Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Telford Take

The title is the link. Check out Rich's take over at Rich Telford's Wide World of Paintball. It may not be quite that simple but I am convinced that competitive paintball isn't the lodestone some make it out to be. In fact, I'm convinced it's an integral part of a healthy game and industry.


Martin said...

I guess the US model is different to the ROW.

Personally as a field operator I tend to see the rec-baller (as in a joe average customer) as the bread and butter for my field - the stronger that part is the more business I'm doing and the more I can support the other levels of the game (regular rec/tourney/etc).

It's like a pyramid. If you don't have a strong base (numbers of players, revenue, ebit) in the general players then you can't support the smaller number of tourney ballers (the top of the pyramid).

Just one mans opinion anyway :)

Reiner Schafer said...
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Reiner Schafer said...
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Reiner Schafer said...
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Reiner Schafer said...
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Reiner Schafer said...

Rich seems to be reminiscing about the good ole days. The problem was the good ole days weren't good for everyone. Sure they were good for the tourney players and the up and coming wannabe tourney players. They were probably pretty good for the manufacturers as well. At least it let them grow into bigger businesses. But even for the manufacturers, the potential of growing demand meant that there were more and more players getting into the Supply end of things. That meant more manufacturers, all trying to underbid one another. That part was still great for the tourney players and the wannabe tourney players, but ended up being a struggle for the manufacturers.

Rich mentions that there were lots of small fields and stores. Yes there were. They too were all dreaming of an ever increasing market, all competing with each other to try to attract as many of the local players as possible. Yes, that meant offering "sponsorships" in the forms of discounts for local teams. But there were too many who thought the same way, too many stores and fields competing with each other. That's why margins shrunk (as mentioned by Rich). Eventually the market was as saturated as it was going to get (there is a limit to how many people will take part in a certain activity).

But the (too many) manufacturers and the (too many) stores and fields were still there. This created a cutthroat environment. Prices were slashed. “The money is in the paintballs”, so fields and stores pushed paintball sales at incredibly low margins (meaning there was no alternative than to push even more paintball sales). More paintball sales meant the game changed. The new game attracted even less participants (there is a limit to how many people will take part in a certain activity). And then the shit hit the fan. Less players and low margins are not a good combination.

So which step in that evolution of our game is Rich thinking we should go back to? Is he saying fields and stores should give away more? Like sponsor more players and give them discounts on mark-ups that don't exist? Who does he think the captains of the industry are? All I see is a bunch of hacks desperately trying to keep their heads above water. There are no omnipotent beings out there that have the power to solve the slow down in paintball's growth.

Rich mentions the grass roots of paintball. The grass roots are at the local level. It's the local fields and stores that still exist today. The fields and stores that can make ends meet because they run good business models are the ones that will determine which way paintball is headed. If there are fields and stores out there that can sustain their businesses catering to tournament players, than tournament paintball has a chance. Many, many field owners I know have dropped out of catering to tournament players, because it takes up too much of their resources and provides little profit to compensate for those expended resources.

I’ve never believed that whole 80 – 20 rule either, when it comes to paintball. Maybe for the gear manufacturers, 80% of the sales come from 20% of the people, but for the industry overall, I’m not buying it. There is no way that 80% of the paintballs sold for instance are being purchased by 20% of the people taking part in paintball. There is no way that 80% of the field fees are being paid by 20% of the players.

It’s nice to reminisce. But there is no way we are going back to a time that was betting on continued growth, when we now know the growth is limited.

Anonymous said...

Who's blog is this???

raehl said...

I think a lot of people open stores and fields because they want to be the "important paintball guy" in their area. They see everyone trying to get in good with the local store or field owner, so THEY want to be that guy, so they open a store or field.

Back in the day, the margins were high enough that most anyone could pull that off. Now they're not, so most of those people are gone.

I think a lot of people miss that there's more than one market out there, and the kind of customer that is good for someone is different depending on who you are. The rec player is great for the local field but not so great for the manufacturer. And the tournament player who buys a bunch of stuff may be great for the manufacturer but not so great for the field. Fortunately, I think the manufacturers realize that today's rec player is tomorrow's big equipment consumer.

We're never going to have lots of stores again. Small-ticket specialty retail is just a dead business model, not just in paintball. What we need is fields that provide a positive experience for new players - THAT is what we've screwed up. We've screwed up the value of paintball - it's more expensive than it ever was and less fun than it ever used to be.

Hippo said...

Rich fails to realize the two-cases per week are typically at, or just barely above, the field-owner's cost...assuming that the captain of industry in question is 'sponsoring' said team/players, as he suggests.

The fact of the matter is very few people, kids or otherwise, can afford two cases of paint at retail every week.

I've had that deal and even better deals (free practice paint) in the past. The money to pay for it came from the once-a-month-or-so rec players.

I understand a field who has a "pro" team amongst the ranks being able to draw in a lot more tourney players on a given weekend. But...and this is a big but...there's only 20-some-odd pro teams in the US. Some of them even call the same field home (a la Rich's field which I believe plays home to XSV and Explicit - although I may be wrong.) I see Camp Pendleton seems to play host to multiple pro teams too...although they definitely advertise to the rec ballers. Hmmm.

In other words, Rich may be living in a bubble. I live in the midwest...The Badlandz (A-shocks home field) is about a 3-hour drive from my home. I will agree that at that field, one is much more likely to find tourney ballers practicing/playing that the 6 or 8 fields that are much closer to my home. But, Badlandz won't give me paint at cost...and they charge extra to BYOP. Sometimes we go there, most times we don't.

If the only field/fields you frequent are the one's who play home for pro teams, then you simply don't understand what's happening at the other thousands of fields around the country. Plain and simple.

raehl said...

Not to mention that the field that sells a player one case for $60 made a lot more money from that player than the field that sells a player two cases for $40, and the player who bought two cases is playing more expensive paintball.

steve said...

As in any business divesity get you to the bottom line.. Over the years it has gone from what can I do for my players to what can i sell them mode. The guy that puts the game first is the winner, sales will follow . The new corperations dont care about the game just the money. Most business models leave very little on the table for the retailer, and I agree with the post that paintball has cheapened to the point its ho-hum.
" G I'll go to *mart and get some paintball stuff" thats inspiring,,, and you cant open accounts to everty tom dick and harry who has a tax id. and a garage. That sure helped my sales and the investment of a brick and morter store and field. You have a player buy a gun at a big box store.. does he go home shoot the cat , the tree and some car going by, or at the field level buys a guy can see all the enthusiasm, has a place to play, meets new friends, showns how to be safe, see's what good paint and bad paint is, ect.
Most of the businees that operate, give back to the community, you need sales of course to make it all happen... to help sponsor a team or thro a bone to a newbe thats just starting out.. So back to the good ol days .. make it fun, support the the fields in your area HAve the paint guys stop selling cheap crappy paint that hurts when it hits you to the big box stores at a price we cant buy it for..
Play every sunday with my customers and they love it Better days ahead

Baca Loco said...

No, Martin, I don't think it's much different. Nor did I mean to suggest I was in agreement with Rich's nuts & bolts view--only that I agreed with the wider assessment that tourney ball is a necessary ingredient in the overall success of paintball.

It seems in these sorts of discussions it often boils down to seeing paintball as one element pitted against another--fields versus tourney ballers or high end retailers--while I am inclined to think there are plenty of co-dependant elements as well.

Here's an observation and an anecdote for y'all. First, the observation; at the field level the one in charge of retail paint prices is the field owner.

The other day I spent some time with a local field operator and ended up playing Devil's Advocate because he is convinced the majority of players they've lost in the last couple of years is almost exclusively due to paint being too expensive. And even though they sell 3 different grades of field paint he could not recall an incidence where they had complaints about bruises and peeps getting pummeled with marbles. He's convinced the paint manufacturers are charging too much.

Missy Q said...

I generally like Rich's views, and find them pretty honest and accurate.
I think this one is a little naive though.
In business, you have to follow the dollar. The dollars are not in the tournament scene at the moment.
The main issue I feel Rich is missing is that when the days were great (and they were great, great days), the whole situation was artificial. Once the sponsorships and discounts are removed, and the industry support disappears, if what is left does not stand alone as a profitable exercise, then...

Missy Q said...

The paint guys are not charging too much. They may actualy be charging too little. It could be argued that everyone in the game is charging too little, especially from Rich's posts perspective.

Reiner Schafer said...

I don't know what it was like in other parts of the world, but in our little part of the world when we first started out paintball business, I noticed that many of the other field owners, who were also interested in tournament ball, seemed to subsidize their speedball portion of their business with the recreational (bushball) side of their business. I thought it a little odd, but who was I to judge? If people wanted to spend their profits (or portion of) on something that interested them, they certainly had a right to do so.

Speedball fields were bought/built and maintained and paint was supplied considerably cheaper for the speedball guys. The math was easy enough to do to see that these field owners weren't making much, if any, money off that portion of their business. Therefore to sustain that part, the recreational portion of the business was needed. To some degree, this is still taking part in our part of the world. But in our part of the world, paintball pricing for rec players is considerably higher than for the speedball players. But I know this is not the case for many parts of the world.

Fields lowered the prices for paintballs for ALL players. This was a natural progression that happened over the course of many years and was done for competitive reasons to attract more customers. Lower paintball prices was going attract more players. The lower margins and smaller profits were self administered. No one really made field owners take that road. They chose to go that route on their own.

I find it rather ironic, that these self imposed smaller profits are at the base of many of the problems the industry faces today. These self imposed smaller profits for fields are definitely a hindrance for field owners continued support of the speedball portions of their business.