Shop Talk: Taking a glance at the changing face of hockey retail
Seems like 10-15 years ago that companies like Bauer and CCM could not open new dealers fast enough.
The industry had a big trade show each winter in Las Vegas. Dealers and prospective dealers anxiously waited in droves outside the show for the doors to open on the first day. Prospective dealers pitched their new store ideas to the companies. The companies felt more dealers meant more dollars. They were right in the short term, but were proved wrong in the long term – lessons they would realize and regret years later.
The Las Vegas show was always an exciting time. New companies were there each year. I remember years ago when Mission Hockey was launching, they actually had a submarine in their booth at the show that you could walk in. Warrior launched a few years later with their booth of models and a full bar. Each show would add new companies to the BTM store mix.
Eagle had their booth that changed the glove category. Their booth had hundreds of pairs of gloves in every color combination you could imagine. Eagle forced both Bauer and CCM to step up their glove game. One year, they came up with pro glow that people went crazy over, until the people realized the gloves stuck to the glass and ended up with players getting shoulder injuries. Their body kept moving and their shoulder stopped – not a good combination.
Graf skates and Tackla pants were also very popular with retailers and consumers.
Then things changed when there was not a waiting line to get in. Bauer was bought by Nike and CCM/Reebok by Adidas. The smaller companies could no longer compete and fell by the wayside. The larger retailers kept expanding and the Internet hockey stores put the mom-and-pop dealers out of business. With less dealers and retailers, the show came to an end.
As certain hockey retailers grew with multiple locations across the U.S., and the Internet grew wildly, the smaller retailers faded. During this period, BTM was part of The Hockey Group (THG) with Hockey Monkey, Hockey Giant, Total Hockey and Perani’s. THG used its combined group volume to get additional discounts and benefits other retailers did not receive. As a group, THG was a huge percentage of the U.S. marketplace.
As the Internet grew, people would come in and ask how we could compete with these huge Internet hockey stores, not knowing that we were part of the same group. Joining THG in 2002 was the best thing BTM had done.
Larry Davenport started THG after serving as the vice president of CCM. Being asked to join the group was a great honor. The group continued until 2014 when it self-imploded. Members within THG had expanded so quickly that they were opening stores in other member’s territories. What started out as a group of retailers that each had their own marketplace simply grew out of control.
But being part of a group allowed me to better understand retail. It made me a better retailer. It made me understand that I needed to update the stores, to expand to better locations. When THG began, Perani’s was the largest retailer in the U.S. by far. Perani’s was founded by former minor league goalie Bob Perani. Bob was the godfather of hockey retail in the U.S. Seeing that Bob and I were both goalies and from Toronto, we had an immediate bond. As nice of a person as I’ve met, Bob helped me understand both retail and hockey. I soaked in the information he provided.
Without Larry Davenport, Bob Perani and THG, BTM would be light years behind where it is today. Bob passed away in 2012, but his industry legacy lives on.
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.
(Feb. 9, 2018)