazed at what you can get in the $150-300 range.
Stories get thrown around of how their father put boiling water in the skates and then made them put their foot in to help mold the skates. We explain that skates nowadays get put in a special skate convection oven and we heat mold in the store. With this, the break in time is almost zero. We explain the removable steel and custom foot beds. They usually leave with a better understanding. It’s like going into a car dealership and the first car you see is a Ferrari.
To the newer player, it takes good floor staff employees to find out what they are expecting out of a skate, explaining the benefits of each skate, from stiffness, to weight, to correct fit, and trying to get the customer in the skate that most suits their foot, budget and expectations.
At our BTM Scottsdale store, we have a Bauer 3D fit center that gives skate size and model suggestions. At our other locations and as the industry has used for decades, we have skate Brannock devices for sizing.
Moving to our sea of sticks, the first thing that stands out is the $260-299 sticks, but what often gets overlooked is the variety of sticks we have in the $44-69 range. Plus, with all the models there always seems to be options for last year’s models on sale and for the same price or just a bit more, you can buy a composite stick, that gives much superior performance and comes with a 30-day manufacturer’s warranty. You might ask what the difference is between a $60 stick and a $299 stick? There are several, the main being weight. By using better composite and graphite materials, it reduces the weight and increases the performance. The less expensive sticks substitute these materials with fiberglass.
Looking at helmets, you’ll notice that the entry-level helmets are far more protective than what top-level helmets were a couple decades ago. As concussions have come to the forefront of sports, the hockey companies have put in huge resources to improving protection and fit. Again, trust the store employees to help get you the proper helmet, from level of protection to fit.
Now as you look at the other gear, such as shins, shoulder pads, elbow pads, pants and gloves, you can see that, yes, the top-of-the-line stuff is expensive, but what great value there is in the mid- and entry-level gear, the best bang for the buck being the mid-level gear.
Once you get the proper education, you’ll find that there are levels of equipment in all price ranges. Most important is to get the proper education and fit from the store staff.
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.
(April 10, 2018)