Friday, November 21, 2008

Return of the Burning Question: What Paint?

Hit the title link to check out the original post--or just go down the page a few posts. No thanks to you slackers I have a few answers to the original burning question: How competitive can a small scale operation be in terms of cost per ball?
The answer is: not very. And you wouldn't believe the seamy underbelly that is the world of paint manufacture. Okay, it's not exactly Sin City but there are shenanigans a-plenty.
The word is that cost of materials is fairly standard with perhaps a slightly higher cost in Asia. That is easily offset by substantially lower labor cost and the economies of scale necessary to be competitive require between two and four operating systems (encapsulator, dryers, mixers, etc.) so it would be tough, if not impossible, for a small producer to compete successfully. This leaves everybody else in the position of requiring x-volume of sales in order to make their basic economies pay off which is fine in a growing (or even static potentially) market but leaves the industry very susceptible to relatively modest declines and in a panic over any prospect of serious declines in total sales volumes.
As to what's going on in the industry here's a peek: a well known company is, and has been, for sale for awhile and even as the asking price has gone down there are still no takers. Another manufacturer, part of a larger paintball company, is at risk of being shut down or divested if it doesn't show a profit soon. Another manufacturer tied to pharma production may be separated from the pharma group and expected to be profitable on its own--or else. Add to the mix the fact that not all paint under a particular label was necessarily produced by that manufacturer and that your white box can almost literally be anything the making and selling of paintballs is not for the feint of heart.
That leaves me wondering a couple of things as it relates to pro paintball sponsorship. If a company was to sponsor or partially sponsor a league would the volume required make a dent in the economies of scale and perhaps be worthwhile to manufacture simply on that basis even if the return didn't improve the bottom line? And, would there be sufficient perceived value for a Chinese company to come in and be a Big League sponsor in order to overcome market resistance and perceptions about quality?
Next time there's a Burning Question I expect a bit more help from you slackers so consider yourselves on notice.

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