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Hobby Stores Find Ways to Battle Economic Woes

With a struggling economy not helping matters, hobby shops are getting creative to make business profitable.

Ask a hobby retailer how business is going these days and you’re likely to get a wide variety of answers. But the majority of hobby retailers who were asked to gauge the health of their business for a survey in the June issue of Card Trade said their businesses were surviving the current economic downturn.

Gary Mills of West Allis Sports Cards in suburban Milwaukee said that despite the economic issues plaguing the country, he’s “hanging in there. We have a well-established customer base supporting my store,” Mills said. “I work on a low-margin, high-volume theory that works for me.”

Rob Vandorick of All Star Baseball near Las Vegas said his business is doing OK, all things considered. He said having experienced previous downturns in the collectibles market has helped him navigate the general economic slowdown.

“Now that we’ve seen how the (sports collectibles) market peaks and valleys, we’ve gotten very adept at identifying the valleys,” Vandorick said. “We’ve learned what to do at certain times of the year. We don’t get too overconfident on big days because we know that slower ones can follow.” Vandorick said he’s brought in a lot of low-priced material to allow cash-strapped customers the opportunity to keep buying new items.

Thomas Cowan, owner of Sports Card Connection in Houghton, Mich., said his store was coming off “the best quarter in store history,” but knows that prosperity could be short lived. “We’re now heading toward the traditionally slow time,” Cowan said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Tom Dodley of Grandpa’s Sports Cards in Niles, Ohio, said sales have been “fairly good” through the first four months of this year, even though his high-end box sales have declined. “Most (buyers) say it’s because the ‘bang for the buck’ isn’t there,” Dodley said.

Richard Poletta of DJ’s Sportscards in Oxford, Mass., said his business is reasonably healthy, “but has a little cough right now. There just aren’t enough collectors collecting and consumers consuming,” he said. Poletta said he’s resigned to the likelihood that the overall economic climate won’t improve until sometime next year. “I’m in survival mode until then,” Poletta said.

Some retailers, however, paint a far bleaker picture. Scott Wilkinson of Jackson’s Card Shop in Jackson, Tenn., said his business “is on life support” after a 56-percent drop in sales during April.

David Young of The Collector’s Zone in Jackson, Mich., said the “awful” economy in his region has dramatically reduced his store traffic. Henry Weir of Gulf Sports Cards & Comics in Prairie, Miss., said sales have declined by 25 percent, and he’s had to reduce staff and store hours.

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