Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Poll in Review

No worries. There will be a new Monday Poll posted sometime today. So if you're on the verge of hyperventilating grab a paper bag--does anyone still have one of those?--and breath into the bag until you heart rate normalizes. Nice and steady. Thing is I'm traveling today so I split up the new poll and lasts week's review out of the kindness of my heart. Yeah, that right. And because I couldn't wait to comment on last week's poll; How much is paintball a part of your holiday gifting?
Do you remember that I confessed to having unconventional thoughts related to last week's poll topic? (C'mon, it was only a week ago. Jeez!) Well, I did. The tendency has been to rate the "health" of paintball directly to the sales figures of PBIndustry and while I understand the industry seeing things through that lens I don't think it's necessarily a particularly accurate assessment.
Were any of you surprised by the poll results? I wasn't. It was, in fact, almost exactly what I would have predicted--even from a self-selecting paintball active audience. (And if I had to guess I would guess some of you didn't participate because the numbers would have ended up looking even worse. You know, besides the lazy slacker thing.)
The poll from two weeks ago asked you all to self-identify your place within paintball and we pretty much had every facet covered. And yet, for 65% paintball purchases weren't a part of presents given or received. 2 out of every 3 players didn't give or receive a gift related to paintball. 15% bought themselves a paintball-related gift and 9% gave and received paintball related gifts. 5% gave a paintball gift and 5% received a paintball gift. And only 1% gave (or received) a gift valued above $500--right at the bottom range of the mid-priced markers.
So what does this poll suggest? That any minute now nobody will be playing paintball? Or something else?
First thing it suggests is that new product sales is a very important number to industry types but doesn't really tell us a lot about who or how many people are playing paintball right now. And when everyone is bemoaning the imminent collapse of paintball they are likely confusing a few issues. Is the established industry in potential trouble? Yes, but the industry isn't paintball despite the fact they seem to confuse the two regularly.
The something else goes like this; the numbers suggest there isn't a significant influx of new players and it's mighty difficult to guesstimate what the impact of the secondary market is--and whether or not there is a glut of second-hand product out there. And the poll itself might suggest that many players have most of what they need to play and perhaps even much of what they want unless it simply isn't currently affordable. It would be far more interesting and to the point to collect actual participation numbers on the ground from local fields. I don't doubt that overall the trend is down but down from what exactly? Down from the enormous (and unsustainable?) sales numbers of a few years ago? All those numbers really proved was that a lot of stuff was being bought. Was there a Golden Age of paintball or was that just another bubble in an era of easy money?


bronc said...

The fields that are still open in NorCal have actually been booming in 2010, to my surprise. I know and go to almost all the fields in the area and the influx of recballers over the second half of the year was huge.

But then again, about 1/4 the fields in the area (and almost all the stores) have shut down during the melt down in 2009-2010. At first I wanted to say it was just the players from the closed fields going else where, but upon talking to many of the field owners, it's actually new players trying it out, and the occasional player who are again starting to play. The owners love it (duh, rental players are where they make their money).

At the same time, the tournament player is a much harder animal to find. To that point several fields have removed their air ball layouts and replaced them with more recball friendly fields.

Currently I've been in Sweden the last several weeks, and shockingly in this one town I'm in (Gotenburg, the second largest city in Sweden), paintball is booming. They have 8, yes EIGHT, fields in this one city alone. That is almost as much as all of Northern California put together, and California is the mecca of paintball.

What I have noticed about the fields here, 6 of the 8 are not just paintball. The facilities offer other attractions, from lazer tag to ATV's and BMX, to rock climbing.

I've talked to one of Valkens distributors over here and they had to recently shut down their store, but not do to lack of players. He said their fields are doing "brisk business", but simply no one was going into the retail stores anymore.

Reiner Schafer said...

I'm not surprised by the poll either.

Baca, I have a feeling you are right for the most part about merchandise sales not being indicative of how much paintball is being played. Having attendance numbers would definitely be useful (maybe something the fledgling POA will be able to help with in the future). Merchandise sales have for many years been focused on speedball. We know speedball numbers are down and we know there is lots of used speedball gear out there. The shift by manufacturers focus from speedball to milsim came at a bad time, near the beginning of our recession. Milsim for the most part also focuses on high volume play, so the types of people who will be interested in that are limited (although the number is worthwhile pursuing). Then there is the fact that it simulates military combat, so that will further limit the demographics.

If there are lots of people playing paintball but not purchasing gear, I would assume that many of those are renting. Even if rental business is up, it would only mean a slight increase in a few rental markers and rental masks. That wouldn't even make a bleep on industry sales radar. Increase in paintball sales would be more than offset by decreases in paintball purchases by speedballers.

bronc, California has always had considerably less paintball fields per capita than just about anywhere else in North America. I assume it has to do with difficulty of acquiring land for fields, but that's only an assumption. The fact that California fields seem busier than the rest of the world is only logical. With 1/4 of the already low number of fields closed down, those new players that want to try out paintball are going to make the remaining fields even busier. Having less regulars and tournament players hanging out at the fields will work in favor of attracting more new players as well. Converting speedball fields into rec fields goes hand in hand. I bet there is much, much more opportunity for paintball increase in California with the right marketing and availability.

TargetIndy said...

My field just finished it's 15th season. I purchased the field 4 years ago, so I have no data prior to that. However, this year was a record breaking year for us. We had 4 record months, with one of those being our best month ever.

While the sport of paintball may be struggling, the game of paintball is soldiering on just fine.

Joe R said...

For me personally, one of the reasons I don't receive or send paintball gifts for the holidays anymore is the lack of brick-and-mortar stores in the area. There are a few, but the people that would be buying those gifts don't want to drive 45 minutes to an hour to pick me up a pair of gloves. The same demographic is older, and still aren't used to purchasing their gifts online (something to be said about purchasing a tangible product).

When I first started playing, there were a myriad of brick-and-mortar stores, enough that when I asked for my first jersey my Aunt already knew where the store was (5 minutes from her house). Now, I'm the only one that does paintball shopping, I do it at World Cup, and I usually give the gifts the following week instead of holding onto them for a holiday.

houdini said...

I've simply become too old to receive xmas gifts :(...