The annual Goals/Nets Vendor Roundtable examines the issues impacting the business in 2023.
The annual Goals/Nets Vendor Roundtable examines the issues impacting the business in 2023.
At the Table
Sales Manager, Bison
Senior Product Manager, Champro
Marketing Manager, Gared Holdings
VP–Sales & Marketing, Team Sports, Gill Athletics/Porter Athletic
National Business Development Manager, Gill Athletics
Director of Business Development, Trigon Sports
Let’s get right to what is on most team dealers’ minds in mid-2023: What is the supply chain situation?
Chris Livingston: So far, we have not seen any widespread issues like the past couple of years and we do not anticipate that changing as we get further into 2023.
Kara Oughton: We’ve noticed a considerable improvement in supply chain in the last six months, with shipments from suppliers finally returning to consistent and predictable timing.
Neal Halvorson: I can’t speak for our entire industry, but we continue to see container and import costs decline towards pre-pandemic levels. Also, our factories have seen production capabilities begun to increase again as workers have returned and raw materials are available. So we have been able to increase not only quantity of products being made, but also getting them to our warehouse quicker.
Steve Vogelsang: It’s improving, albeit at an uneven rate. There is still work to do. Material cost increases are slowing and container rates are declining rapidly.
Matt Klein: We’re seeing a level of normalcy returning in relation to lead times. As container rates continue to stabilize, we’re working towards a growth objective to create a more consistent level of product availability.
With that in mind, what can team dealers and their customers expect for product availability and delivery later this year?
Vogelsang: Lead times are improving, but spotty. We are actually in very solid shape in every product category. Lead times will be much improved this year compared to 2022.
Halvorson: We anticipate being able to supply our dealers and ultimately their customers with on-time delivery. We are always looking to improve and streamline the order process for our dealers.
Klein: We looked at product areas that would allow us to continue our company’s growth and have brought in product early in order to provide a higher level of buyer confidence going into the respective seasons.
Oughton: Currently we are shipping on time for 90 percent of our product line and we expect that number to continue to increase as the year goes on.
Livingston: We think we have a good grasp on our needs and do not anticipate long lead times due to supplies.
How has your company dealt with this supply chain challenge?
Oughton: Being able to adapt and be flexible has been a key factor. Over the years, we’ve maintained great relationships with reliable suppliers that allow us to shift gears quickly without compromising product quality. In addition, we continually focus on educating our dealer network so that in case of a supply challenge they can recommend alternative product solutions that will still satisfy the customer.
Livingston: Our production planning team has done a fantastic job anticipating Bison’s needs and getting supplies and staffing in the right places at the right time throughout the last year or so. This has allowed us to maintain a large inventory to match our dealer’s needs. And, it helps that over 90 percent of our products are made or sourced domestically, so we have better control of our production supply needs.
Halvorson: We increased inventory levels on most of our products, in addition to having them ready earlier for their respective seasons.
Klein: We established greater emphasis on forecasting amid rapid growth and sustainability towards being a go-to brand.
What about price increases? We were told by many dealers that they were unpredictable for the past year or two. Have they become more stable?
Klein: Freight costs played a major role in pricing the last year or two. With the supply chain stabilizing, these reduced costs will play a role in pricing strategies for the next season as the market will look to reestablish itself.
Halvorson: We actually didn’t raise our dealer prices for almost 18 months, from Fall 2021 to Spring 2023, on most of our products. But we were finally forced to raise prices in January to offset the rising costs and inflation.
Oughton: We are still seeing a few price increases from our suppliers, but on the whole prices are more stable and predictable than they’ve been. We’re continually looking for ways to increase workflow efficiencies in order to lower costs.
Vogelsang: We expect current prices to hold through end of year and a more normal pricing exercise in 2024.
Livingston: We chose to use a surcharge to deal with the rising costs of supplies and continue to do so. We felt like it gave us more flexibility to make adjustments over the last couple of years. While we have certainly seen stabilization with most material pricing, there has not been a lot of downward movement back to pre-COVID levels for supply costs. Hopefully, that changes as we get more into 2023 and we can reduce or eliminate the surcharge altogether.
Were there any positives for the goals/nets business in the past year?
Livingston: There were many positives over the past year. The biggest being that we became much more efficient with production and staffing to help offset some of the material price increases.
Mike Cunningham: Our outdoor construction division saw a huge increase in facility netting designed to separate sports in similar vicinities. This increased demand for this type of netting has continued early this year in 2023 as well and we predict will continue to grow.
Oughton: Having such a robust and diversified product line has been a tremendous positive for us. If inventory levels are low for a particular SKU, we can typically pivot to a different yet equal product that will fulfill the customer’s needs and stay within their budget.
Halvorson: Absolutely. As youth sports continue to grow, we will continue to use our acquisition of Practice Partner to rebrand more of our youth soccer, lacrosse and hockey goals.
Klein: According to the most recent SFIA data, soccer saw a strong positive percentage growth in participation over the last year, which Champro’s net sales matched. Nets continue to be a strong focus as we work towards new concepts that drive innovation and quality.
How about pickleball?
Livingston: We have seen a significant increase in pickleball sales over this past two years and this trend will most likely continue for years to come as the sport continues to grow.
Klein: It’s exciting to see a new sport emerge and we look forward to seeing its continued success.
Halvorson: Well, for the third year in a row it’s the fastest growing sport in the U.S. We are exploring our options to enter that market with post systems, nets and other accessories.
What advice would you have for to team dealers on how they can sell and deliver more goals and nets?
Livingston: It sounds simple (I know it’s not), but just reaching out to these schools, churches, rec centers and other similar facilities will result in increased sales. We get quote requests every day for products and we pass the requests along to our dealers. So I’m assuming these places are requesting prices because they’re not being called on in the first place.
Cunningham: It’s interesting, in today’s world of constant knowledge at our fingertips many coaches still don’t understand the breadth of product team dealers can provide. So proactive communication is the name of the game. Real conversations with athletic directors and coaches about their needs for the upcoming season can yield valuable information that can be exchanged for increased profitable sales. The challenge is to go deeper than ‘what do you need this year?’ in order to discover more opportunities that you can solve.
Oughton: We always advocate continued contact with customers through product education and visual onsite equipment evaluations, which can generate quick sales of replacement products such as backboards, rims, nets and padding.
Halvorson: Knowledge is key. As in — be sure your customers know that you carry these products. Get to know the key decision makers (AD, coach, league director, facilities manager) and know about the products you are selling in order to offer solutions to meet your customer needs.
Klein: Push what allows the players to continue their growth as an athlete. Pop-up soccer goals gives the greatest benefit to all players with the ability to play in any area as they work hard to develop and grow their game.
What is your outlook for Fall 2023?
Halvorson: Cautiously optimistic. We anticipate having plenty of inventory and being able to meet the expectations of our customers. But inflation also needs to be reined in.
Oughton: We are very excited about this fall. Not only are we looking forward to a more consistent supply chain overall, we’re also slated to unveil a few new products and some exclusive new safety features. We’re also excited continue such programs as our Grow with Gared campaign, where we feature a youth athlete each month.
Klein: The outlook for Fall 2023 looks similar to Spring 2023 — positive. We are working to maintain the success seen in the Spring 2023, with a focus on goal/net growth and product quality innovation.
Cunningham: Healthy abundance. Team dealers who dig deeper than others will increase their market share and have their most successful year yet.
Livingston: Our initial outlook for 2023 was flat sales, but we’re already up 25 percent over last year so we’ve adjusted our thinking to 10-15 percent increase mainly for production planning. But, we’d be very happy with that increase should it materialize.