GTS Distribution, the nation’s largest wholesale distributor of sports cards, will no longer be allowed to sell Topps products in the U.S. after this year.
GTS is the nation’s largest wholesale distributor of sports cards, selling products to hobby shops, breakers and other retail outlets. It has been the leading distributor of Topps cards for more than 20 years.
But Fanatics, which now owns Topps and has acquired the rights to produce baseball, football and basketball cards, has been working toward a new model for distributing its products. It’s next big move appears to be moving away from large wholesale distributors.
“Over the past twelve months, Topps has prioritized working directly with hobby shops and a broad array of customers to ensure they have better access to the latest and best products and promotions,” a Topps spokesman said in a statement Friday. “As part of that effort and to better serve the hobby and its growth, we will make strategic adjustments to our product allocation and distribution channels to create the best experience for all collectors.”
GTS representatives confirmed Friday that it will no longer be selling and distributing Topps products in the U.S. after this year.
"While Topps will no longer provide future domestic production allocations, the company plans to fulfill all existing orders with GTS,” a statement from GTS says. “Moving forward, Topps will continue to support GTS' retail and international efforts."
The development was first reported by Bench Clear Media’s “On The Fly” show.
Sports card collectors called the move “huge news.”
“The winds of change are now blowing in the hobby,” Baseball Card Collector and Bench Clear’s Mike Moynihan said on “On The Fly.”
“This rocks the boat big-time,” said Bench Clear’s Ty Wilson. “They have sunk the Titantic.”
GTS is one of many wholesale companies that serve as middlemen, supplying trading cards and supplies to retail outlets. It is not known how many distributors will be affected by the moves by Topps and Fanatics, but Sports Collectors Daily reported that at least one other wholesaler has been told it will no longer be getting Topps products.
Fanatics, which purchased Topps for $500 million last year, has been working on new plans for how to distribute its products throughout the hobby. It has also acquired the rights to manufacture football and basketball cards within the next few years, fueling rumors and speculation that it also plans to purchase Panini, which currently holds the rights for NFL and NBA cards.
Fanatics has made it clear that it plans to work closely with hobby and card shops, which currently get products from distributors like GTS.
“Card shops are 1A and 1B, it’s where the customers are, and that’s the most important thing, 100 percent,” Josh Luber, the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of Fanatics Collectibles, told SCD last week at the National Sports Collectors Convention.
“Even if we wanted to move all the products [ourselves], we couldn’t do that if we wanted to and, by the way, they are part of the customer experience. With trading cards, you need that asset, that hobby shop owner, the dealer, that interaction.”
Luber said Fanatics’ ultimate goal is “growth for everybody.”
“We all win if we grow the hobby and bring in more customers and figure it out,” he said. “And very much related to that, if that is goal 1A, 1B is how do we all work better together, because any people coming into the hobby, we have to be able to get through the entire value chain, from education, to selling a card and everything in between, buying packs and opening them and breaking and grading and selling and everything in between, which is not to say that we will do all that, but we have to figure out how to work with all those people in that space because customers need that entire value chain.
“It’s really about two things: how do we grow, and how do we work with everyone else.”