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NSGA Presents Virtual Seminar On ‘The Sporting Goods Rebound’


In lieu of being able to meet in person at the NSGA Management Conference and Team Dealer Summit, which was originally scheduled for this week in Naples, FL, but has been rescheduled until September 26-28, 2021 – the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) held a virtual conference it called “The Sporting Goods Rebound.” It featured a number of prominent speakers taking on the key issues facing the sporting goods and team sports business in 2021.

Some of the more interesting takeaways and comments focused on the business of team sports:

On the Federal PPP Loan Experience:

Pat Donnelly, Co-owner of Donnelly Sports, and Chairman of NSGA

“For the second PPP loan you had to prove sales were down, which was no problem for us because our second quarter last year was way down. The most surprising part was how easy it was and how smooth the process went. Proactive is better than reactive — the early bird got the worm in this case.”

On High School Sports Participation:

Dr. Karissa Niehoff, executive director of National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)

“The most difficult thing from our perspective was watching what has been happening on the ground — watching people respond as best as they could to COVID, all the while watching the good people in our industry working with kids and asking what they can do right away so kids can stay engaged and our programs can continue to run.

“All of this urgency and unknown was met with different levels and directions at the government, school and industry levels. All of this was swirling around.

“I do think there will be residual resolution to the disruption of the pandemic. It’s almost like when you stop a boat and you wait until the wake pushes your further. We are not finished when we go back to activities. There are still people concerned.

“Whether you are a club sport participant or a school-based participant, do your best to educate yourself about the particular program in your area to learn what preparations are in place to provide a safe return or, if they are already back to activity, what has been the experience with COVID transmission.”

On the Pandemic’s Impact on Youth Sports:

Dr. Robert Zayas, executive director, New York Public High School Athletic Association

“The last year has obviously been very chaotic in dealing with unprecedented decisions on a daily basis. We have had to overcome challenges we never anticipated.

“One of the things I have been very encouraged by is that without sports people were very critical and upset because they didn’t have high school sports. The amount of vocal support in finding ways to get sports back is not a negative, I look at it as a positive.

“In the fall, we as an association we made the difficult decision to move football and volleyball to the spring. We found that some of those football and volleyball players took advantage of opportunities and maybe ran cross-country or played soccer. There are stories that have occurred as a result in the juggling of seasons that have been a positive.

“We abided by the guidance as it was written. We in high school sports have to do a better job in promoting what we do and what we are. Let’s not focus on what AAU and club sports are, but on what high school sports are. When kids play high school sports, they do better in the classroom.

“I have heard of some students that have been playing year-round since they were five-years old and this pandemic basically forced them to take time off.”

On Getting Youth Sports Back:

David Hines, Executive Director, Arizona Interscholastic Association

“We have taken the approach that we are all in this together and I think the group that did this the best was our student-athlete. They adjusted. They wanted to compete, so they did whatever we asked them to do. Even though we had no game plan for this, and things were changing so fast, everybody worked together and accomplished at least getting our kids to play.

“It is going to take some time to get back to the participation levels we had prior to the pandemic, although in several individual sports we had an uptick in participation — cross-country and golf in particular.

“We’ve got to get back to the mentality of getting as close to the normal as possible, adjust to what we have gone through and understand that athletics and activities are an important part of our students’ lives.”

On Demand and Inventory Challenges to the Team Channel:

Laura St. George, Executive VP, Gared

“We felt the same as everybody did. It was a world we never anticipated, but it really gave us a chance to refocus and reflect and it really re-energized our team. It was a huge challenge. I don‘t want to do it again, but I do believe we are a better company because of it.

“Patience is going to be the word of 2021. We started to see some constraints on the supply chain last fall, starting with freight lines. Now we’re seeing a little bit of constraint on raw materials. It would be disingenuous for anyone to say they don’t anticipate any supply chain issues and it is going to be about communication and setting realistic expectations.

“Agility is really important. If you are constantly staying in your lane and not looking outward, you are going to miss opportunities. Athletic directors are really challenged. Traditional play is starting to continue, but non-traditional settings are just as important.”

On Recent Supply Chain Issues:

Sean Mannion, VP-U.S. Sales, ASICS

“There was no pandemic playbook. No company has been immune to the macros challenges of the pandemic. It was important to concentrate on the long game. It was important to stay consistent with our strategies and to stay true to our brand and our customers.

“Supply chain is certainly the question of the moment. After the initial uncertainty there was a rapid shift to health and wellness and demand quite frankly led to some shortages in late 2020. In past six months the uncertainly has shifted from consumer confidence to global supply chain challenges.

“There are certainly a lot of factors that play into certain consumer goods and it would be naïve to think the delays in the supply chain will stop. There will be supply chain issues through the rest of the year.

“The communication between brand and retailer is utterly critical. Proper forecasting is more important than ever.

“Athletes of all ages are dying to get back out there. Understanding the needs in each category is important.

“It starts with the consumer. The digital transformation has accelerated drastically. Retailers need to remain true to their strategy while engaging with consumers in a new way.”

On the Hockey Business:

Brian McDermott, Business Director, North America Specialty Business, Bauer

“It’s been a rollercoaster for the hockey business. The best lesson learned is that the companies that have been most successful are those businesses that have been able to adjust on the fly.

“Looking ahead, my advice would be to build a plan for the future, analyze that plan every month and adjust, Cash flow is very important in a pandemic. Stay very close to your local associations on anything that can impact your business.”