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Retailers Hope to Recover from Disappointing Year

The last 12 months weren't anything to crow about in the sports memorabilia industry. Retailers reflect on a disappointing year, and what some of the causes were.
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It’s not a question of if the sports card industry lost money in 2008. It’s only a question of how much.

At the hobby shop level, the majority of retailers surveyed by Card Trade magazine this month are reporting their sales were down for the year, with some reporting declines of as much as 50 percent compared to 2007.

“Another a year like this, and I think I’m going to close,” said Ralph Brierly of Maine-ly Sports Cards in Solon, Maine. He estimated his sales were down 30 percent from last year and said he’s not optimistic the economy is going to turn around any time soon.

Dean Katz of Charm City Cards in Timonium, Md., said his sales were down for a fourth consecutive year and says the industry needs to restructure its product offerings. “There’s too much supply and not enough demand,” Katz said. “Plus, the average box of cards is now around $80. The whole climate of business has changed these last four to five years.”

Rob Vandorick of All-Star Baseball Cards in Las Vegas said his 2007 sales were down 27 percent from a year ago, and added it might have been worse had it not been for some aggressive end-of-year promotions. He also believes the best way to get collectors to increase their spending in the coming year is with more focus on lower-priced cards.

“If any new product lines are coming for 2009, we need lower SRPs,” Vandorick said. “People are only buying what they can afford and are not going after the glitz and glam.”

A handful of retailers said their sales were about the same as last year. Diane Stahura of Cheap Seats Sportscards in Whiting, Ind., was one of them, and she was thankful to be able to hold the line on sales in such a down economy. “I’ve been very, very fortunate,” Stahura said.

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