Team Talk

Out On A Limb... Again


I‘m going to make this really simple, so as we get ready to turn the calendar to 2024 let’s make some predictions about the biggest stories we can expect in the year ahead. But first, let’s go back to a year ago, to the November/December 2022 issue of Team Insight, to review my projections for the year that was — just to see how well I did.

I said that the number one concern among team dealers at this time a year ago were the supply chain disruptions — they were just starting to change the way everyone up and down that chain did business. Dealers at the time told us they much preferred having to chase product rather than sitting on a warehouse full of unsold products, but they perhaps didn’t foresee just how difficult the situation would become. Selling was the easy part — delivering was the challenge.

The challenge of finding a football helmet, a pair of shoulder pads or a basketball as 2022 turned into 2023 proved that we were right on that one.

Our next prediction was the continued challenge of not only hiring good people, but finding anyone to hire at all. Dealers still tell us of posting a help wanted ad, getting someone to come in for an interview, offering them the job and then never hearing from them again.

Even with unemployment at near-historic lows at the end of 2023, the hiring challenge remains the number two concern in team sports the past year. Another one we got right.

Finally, we pointed out that the team business was not immune to the inflationary challenges just starting to loom on the horizon of America’s economy a year ago. The once-unheard of practice of vendors shipping out catalogs with “fluid” pricing continued to be the norm in 2023. It was not unusual for an equipment supplier to raise prices three or four times in the past year to offset raw material, shipping and credit increases.

So, three for three in our late 2022 predictions for 2023. It was, indeed, a challenging year for the team business, but once again dealers proved resilient.

In addition, strategies were put in place to streamline internal processes. And schools, clubs and rec programs realized that rising costs were unavoidable and they were just happy to get their uniforms and balls delivered in time, no matter the cost.

So we did pretty well with our crystal ball for 2023. Now on to our predictions for 2024. That’s easy, more of the same — plus pickleball. See you next year.

-Mike Jacobsen