Numbers Don't Lie, Change is Needed

The annual industry trade conference, known as the Hawaii Trade Conference/Mainland Edition, recently wrapped up in Palm Harbor, Fla. (is that near Hawaii?), and attendees and manufacturers doled out plenty of opinions on what the hobby needs to do to improve its financial picture in these struggling times.

This was after an opening presentation in which a University of Mississippi survey on collecting trading cards showed that 54 percent of hobbyists who responded were spending less on cards than two years ago, with only 22 percent stating they were spending more on cards during the same time period.

The survey also revealed that the majority of those who responded that are no longer collecting made the decision because of the higher costs associated with new products and a belief that the quality and content of cards did not justify the purchase price.

Obviously, this is not a new problem in the hobby, but the survey also revealed that 70 percent of those who said they no longer collect would consider coming back if the prices for new products were lower and they were fewer card products in the market.

And that brings us to the new kid on the block, which is actually mostly made up of familiar tenants on the block – Panini, which is made up of many former Donruss employees. The trade conference was the company’s first public appearance in front of retailers and distributors, and it was the perfect place to clarify some of the company’s product plans for 2009 and beyond.

Panini revealed that the product lineup for the next few months would include familiar football offerings such as Prestige, Elite and Donruss Classics, along with the return of the $1-per-pack Score Football product.
For basketball, Mike Anderson, Panini’s vice president of sales, said an estimated number of releases would be 17, though that was not the official number. Prestige, Elite, Absolute Memorabilia and Certified Materials brands were in the works.

Meanwhile, Upper Deck said set-building themes would be the rallying cry for the rest of the 2009 product lineup. Translation: lower price points that cater to set builders. Senior product manager Karvin Chang said Upper Deck was focused on “delivering more products for more bang for the buck.” He cited Upper Deck’s upcoming O-Pee-Chee Baseball’s 500-card base set as an example.

Upper Deck also said it would also debut some familiar brands, such as Goodwin Champions Baseball and Philadelphia Baseball. 
    
These strategies will be interesting to follow since manufacturers walk the line of offering affordable sets to attract collectors while also having to supply the big “hits” in products, such as autographs and memorabilia cards, that so many collectors demand.

In the end, some retailers walked away with cautious optimism.

“I liked the fact that the Big Three card companies are gravitating toward set building again instead of just the ‘hit’ mentality with most products. I feel better about the direction we’re headed,” said Dan Fox of Fox Sports Cards & Collectibles. 

Though some might be thinking, “They say that every year,” when referring to the manufacturers, perhaps this is the year it has to take place considering the economic climate, which is now facing another hurdle with the swine flu concerns.

In the end, the numbers don’t lie when it comes to fewer collectors, and if things are going to change for the better, people better start listening.

One thought on “Numbers Don't Lie, Change is Needed

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