Shop Talk: Looking at recent changes in the retail hockey market
The ever-changing dynamics of retail is very evident in the hockey market.
Consolidation of companies and brands has left the industry with two huge vendors in Bauer and CCM and a handful of smaller vendors, such as True and Warrior, a couple specialty goalie brands Brian’s and Vaughn, as well as some vendors that specialize in tape, laces and accessories such as A&R, Howie’s and Proguard.
The only area growing is the custom jersey segment, companies that specialize in quicker turnaround and being able to complete the jersey and embellishment in one stop – companies such as Winwave and Champro. These are also companies that can deliver team and association orders on time.
While the number of vendors has shrunk, so has the number of retailers. In the last 12 months, Bauer has cut 400 retailers, those that did not meet their new, much-higher minimums or that Bauer feels did not service the area properly in their mind. At first, it was strange to think a vendor was willing to lose business but after listening to them, it made sense. Make the vendors out there better and stronger while providing elite-level vendors additional tools to succeed.
Bauer put in a great-looking skate wall at our Scottsdale store, plus a custom 3D-fit skate center. BTM employees scan your foot and send the image to Bauer, who custom makes a skate specifically to your foot.
We recently got in the Bauer stick studio to custom Bauer sticks one at a time with custom colors, graphics and specs. Plus, you can put your name and/or number on the stick. BTM is honored to be the only elite-level dealer in Arizona to have access to technology and products not offered anywhere else.
CCM has also stepped up their game with a custom skate wall at BTM Scottsdale and custom 3D-scan skate-fitting station. A custom stick center just arrived a couple weeks ago.
Plus, both Bauer and CCM provide BTM employees with online training and on-ice demo and PK sessions. The more information the employee knows about the product, the better they are able to service, fit and sell the customer. They want retailers that provide not just good customer service and experience anymore but outstanding customer service.
True Hockey, the first retailer to offer custom 3D-fit skates is still a very strong presence. Many men’s league players have gotten them as well as players that either have foot issues or comfort issues with their existing stock skates. The reviews and feedback have been amazing, and what usually happens is a few teammates come in eventually to get their custom True skates, so word of mouth has been True’s biggest source of sales. Plus, True has over 60 percent of NHL goalies in their custom skates. The goalies can’t speak highly enough of the goalie skates, which are made either in one-piece or two-piece options.
The hockey industry also benefits from Amazon not carrying products sold directly from the vendors. Hockey is still an industry that is your best to purchase in the store itself. Fit is so important, and most brands have several different fits. Trying the product on in store is key. It is a retail experience where the employees need to play the sport to understand and be able to sell the product.
This is why the big box stores have never succeeded at selling hockey and for the most part, don’t carry much or anything.
I’m not sure what the next five years will hold for changes, but I am super excited at what’s happening right now.
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.
(Oct. 15, 2019)