Since there are only five retail outlets that we know of in Canada, it may seem that we are jumping the gun with this article. Let me assure you, we are not !
The average retirement enclave in the South USA buys/sells between 20M and 200M dollars in paddles alone per annum. Balls, portable sets, clothing, jewelry, hats, gloves, jackets, etc. another 14M per year. There are hundreds of these centers in the US south. In addition sales proliferate to some 50 other countries who have started pickelball.
In Canada, we have about 250 locations, most in public Rec centers who in principle do not sell goods but leave these sales to associations or retail outlets. In some, they do not allow sales outright of any materials in their centers. This opens a great opportunity for retail merchants to fill in the void.
Why has this not occurred?
In many of our programs, as in the USA, many of the program “Heads” (Directors, Ambassadors, etc.) travel south to the warmer climates in the Winter. Paddles and balls they have brought back themselves are sold to members for profit or not, (profits they may deserve for their efforts ) – or not for profit, which inhibits any retailer from entering the pickleball world. This is the case in the USA where there is nary a chain or sports store that carries pickleball stuff.
Hence the legend of the sport “with no visibility” is maintained and the manufacturers – mostly in Seattle — maintain a vise-like hold on the market. Why would any retailer bother, as there would be no profit to make it worthwhile. An exception is a chain supplied by the largest manufacturer who doesn’t need the business anyway as the largest manufacturer has most of it already. He supplies a small chain with wood paddles only.
So what can be done to fill this gap?
A couple of suggestions, competetive marketing of these products should be based on something that seems to be working currently in Canada.
Local Stores or a Chain of Stores:
Courtside Sports in Victoria (http://www.courtsidesports.com/store/department/45/Pickleball/) has been doing this for several years with success in many markets. They provide displays that are crisp, colourful and current. The prices are affordable but not low end. The return goods policy is in place and service for replacement is quick. Quality control is maintained. Internet facing is large.
In Calgary there is another store… see link….
Brent says, “our pickleball wall is actually 64
square feet….we also have 64 square feet of floor space PLUS space on our book shelves and in our display cabinets. In addition to racquets and balls, we also sell pickleball footwear and
apparel. At this point, only a small sample of our inventory is out on the floor.
The rest will be going out over the next two weeks.”
My wish would be that many other retailers get into the market and many of our PB leaders continue to lead — but get out of the paddle and ball business. In our sport where rules are often the purvue of the local person, it is a conflict of interest to be promoting one person’s (one manufacturer’s) products over another. When we teach our 177 instructors they are taught to teach ALL paddles. Each player has the right to choose what is best for them within the limits of safety (proven).
Another layer of PB supplies is internet stores. These proliferate in Canada and the USA, often spawned by their local programs. The longest standing of these is www.okpicleball.ca in Canada who now have a retail store of their own. In the end we hope that Canadians will check out the Canadian sites first as, with any “buy Canadian” program, the profit will stay in Canada, and likely, these retailers can (and do) help with tournaments to grow the sport with tips about new places to play emerging and retail news.
I hope this brief GPS on retailing in Canada has proven helpful. If you know of any other stores, please let us know. I see that Safeway now carries ping pong balls . In our area, pickleball is 20X bigger than table tennis. Go figure eh!
Yours in sport and health