Yesterday, Bauer announced that they would open hockey retail stores across the U.S. and Canada. They will begin with two Bauer retail stores (located in Minneapolis, MN and Burlington, MA) and eventually have up to eight stores in North America. This is the first hockey equipment manufacturer to go direct-to-consumer with physical retail stores. It is undoubtedly a game-changer.
With a large Pure Hockey store also located in Burlington, MA, we are certainly getting a lot of questions about this and the story is generating a lot of chatter in social media and on the forums. Our intent is always to be as open as possible with our customers, so we thought we’d put down some thoughts here about it and share them with you.
This does not come as any major surprise to us. We’ve been talking internally here about this happening for quite some time and it was never IF, it was always WHEN. You can be sure that while we are not overly enthusiastic with the Massachusetts location that Bauer has chosen, this is the U.S.A. This is capitalism. It’s a free market. Bauer is a public company who is always under the gun to grow revenue streams and show gains each and every quarter. That is what it’s all about for Bauer now. If Bauer thinks it makes sense for their business, then so be it.
There are no sirens going off, no panic or bedlam in our offices. We have very good competition in almost every market we are in. That will continue – and likely only get tougher. To coin the most overused phrase of all time, it is what it is. The direct to consumer approach is happening in many other retail sectors (hello, Apple) and it will continue to happen.
That said, we will continue to do what we do – offer a wide range of products, continue to open new stores in new convenient locations and most importantly, go 150% out of our way to serve our customers, unbeholden to shareholders.
So welcome to retail, Bauer. This s*&t ain’t easy!
In a letter yesterday to their retail partners who have supported them, Bauer said all the right things, as most companies do when announcing major initiatives that could impact companies who have long supported them. For example, this
“For both our retail partners and consumers, our retail experiences will serve as living representations of the BAUER brand. We can now fully showcase at retail our technological advancements, as well as how BAUER products work together. As a result, we will equip hockey players with in-depth product knowledge so they can confidently purchase BAUER wherever they shop. A more informed and inspired consumer will benefit our retail partners and ultimately the athletes on the ice.”
“Historically, the introduction of manufacturer-owned retail in other industries has supported premium pricing and brand positioning, and local retailers’ profitability has increased as a result. Similarly, we expect the BAUER brand experiences, with their premium service, development of new customers, lack of close-out product, and first class showcasing of the BAUER brand, to create more demand for BAUER product, incentivize trading up by consumers and bolster a premium brand experience. It is our expectation that our retailers will share in this healthier and more profitable market for BAUER products.”
While actions always speak louder than words, credit to Bauer for the approach on paper.
That said, let’s be honest – this changes the relationship between Bauer and not just Pure Hockey, but between Bauer and ALL of the retailers who have put Bauer in the position they are today. How all that turns out remains to be seen and should be very interesting.
What do you think? Leave a comment!