I used to think if you went to sports collectibles show, you were a collector, acquiring items across different mediums at will, and it’s an event that is never missed.
Through observations and some recent practices examining the sports collectibles industry, I have found that it’s a lot more complicated than that. Not all collectors are alike and even if you’re a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, you don’t probably don’t collect the same things as another Cardinals fan. Psst, and you might not ever be interested in what’s down each aisle at a show.
The key for dealers is to get that casual fan to the booth and offer them items while they are in the frame of mind to pull the trigger and buy.
We’ve had a lot of show coverage lately where the main story is the autograph guests and the number of people who cram into the signing area making the show a “success” in the eyes of promoters. Those in attendance obviously like the athletes signing and will pay money – sometimes big money – to get their signature. So the key is to get that attendee to cross the ropes, so to speak, and enter the show floor and buy from dealer booths.
How do you do that? Well, think along that attendee’s buying frame of mind. Do a little research and see who is signing. Then have the appropriate items from your business perspective at the booth to offer that fan. If you’re into cards, try laying out some themed cards related to said athlete(s) that are on the lower end of the price spectrum. You can mingle in the high-grade single cards, too, but chances are if the attendee isn’t a huge card guy but wants something related to his favorite player, they aren’t going to dive in with high-priced graded cards right off the bat.
If you’re into publications, make sure to have a separate area that includes pieces from the local franchises, and again, those related to the athletes appearing.
The same goes for guys with pennants, helmets, game-used jerseys, pro model bats, etc. Quite a few dealers use this practice at events such as the National, but it should be done by every dealer at every show.
I’m not saying dealers should change the medium they specialize in depending on the show or the location. I just think you need to cater to those who are in attendance, and every dealer can do that based on whatever wares they are offering. Too many times I see dealers display the same items in the same displays with little effort made to adapt to the surroundings. Trust me, your regular buyers know what you have to offer, even if it’s not front and center each and every time. If they have a history with you, they wil continue to seek you out.
And if you can draw in some new blood based on the local flavor of customers, you now have their attention. Now they might see what else there is to buy and you can up-sell them.
Along those same lines, dealers should try and diversify as much as possible. If you offer cards, try to have a mix of low and high end – don’t limit your self to half the audience by only going one way or another.
Collecting categories range from extreme enthusiasts to dabblers to beginners. If dealers want to make money – and grow – they have to start thinking along those lines and not just sit there with the attitude, “This is what I’m offering, take it or leave it. It’s not changing.”
The game is different. Adapt.