If I had to use one word to describe the hockey equipment industry in 2007 it would be corporate. I guess what I’m saying is gone are the medium size companies that moved the industry (well, actually to me they were huge) when I started nearly 20 years ago replaced by multi brand conglomerates where, sometimes although not always, hockey is a very, very small part of what they do. So, what’s the result? Well, I guess just like every other business; to make money. I have no issue with that and in fact anyone who’s not in business to make money is a darned fool. However, the newest way of generating sales is where I have issue. The new way of getting products on retailers shelves is constant introduction of new models, new color variations, and “limited edition” versions of existing products. I think for the consumer, it’s like Christmas every few months when the next big thing hits but for the retailer it’s a nightmare. Honestly, I think in the end it’s not good for anyone.
Take a look at the 2008 items already available or scheduled to land soon (by 2008 product I typically mean product that was not listed in any 2007 catalogues): The RBK O Stick, RBK 7K Crosby stick, RBK 7K Sickick 08 stick, CCM Vector 10.0 08 stick, Nike Bauer Vapor XXXX stick, Nike Bauer Vapor XXV stick, Nike Bauer Vapor XVI stick, Easton Stealth S17 stick, Mission Fuel Ti Pro stick, TPS Summit 7 leg pad, catcher, and blocker, Nike Bauer One95 Leg pads, catcher and blocker, and on and on. What that means is all of these were available just recently or will be just before holidays. So, where’s the problem? There’s a thing called buyers remorse which means right after you purchase what you understand to be the newest, hottest product out there only for it to be one upped weeks later. I can sit here and tell you all thats wrong with this (like killing product loyalty) but this is how things will be from here on out.
I have more a problem with limited edition colors etc. Every year someone from one of our suppliers will come to me with a “hot new color” of a popular stick, skate, etc. I typically rebuke them as I’m more a substance over style sort of guy and won’t make inventory risks on something based on color if the old color worked just fine. Sometimes I can get away with it, sometimes my hand is forced. I definitely take an old school approach to hockey. When I played the player with the newest stuff that stood out was the guy you went after. I always considered hockey players to be tough guys. The idea of someone playing hockey not buying, say, a stick because they want the green and not the red, or sitting at a computer terminal designing their own stick colors with their name on it, that just didn’t happen. It’s a brave new world people.
What’s my bottom line? I have no idea. As a business man, I think it’s a negative trend as (just look around all the usual websites) it causes all sorts of overages and markdowns which means many of the same retailers will have neither the space nor money to get the next new thing. It’s what we call a self fulfilling prophecy. For the parent of a hockey player, it’s also a nightmare if you don’t have a money tree growing in your backyard. BUT, if your a kid who eats, drinks, and sleeps hockey, well, it’s the best of times. Well, that is until that skate or stick you fell in love with has been replaced by one you hate…welcome to hockey in 2007