Trends & Features

Want to boost your bottom line?

Carry some quality hockey gear, says Chris Sutherland, managing director of Dita

In the current sports retail environment, many traditional independent retailers are busy looking for ways to increase their turnover.

Hockey, which had been neglected by many retailers in the past, is enjoying a revival in many areas. By focusing on the hockey market, many retailers are now increasing turnover by stocking quality hockey products.

Hockey had always been classed as a minor sport, and with this came a mentality in the retail trade that there was no real money to be made out of it. This has, however, changed. If figures are to be believed, there are more hockey players than rugby players in the UK and Republic of Ireland, while the UK and ROI are now number one in Europe for retail hockey sales.

Hockey is no longer the short, seasonal sport it used to be. Apart from a few areas, hockey is played all year round. School hockey is played from August through until May. When normal hockey leagues finish their season, numerous summer leagues begin. These summer leagues have evolved because of the vast number of astro pitches available in the UK. Numerous coaching camps for youngsters are springing up all over the country, with most of them taking place during the traditional close season. All these kids require equipment!

Hockey has seen healthy growth in the junior section of the sport. All over the country it is common to see hundreds of kids training and playing with clubs as well as the traditional hockey playing schools. In the private school sector of the hockey market there has been incredible growth in the number of schools that have their own astro pitches, and in some cases more than one.

The success of national teams in any sport usually helps retail sales. This was seen in cricket when England won the Ashes. In hockey GB ladies have already secured a place at the Beijing Olympics and it is hoped that the men’s team will join them. After Beijing both the men’s and ladies’ GB teams will have automatic qualification for the 2012 London Olympics, so hockey will definitely receive a boost over the next four years. This should be a prime time for retailers to establish themselves in their particular area as a proper hockey outlet.

Over the last 18 months there has been a substantial increase in the amount of TV time allocated to hockey, and this will increase with the build-up to the 2012 Olympics, both on terrestrial and Sky and Eurosport channels.

Hockey players spend lots of money on their equipment and retailers should take into account how much they can expect a hockey player to spend.

The average football player would require a pair of boots and shinguards as his team kit is normally supplied. It’s the same for rugby players. Hockey players require specialist hockey shoes (up to £85), a hockey stick (up to £250), shinguards (£15), socks (£8), shorts or skort (£15 and £25 respectively as only shirts are normally supplied as team kit), a glove (£10), Stick bag (up to £30), mouthguard (£10) and overgrips (four or five per year at £5 each).

As well as these items, hockey players will buy rainjackets and hooded tops on top of other après sport hockey textiles. Because of the wear and tear as a result of the playing surfaces, it is quite common for players to buy a new stick and shoes every season. Team kits are currently big business with so many clubs and schools moving into the more technical fabrics for playing shirts.

It is now common to see hockey products given a more prominent position in retail outlets. Because of the head shapes, it is far easier to display hockey sticks on hooks (multiples per hook) and now retailers tend to display all their stock in the shop and not keep it in the back.

With the increase in monetary sales, the major hockey brands are doing a good job to help the retailer increase their turnover. Brand such as Grays, Dita, TK and Mercian have vast amounts of expertise within their companies and can offer good technical back up. Dita, TK and Mercian are famous for stocking all year round as they are hockey specialist companies. Myself and Simon Mason at Mercian are ex-GB players and both have a hands-on approach to product development.

Overall, it would seem a good time for the independent sports retailer to look more seriously at the hockey market.

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