Monday, July 6, 2009

The Monday Poll

This week's Monday Poll is on the controversial (to some) change in venue for this year's World Cup and how you, the readers of VFTD, view that change. As usual please feel free to add some depth to your vote by including comments or suggestions or whatever. This should be an interesting topic for discussion as I doubt there is anybody who doesn't have an opinion on this one. Vote early, vote often. (Okay, you can't and that was a joke. Except for our friends in the Chicago area where it's common practice.)

The Poll In Review
Last week's question: What puts the major in major league tournament series paintball? was, I thought, a very interesting question. Most of you apparently didn't agree or took a look at the results trend and figured it was going the way you expected it to and didn't bother to vote. Regardless, the more votes the better.
Three answers dominated the vote. Industry types opted for the support of industry answer to the tune of approx. 25%. Another 25% thought the scale of participation made for a major league event while 50% thought the participation of Pro teams was the defining factor. In the comments a couple of our industry-related friends also abandoned the "tournament" caveat in the original question by suggesting that strong industry support of any sufficiently large scale event counted. As a competitive paintball guy I'm not so much interested in redefining the poll that way though it might have been useful if I'd also included a 'Draws participants from a national base,' answer option as well.
With the industry answer I'm left wondering at the cause and effect. Is the presence of industry what makes it major league or is the size or opportunity for promotion what draws industry? I'm inclined to think the later. I think the additional option suggested above might have split or even supplanted the scale of participation answer. It would be interesting though to see where peeps who voted that way draw the line. Above 100 teams? 150? 75? Finally the majority of the vote went to Pro participation which seems fairly straightforward to me. And, I think, for the time-being perhaps the best way to make the major, non-major distinction but let me pose a closing question to you. What if the PSP existed as it does today or was even bigger but the Pro game was separate from those events? Would that work?


Missy Q said...

will less people go? No.
will more people go? Doubtful
will the games/competition change? - No
will there be more/less vendors? - No
will people have to find a new drinking-spot? - probably.
will people drive around for hours, get lost, and then blame the PSP for not being able to read a map? - yes

So, in my opinion, it makes no change whatsoever, other than a positive financial outcome for the PSP, which I do not begrudge them one bit.

anonachris said...

Your poll didn't have the option, "Yes and it will change for the better." That's my vote.

Baca Loco said...

I will consider adding that option but you gotta tell me how you think it will be better.

For example, for me the cow pasture was a step up over the old Paintball World site because I was ready to leave the woods for concept fields. And the first year at Disney was amazing largely because it seemed like maybe paintball had arrived. After that it was excellent parking but why the hell is there a drainage grate on the NXL field?

raehl said...

There will apparently be indoor registration at the new location. So there's one win.

Missy Q said...

I think what will have a bigger effect on the Cup is the Atlanta extravaganza. The Industry are supporting that in force, its 2 weeks before the event, and I don't see all the stores etc going to both.

I think if they have to choose, then the businessmen will go to Atlanta. They will see the 2010 lines first, and get their orders in before anyone at the Cup. As many of the industry go to Orlando to see vendors and place orders for next season, I don't see them standing in line in the heat with the plebs when they can go to an industry-only show 2 weeks prior, and get wined/dined by their suppliers in an AC environment.

Baca Loco said...

So when do the manufacturers decide the tourney series is only worth so much and it doesn't equal what the series is asking? More or less the PSP is already being subsidized by elements of ownership.

Reiner Schafer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reiner Schafer said...

That's a good question Baca? Do the manufacturers get most of their sales from business people (fields/stores) or from players? Ultimately players are the end consumers, but field/store owners are the ones actually placing the orders and more importantly, pushing the products.

If you are a manufacturer, do you concentrate on the venue that will have a fairly high percentage of the purchasers in the industry attending, or do you concentrate on the venue that intermingles the purchasers with the end users that are fighting for the attention of the manufacturers representatives? And if there are less and less of the decision making purchasers attending the World Cup, where is your money best spent?

anonachris said...

None of these are facts, just possibilities. They may or may not pan out.

More cost efficient for the league (which means the players have a place to play, the manufacturers are only willing to pay so much)
Less regulatory burdens on the vendors
Better parking/room (presumably)
Better layout (past WC layouts are so sprawling its ridiculous, maybe it can be a tigther layout now)
New strategic partner that actually cares about the league and wants it to come back rather than being indifferent and focused on sucking as much $$$ as possible -- this sets the groundwork for the future.
No Disney parking nazis
More food vendors (hopefully) as Disney will no longer have a monoply on these things

I could keep going I suppose... but basically the reasons for it being better are somewhat tangential anyway. I think the playing experience will be the same, possibly better if you don't have to walk a mile from end to end.

What ultimately matters is for the league owners to actually break even or have enough of a profit to deal with issues as they come up without it breaking the bank. It does the players no good if the manufacturers throw their hands up in the air and give up on the league. Of course maybe they're stuck in a Prisoners Dilemna and that's not an option(I smell a new subject for you)

Missy Q said...

Reiner, it depends on the manufacturer. If a manufacturer has a new line, and sells it to their customers (the stores) in Atlanta, and then, 2 weeks later, sells it to the customer of that store, at a discount, at the World Cup, then that manufacturer is a short-sighted idiot.
If however, they take the orders at the extravaganza, then build demand for those orders at a retail level through the forum of the WC, while not selling retail themselves, then they are smart, and their model will succeed in the long term. manufacturers should be doing 2 things at the cup - knocking out last seasons gear at reduced retail pricing, this keeping the players happy, and introducing the new stuff to retail and wholesale, but ensuring demand is routed through their wholesale clientele.

The question becomes - how many of them are smart and how many of them are idiots?

anonachris said...

Missy, Your analysis makes an economic assumption that assumes all things are equal, when all things won't be equal. It is entirely possible, and happens often, for an individual to act rationally in a situation that would be entirely irrational, if everyone else acted rationally in a way to achieve the best possible outcome.

In other words...

As long as there is one manufacturer selling a competing product that is the 2010 model at WC, the rest of the manufacturers can not sit on their hands and tell customers to "wait a week and pick it up from your local/online shop"

Most of the shoppers at the venue will just go to the competitor, which is selling an equally cool widget and buy that one.

The WC vendor that acts in this manner wins all/most of the WC sales and splits 50/50 the sales to secondary sales through the dealer after the event to players who didn't go to cup.

anonachris said...

And not only do they win the cup sales, but they win the word of mouth recommendation, which is more important. All the WC buyers will be seen back home using the new gear, and most likely telling their buddies about it.

That's a big hurdle to overcome for the long sighted focus 100% on the dealer, even though my competitor is focused 80/20 on dealer/direct consumer.

Missy Q said...

Spoken like a manufacturer. Its the fear of exactly what you say above that makes people do business the wrong way. Manufacturers convince themselves that they need to earn 100-250k at an event, pay for everything and make some tidy cash. Meanwhile every sale they make is a sale stolen from the dealer.
Later in the year they will moan that they are still sitting on product, and they'll say how terrible the economic downturn is, and how they wish it was possible that the stores were doing more business, and ordering more product.
Fact is, when the product was hot, and fresh, the manufacturer took as many retail sales as possible at the event, while promising dealers they will get product in a few weeks, once the initial demand has been satisfied.
The first company not to do this is Smart Parts. They launched the Impulse in Chicago and told people they would need to get it from their dealers. That is what should happen. If you don't agree - why not?

Reiner Schafer said...

Absolutely true Missy Q. One of the many reasons I have chosen to stay out of the retail business and concentrate on my field. SOME of the manufacturers have been working a little closer with retailers, but over the years, instead of working with their distribution network (retailers) they have in fact been competing with them and giving them very little support. Then they wonder why most retailers are less then professional people as well. Most real business people wouldn't consider going into the paintball retail market.

anonachris said...

If a manufacturer sells 20 guns to 20 players at an event, and then sells 100 guns to 50 stores after an event, how do you argue that the stores will lose out (at most) on more than those 20 guns?

It's more likely that the manufacturer will move those 20 guns at the event and those 20 players will show off their shiny new toy the instant they got home or post about it online further stimulating demand.

I'm not arguing against doing whats right by the dealers by any means. I'm suggesting that sometimes an 80/20 mix (whatever that means) can benefit the dealer and the manufacturer more.

I think it is more likely for their to be a sales multiplier effect for product purchased at a paintball event by potential opionion leader/trend setter than for their to be a sales multiplier in waiting two weeks.

Dye has done this well I think. They have a handful of product to sell at the event to get the buzz out and have people using and talking about it. Who knows if it is by design, or if Dye's new products are always in such demand that there is a shortage.

I would agree that manufacturers could do more for dealers and should focus more on dealers. But I don't think the solution is to 100% cut off tradeshow sales.

If there is one thing that paintball is doing right, compared to other industries it is the DIRECT line of communcation consumers have with the manufacturer. It doesn't mean that should be pursued at all cost, but it is part of the mix and it keeps the manufacturers in control of their own product and feedback on the product.

Intel has to spend a lot of money to do research into finding good consumer feedback. Dye gets it every tournament, if they listen.

Missy Q said...

You're fundamentally wrong.
Manufacturers should not sell retail. Name another 4 tiered industry where that happens.
Demand can be created through displaying the product at the show, and through the sponsored teams that are, and always have been, the promotional vehicles of the manufacturer. They represent the multiplying factor. If those teams are worth what they are paid, they will promote the product and use their 'pro status' to influence the purchasers. The purchasers should buy retail, from their local store. There isn't a rational argument to use against this, other than "well this is paintball and we do it differently", which is ridiculous.
I've been in manufacturing a long time, and I would previously have agreed with you - whats the harm right? Its just a few hundred units, and we can recoup some investment quickly - but after some additional experience in Wholesale distribution and retail, I can see clearly that this is one area where the industry seriously needs to professionalise if it has a chance of recovering.

Missy Q said...

Intel - thats what sponsored teams are for.

Direct feedback - sponsored teams are supposed to perform that function.

Want 20 guns out there right away - sell the first 20 to a week before the event. They will get sold retail, and people will still wax lyrical

anonachris said...

We can go around in circles. I'm not suggesting that manufactures should try to sell a lot in retail. If it is 5% or less of their business overall that is probably good. There is still a large focus on the dealer as it should be.

But, there is no doubt that retailers in other industries as you have pointed out have amassed a lot of power and disproportionately so.

Now that mega retailers have not only become the sole point of contact in other industries but have a database with sales statistics to back it up megaretailers have more power than the manufacturer.

If I'm a manufacturer I do not see this as a good thing. If I'm a retailer I've thrilled about it. If I'm a paintball retailer I'm actively working to make this happen in my industry.

Retail is crucial. But it should not trump the manufacturers interest. Too much power in the retailers hands can turn a brand into a commodity.

But again I think you and I agree more than we disagree, generally. I'm not so fed up about sales at the event. Maybe sales should be less and I'd be ok with that.

But I think the manufacturers would be hurting themselves to cut off that valuable direct contact with paying customers. You can't replicate that with sponsorships. When you hand a sponsored player something they more often than not tell you its great. If you're really lucky they'll tell you it sucks. But direct interaction with paying customers is a strength for the manufacturer, there is no other way to spin it. But it should be kept rare and it shouldn't be the focus.

I would also agree that manufacturers probably focus way too much on tradeshows. When you spend 7 or more weeks a year doing tradeshows there is no way it can not consume a disproportionate amount of your energy.

Missy Q said...

I believe that if the manufacturers were selling 5% to retail, then they are selling 5% too much. They are at the show already, they have the interaction, they just shouldn't take the $$'s too. Those $$'s belong to the retailer, plain and simple.
This talk of power is interesting though. You believe the 'power' belongs with the manufacturers. I disagree, and believe that to be part of the problem.

Baca Loco said...

You've piqued my interest now Missy with all this power talk. If not the manufacturers who? (With the caveat not all manufacturers are included in the category manufacturer.) Have I answered my own question?

Reiner Schafer said...

Why does anyone need the "power"? Shouldn't manufacturing and distribution through retail be a mutually beneficial process? I don't think either party wants to be the slave in the relationship, so neither party should be the master.

In paintball, retailers and field owners are the front line. They are the foot soldiers doing the ground work to get that first time player to give the game a try and then doing the needed work to get them to stick with it. They are the sales force of the industry.

Retailers would have nothing to sell, if it were not for manufacturers. Both parties need each other. One without the other, wouldn't be able to survive.

If those involved with the PSTA (as well as all other manufacturers) do nothing else, hopefully they can at least figure that out.

Missy Q said...

for me, all the power is in either the product, or in the consumer.

manufacturers believe that 'the power is in the product' means that it's with the manufacturer, but surely that depends on the product, right?
The rest of the power lies with the consumer, whom the manufacturers try to influence through their marketing and sponsored team representation.
As regards the industry inself, no-one has power, they are just the brokers.

anonachris said...

If the power is with the consumer, and I agree, the manufacturer would do well to stay close, not further from the consumer as you advocate. This does not mean "to hell with the dealer" but prudent retail transactions at 4-9 tradeshows a year, world wide does not mean "to hell with the dealer". This was my point. Retailers in other industries have monopoly access to the consumer, which is harmful to many brands.

Any Nespresso fans? They are changing this model in the retail coffee industry. And I'm not talking about a manufacturer direct industry like Dell does with computers. I said some retain interaction is good. Dye after all, owns their own brand they should be close to the consumer.

Now none of those says that any company in paintball is doing it right when it comes to tradeshow and consumer interaction. Procaps has done a pretty decent job from what I've seen with their dealer-only show at the World Cup, but not much for the player.

Missy Q said...

I have to disagree again, but we're on the same page pretty much.

There are 2 ways for a dealer to sell product through their store. It is either pushed or pulled. If the manufacturer is pulling the product through the store, through marketing/sponsorships and creating customer demand, so that people go into a store and ask for that product, then thats great, and the power is in the product. Otherwise the product must be pushed, which means that the retailer has to work to sell it to the consumer, so the consumer has the power.

I don't disagree that the manufacturer needs to be close to the consumer, far from it, as this is waht they MUST do in order to push out the right product. I am saying they should not be selling retail.
You seem to think that going to shows and being close to the consumer means that you have to sell retail. I think that this is not the case, and that you can, and should, do this while keeping market integrity and supplying the dealer with the product, so he can capitalise on the promotion done by the manufacturer at the show.
Nothing you have said depends on retail sales, only on attendance and listening to the end-user. No money has to change hands in order for that to happen. Don't you agree?

raehl said...

Anyone been to the Consumer Electronics Show?

Guess what they sell at the Consumer Electonics show?

No electronics.

Baca Loco said...

Which is relevant how, Faction? It is an industry trade show and isn't aimed at the consumer in any way, shape or fashion.

Missy Q said...

it's semi-relevant.
If I go to the motor-show and look at all the new-model cars, decide I just HAVE to have one, and approach the guy from Mercedes, he will refer me to a dealer. He won't say "well you know I could do you a sweet deal on this one, because I don't want to have to ship it back - how much ya got?"

If I go to the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, and I like a particularly strong strain of super-weed, I can't buy it there. I have to go to the coffee-shop that sells that specific weed, and buy it retail.

The examples go on and on, but if both the largest industry in the world, and a bunch of total stoners, can get it right - why not paintball?

Baca Loco said...

I understand the arguments, Missy, despite the weak analogies. :) How 'bout we put this in the context of the actual for a minute?
Are you saying that as a practical business calculation it makes sense for any and all of paintball's manufacturers to "sponsor" leagues like the MS and the PSP or whatever and not sell anything? Wouldn't an appearance at just WC serve the purposes you're promoting here? New product intro and to gin up interest. After all, you're not going to claim, are you, that there are sufficiently different audiences at each event to merit the cost of appearing, are you?
Would your advice be the same for the new, small manufacturer trying to introduce his product(s) in a marketplace already held by others?

Missy Q said...

If you are classed as a manufacturer, then you should attend the show, because thats where you get immediate exposure for your product. if you have to sponsor the league to be able to attend, then thats why it would make sense to do so.

You should call the dealers that are local to the event, and invite them to your booth. Whoever takes you up on this should help staff the booth for the manufacturer. If consumers approach the manufacturer for product they should be guided towards the dealer. The consumer gets to talk to the manufacturer and get the full skinny, and he gets to talk to the dealer to secure his warranty and service options. The consumer pays the dealer. The dealer pays the manufacturer. Perhaps the dealer even has to pay a premium for the product if its done this way (zero financial investment needed).
Manufacturers should merchandise their product, and this merchandise can be sold or given away. They are also there to meet new dealers.
As for the little guys - it depends what they want to be. Do they want to be a manufacturer, serving distrubutors, who serve dealers, who serve the public, or do they want to be retailers who make some of their own stuff and sell it themselves?
The only problem is when people want to do both.

and no - if people go to events to make money, you only need to go to WC and HB, and I'm not even sure about HB anymore.

Baca Loco said...

I think you're still sorta ducking the real paintball world application here, Missy.
In a reasonably mature marketplace what you suggest makes perfectly good (sustainable) sense but I still have some questions--and I'm unconvinced we're dealing with a mature marketplace or anything much like it.

1. Does a tournament series (PSP or MS as the prime examples) association really provide the environment you're looking for? It's one thing to say that'sa the price to be paid abstractly and another altogether to write the check.

2. If a team from Louisiana, for ewxample, wants to buy my product and I know I have no retailers near them do I say no and then go try to drum up a retail outlet closer to them on the promise of what I could've have sold? A lot of paintball companies are small, undercapitalized and struggling in terms of network reach. Wouldn't it really make more sense for them to sell that product, send it back to Louisiana where there's an opportunity for the product in use to sell itself and begin to create a market that retailers will want a piece of?

Missy Q said...

I suppose if you have no dealers then you have no responsibility to your dealers. Thats a given, and until you have dealers in the area, you have to represent yourself.
KEE, Dye, JT, Eclipse et al, have the dealer network. Therefore they have a responsibility to that network.

Its not a full answer, and I will provide a more considered response (as you're interested for once) once I've had my Friday afternoon beer...

Janek said...

A lot has been said about the manufacturer's duties towards dealers and what he should or should not do...
But let's switch it around...What are the dealer's duties towards the manufacturer?
Are there any?

Reiner Schafer said...

To sell the manufacturer's stuff the way and at the price the manufacturer wants them to sell it at. In the end, it's all about selling stuff.

Baca Loco said...

This is a test. Of the VFTD comments section. Due to reports of difficulty commenting that have nothing to do with comprehensible English, acceptable grammar or correct spelling. This is only a test.

Anonymous said...

I'm not in retail or manufacturing, so forgive my uneducated thought process here...but when paintball was at it's peak, one could go to any of the major tournaments in the US and buy the latest and greatest gear at remarkably lower prices than what it would sell for in a pro shop. It was a tournament series with a traveling discount mall attached.
During this time, the "trade show" area would be jam packed with people. Local players who weren't participating in the event would flock to the site to try and get their hands on the newest products.
I recall the Chicago event Missy mentioned when Smart Parts wouldn't sell the Impulse. As time went by other manufacturers began following in Smart Parts' footsteps, while others who continued to sell goods started charging full "suggested retail" prices. The result: Attendance from locals began dropping off.
This year I attended MAO because I happened to be in the area when the tournament hit...and wanted to see some old friends (I quit playing competitively two years ago). I was shocked when I walked through the trade one was there. Well, the manufacturers were there, but no one was in the tents looking at anything.
I can remember waiting for an hour or longer 5 years ago to even be able to talk to a DYE MAO I went to DYE and was the one and only non-DYE employee in there...and I stayed in the tent for approximately 20 minutes as I had not seen any new gear/markers in two years and thus was intrigued. Not only was I blown away at the price gouging that seems to be the norm now, but in 20 minutes, not one additional potential customer entered. I went down a little further to the DLX tent to check out the Luxe...guess what? No one but myself and Graham were there.
I couldn't even believe what I was seeing.
The proof is in the pudding. You can argue "good" business principals as they are taught at the School of Business at your favorite university...and it sounds good and sounds educated. Orrrr, you could just look around and see with your own eyes that this method is not working.
There's a few million people playing paintball every weekend across the US. There's a few thousand people who would be able to attend a tourney trade show...that only happens a handful of times per year, and only in fixed areas. I'm just not able to follow the logic that giving a few thousand people the ability to buy direct at a discount kills the retail business. You gotta put your goods out in the public if you want to drum up interest. Don't you?

Anonymous said...

I can't substantiate my statement about a "few million people playing paintball every weekend across the US"....that's simply my assumption and could be completely wrong. I should've said something more along the lines of "there's substantially more people playing paintball every weekend across the US than could possibly attend a tourney trade show."
Anywho...just didn't want a response that simply latched on to that statement and proceeded to attempt to make me look stupid for making it. I'll go ahead and admit my ignorance with the hope that the rest will solicit a response to what I've witnessed.

Anonymous said...

Oh...and if your attempt to post returns an error....simply click the Post button again and it will work.

Baca Loco said...

Thanks, Anon.
Good comments.
My "test" btw was more of a nudge than a test. ;-)