Thursday, March 12, 2009

Doom and Gloom?

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last few years, you have probably heard that the paintball industry is hurting. Gone are the days when anyone involved with paintball was teling their friends that paintball is the fastest growing extreme sport in North America. But just how bad is it?

Well, according to SGMA, sales (wholesale dollars basedon shipments from manufacturers) dropped 20% in 2008 from the previous year ($300M to $240M). The average for sporting goods in the same period was a 3.2% decline.

So what happened in 2008? Apparently the same thing that happened in 2007. Sales dropped from $370M in 2006 to $300M in 2007 (a 19% decrease). Almost all other sports saw a modest increase in sales during that same year. Not paintball.

The drop from $370M in 2006 to $240M in 2008 equates to an approximate 35% drop. That's a 35% drop in just two years. That's huge. No wonder manufacturers are freaking out (those that are still in business).

This is based on sales of paintball goods, not participation rates. I do not have the information for participation available to me for those time periods. One can only assume that participation rates have also decreased. If anyone cares to share those rates with me, it would be much appreciated.

I do know the participation statistics for our own field. In 2008, participation held even with what it was in 2007. In 2007 we saw an increase of approximately 40% over 2006. That's a far cry from the 19% decrease the industry as a whole had.

The interesting thing for me is that first, in 2008, paintball sales dropped much more than the sporting goods average and second, that the 19% drop in 2007 shows us that the drop in paintball sales probably has very little to do with the decline in the economy in general. In 2007, things were pretty good for the average North American. The economy was strong, but paintball sales still dropped 19%.

Why? Aren't people having fun playing paintball anymore?

It certainly can't be high costs. Equipment and paintballs at most fields (and stores) were near record low prices in 2007. The argument I hear from some that paintball is too expensive doesn't cut it. It's been cheaper the last few years than it has ever been, by quite a margin and yet sales are way down.

My Micro Economics classes taught me that sales are supposed to increase when prices go down, not decrease, especially when the economy is stong. Obviously there is something else at work here. I'm just glad it's not affecting our business. But then again, we didn't drop our prices to record lows. I think I'll keep it that way.


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  2. I have the participation stats from SGMA - I can email them to you...