Indiana is often seen as the bellwether of basketball in America.
Indiana is often seen as the bellwether of basketball in America.
Watching basketball, following basketball, coaching basketball and playing basketball are all part of the fabric of life in the Hoosier state. That means that selling basketball is a key part of the sales portfolio for every team dealer in Indiana.
There are certainly plenty of opportunities to sell the sport — there are 10,269 boys (from 403 high schools) and 7058 girls (from 393 high schools) playing high school basketball in the Hoosier state, according to figures released by the NFHS. That doesn’t even count the thousands of young children playing on teams from elementary and middle schools, in local rec programs and on travel teams.
To further drive home the importance of basketball in Indiana, the Hoosier state has an impressive Hall of Fame focused just on basketball. The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame – located in New Castle – is filled with hoops memorabilia, newspaper clippings, images, trophies, jerseys and basketballs, much of which is focused on high school basketball.
The philosophy of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame says it all about that unique attitude and approach to basketball in the Hoosier state: “In 49 other states, it’s just basketball, but this is Indiana.”
As expected, the basketball business for Coaches Corner in Terre Haute, IN, has been strong for those very reasons.
“Team uniform sales were good this year to middle schools and high schools,” says manager Doc Claussen, who also points to socks, pregame warmups, backpacks, travel gear, team bags, dry erase boards and Wilson Evolution basketballs, which is the official basketball for high schools in both Indiana and Illinois.
“We do sell a lot of basketballs each year,” he reports. “We also keep three or four breakaway rims in stock, just in case of a broken rim with any of our local schools. Accidents do happen!”
Interestingly, in today’s world of basketball colored socks have been popular for decades, but white socks remain the more popular option for customers of Coaches Corner. “About 90 percent of our sock sales are white, while only 10 percent are for black or different colored socks,” Claussen reports.
The one basketball item which Coaches Corner doesn’t sell is the basketball shoe. “There are too many brands and models to keep in stock plus the (price) competition from the Internet is tough to beat,” he says.
Another Terre Haute, IN-based team dealer – Pacesetter Sports – is also deeply involved in selling basketball to both teams and the general public. Pacesetter Sports caters to every single basketball team and player in the area through its team division or its retail store.
“Basketball is alive and well in Indiana,” declares owner Brent Compton. “March Madness is almost upon us.”
If a basketball team or player needs any specific item, Compton and his crew will make every effort to secure it. Of course, Pacesetter is quick to deliver basic needs for any player, team, coach or fan.
“Our most popular sales categories are uniforms, practice gear, travel gear, socks, footwear, nets, padding around the goals and, of course, basketballs,” says Compton. He, like Claussen, sells a lot of Wilson Evolution game balls.
And because of its retail reach, Pacesetter does sell basketball footwear.
“We sell Adidas, Under Armour and Nike,” Compton says. “We try to work with our local basketball teams to forecast what the will be needing for the upcoming season so we make accurate orders. Footwear is the most difficult category to forecast.”
According to Compton, the process of selling footwear is different than selling uniforms.
“While uniforms are often a team-buying decision, the purchase of footwear is often an individual buy,” he explains. “Coaches will give their players an idea of the colors and then the players will go out and buy the brand and model that they prefer.”
While Indiana is well-known as a hotbed of hoops, especially in high schools, the state takes competitive basketball to another level with a separate statewide post-season tournament to determine the top junior high school/middle school basketball team in the state.
Another category which was very popular in 2023 at Pacesetter, especially during the holiday gift-giving time period, was spirit-related merchandise.
To give you an idea of demands of the basketball business at Pacesetter Sports, Compton was in the office and in his retail store the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day catering to the needs of any teams who were in Terre Haute for the First Financial Wabash Valley Classic high school basketball tournament, a four-day event where every team is guaranteed to play at least three games.
“All the games are held in one gym (at Terre Haute South High School) on one floor,” explains Compton. “It’s one game after another for four days from December 26-29. We always sell a few basketball nets during that tournament.”
Meanwhile, in Clarksville, in southern Indiana not far from the Indiana-Kentucky state line, Kratz Sporting Goods is busy every week of the year selling basketball. Kratz has sales reps that cover the entire state — from Gary and South Bend in the north down south to schools in southern Indiana and stretching into northern Kentucky, specifically in the greater Louisville/Jefferson County area.
“There is no off-season for basketball for us,” reports owner Allen Krebs. “It’s just a continuous season of sales. We sell anything that a basketball player or a basketball team will need.”
One of the biggest changes for Kratz has been the buying pattern for high school basketball teams.
“For years, we had a great business selling basketball shoes to teams, but since COVID many coaches have decided to let the players get their own shoes,” Krebs explains, a decision driven by what the players see with the college players and the pros. The coaches give the players a set of colors and let their players get their own shoes and as a result its team basketball shoe business is 25-40 percent from what it once was.
That slack has been taken up, however, with the other best-selling categories — uniforms and basketballs. In fact, according to Krebs, his overall basketball business is still strong, but the revenue is now coming from different sources.
“We are now setting up web stores where families are spending their own money to purchase fanwear and team-related items,” he says. “High school booster clubs are also paying for some items because school athletic budgets have been cut.”
Hoosier Sporting Goods in Columbus, IN, keeps busy selling basketball to grade schools, middle schools and high schools from southern Indiana to those in the central part of the state.
According to owner Mike Bodart, Hoosier sells uniforms, basketballs, warm-ups, team socks, nets, air pumps, needles, whistles and lanyards. It, too, does not sell footwear.
And up in Valparaiso, in the northwest corner of the state, the basketball business continues to grow for Blythe’s Sports Shop.
“We are selling basketball uniforms and gear to AAU, club, middle school, high school and a few college teams,” reports sales manager Jason Dudley. Here, too, the team shoe business has tailed off in recent years.
For Blythe’s Sports Shop the high school booster clubs are now getting involved to underwrite the purchase of an alternative set of uniforms for high school teams. According to Dudley, those jerseys are worn during special games such as regular-season tournaments, homecoming games and games played on holidays.
And with so many high school teams practicing and playing games from November through March in Indiana, one hot sales item are the actual nets attached to the rims. “We sell a quite a few Carron basketball nets each year,” says Dudley.
When teams cut down the nets following big championship victories, that’s another net that needs to be sold by Blythe’s or any other team dealer in Indiana.