MA Gear Store Discussion (Split from "Excited to be getting a uniform")

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by gpseymour, Feb 28, 2019.

  1. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Back when I started training, there was a store in my hometown (Spartanburg, SC) that stocked a few brands and colors of uniforms - both dogi and dobak. A lot of students went there to buy stuff, especially if they couldn't get what they wanted at their school (I bought my first judo gi and my first black gi there). I miss that place.
     
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  2. JR 137

    JR 137 Grandmaster

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    I’ve always thought a Men’s Warehouse type place of MA uniforms and even supplies would be a great thing. I guess the market wouldn’t support it though? That’s the only conclusion I can come to because I’ve never heard of one. Some of the online places like Kinjisan allegedly have a storefront.

    When I lived outside NYC I tried searching for one. You’d figure NYC would have a few, and there’s many internet order shops based out of the 5 boroughs. Kinjisan was the only one who had a storefront. They’re in Brooklyn which is a disaster to get to (even relative to NYC) and I think their probably pretty limited with what they’ve got in the store itself. Everything I asked if they had in the store they told me they only had in the warehouse.

    The Albany, NY area has quite a few dojos of different types. I’m sure if someone went to the various dojos and really pushed their store they’d have some success. It would probably take to long to establish themself and they’d probably fold before they had a chance.

    Maybe I should take a gamble?
     
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  3. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah, I'd think the NYC area would be the easiest place to find a concentration of customers, though the cost of the storefront might be the issue. Something just outside the area might manage. But yeah, I'd certainly have visited a place like that regularly back in the day.
     
  4. JR 137

    JR 137 Grandmaster

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    I’m not anti buying stuff online. In fact I buy just about everything that way except groceries and the like. And clothes.

    But I also know what I’m getting the majority of the time. That’s because I’ve seen it or owned it or similar before. Can’t do that with gis. Like clothes, they all fit differently and have variations that you don’t pick up in pictures (like the padding in the lapel you were discussing). There’s too much back and forth with ordering this stuff. And when you find something you like, you stick with it because you’re tired of getting stuff that you thought would work but didn’t.

    I’d like to run a MA focused sporting goods store. A bunch of options on gis for a bunch of different styles - karate, BJJ, Judo, TKD, etc. Boxing and wrestling stuff too. Then also have training equipment - bags, gloves, mats, etc.

    All this stuff is primarily online and pretty much impossible to compare side by side. Sporting goods stores like Dick’s have a pretty limited selection of equipment. And all they typically carry is Century and low end Everlast. No one’s carrying the good stuff.

    I’d love to walk into a store and try on a few high end gis and buy the one I liked the best. I’d love to try on a few different types of sparring gear and buy what I liked the best. I’d love to see my BOB XL and a few other comparable bags side by side to determine which one was the best. Instead I’ve got to go by memory, recommendations online, guessing what it’ll actually be like and taking a leap of faith that’ll cost me too much in shipping if I return it.

    I guess what would really pay the bills in a business like that would be online sales and commercial sales. Problem with online is there’s more than enough of them. Problem with commercial sales is they all buy direct from the manufacturer/distributor so why would they need the middleman more than every once in a blue moon? And most dojos buy their uniforms and gear directly from places like Century and sell the stuff themselves, so why would they send someone to me? The people who want better stuff aren’t the majority anyway.

    I guess I just figured out why those stores don’t exist and talked myself out of what I’d like to do.
     
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  5. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    mma fight store - Google Search
     
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  6. JR 137

    JR 137 Grandmaster

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  7. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    When I went on holiday in Melbourne I made that one of my must see destinations.

    Spent the day running around in full Cleto Reyes.
     
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  8. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    That is a great idea but I think you are right that there just isn't enough demand. It's a WAG but I would say no more than 1in 1,000 people worldwide practice some kind of MA? Just not enough street traffic. I have always wondered why a store like a Dick's can't have one of each size of several brands/styles of uniforms for a person to come in and try on? Then they could order it for you, assuming they are close to competitive with online stores. I would pay a few extra bucks for the peace of mind.
     
  9. JR 137

    JR 137 Grandmaster

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    Yeah, I mean you can actually try on a pair of Cleto Reyes AND a pair of Fairtex and decide which feels better without ordering and sending stuff back. Same thing with the gis, headgear, foot gear, et al. Radical concept. Maybe it could work where I am.
     
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  10. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I think a store like that might work, in the right place with the right marketing. For companies making good equipment, it'd be another channel. If you could work out some sort of discount or something for schools, they could stop having to stock uniforms (for those that aren't using it as a profit center), and could ensure folks have a place to get what they need.
     
  11. JR 137

    JR 137 Grandmaster

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    The people that decide what they’ll carry and won’t carry at a place like Dick’s are pretty smart. They’re not going to leave money on the table and they’re not going to carry a bunch of stuff just because they like it. I’m sure they’ve done their research as they carry Century stuff.

    But thinking more about it, there’s more MA than I’ve thought. There’s a few boxing clubs, wrestling clubs, MMA gyms. There’s also a cardio kickboxing contingent. If you carry stuff that appeals to all of them in addition to the traditional MA we think of, it could work.

    Were it gets tricky is reaching out to the local schools and gyms. They sell stuff themselves and I don’t think they’re going to really want to help you sell something they’re selling and supplementing their income with.

    Especially the TKD schools on my area. They’ve got their custom uniforms made for them that the students have to buy, weapons, etc. No way you’re doing much business with them. And they comprise at least half of the MA schools.
     
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  12. JR 137

    JR 137 Grandmaster

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    I know a few dojos in the area that I could do some research. I’m going to start another thread so I don’t hijack this one anymore.
     
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  13. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Agree. I believe profit margin has to be the big driving factor for stores like Dick's & Cabela's. The lightweight Century uniforms are low end. As such, they are likely a better choice in a sporting goods store not well known for sparring gear and catering to the neophytes just getting in the game. More informed buyers like yourself have the experience to know what a good uniform is. That is why I think it would be great if you could walk into a store and say I want to look at a Tiger Claw heavyweight Gi size 5 and check it out. If you like it they could order your size, trimming, color, etc... There is so much more selection these days I don't think anyone can afford to carry all the stock. I recently had to wait 2 months for a Mooto uniform because it came from Seoul. It is a size 4 but doesn't fit nearly as well as the Adidas size 4 I purchased at the same time. However, I cannot return it and even if I could their size three would be way too small. So FWIW, to anyone looking at buying a Mooto Dobok, know that the tops are a good bit longer.
     
  14. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Back in the late 80's and 90's the sales channels were very different. A lot of the smaller government contracts were required to go to retail sellers so if you did not actually make the product you could still get in the game. We were able to competitively bid and win some padding and gym equipment sales to our middle school for several years. But it was like any other Dodge Room bid. You had to pay to acquire the specifications and right to bid. Much like is done in all segments of spec and bid work, getting in front of the customer and driving the specifications is paramount in being competitive. There is much more open market bidding these days, if you don't make it or hold the patent it is much harder to get the award. That is why I spun off our distribution side. Design/build and consulting is much more predictable.
     
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  15. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    I agree with @JR 137. The schools I see selling uniforms at any volume have their own logo on them. It is a two side coin. A little profit (very little)from the sale and an advertising stream. For the mainstream, first time uniform buyer I think it is near impossible to compete with online sales without the school name recognition factor. We use Choi brothers middleweight uniform for new students. I have about $10 per uniform in including shipping. They are 7 ounces vs. Century's 6 or 6.5 ounces. I tell folks it is a very good first uniform but let them know there are better choices out there. It is futile for me to try to compete with Adidas, Nike, and others.
     
  16. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Custom embroidery has become easier to do, too. For any store like JR is talking about, I'd expect to include custom embroidery in the mix. That still leaves the school's profit, and that is an issue. If they use a low-end uniform (say, $25 retail) and use a wholesale account, they're making more than $10 profit per uniform. I don't think a retail location can manage to compensate the school for that. But the BB in that school could be convinced to buy something higher-end, and that's something the school probably isn't profiting on in any significant way.
     
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  17. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Is it just me or are those some pricey Gi's? I saw more streetwear than I did workout gear which makes sense to help keep a brick & mortar store open. What is the population and density of Portland? That would surely be a big factor as well.
    For fun, it did some research on what commercial embroidery and screen print machines cost. A common machine setup is 6 spool (colors). Then it comes down to speed and the level of interpolation (shape) you need. Ones that can embroider a school symbol like ours with minimal human intervention start at $110,000 and shoot up past $1,000,000. To my surprise, screen printing is a more step heavy process. There is a wide choice of software to produce the graphic. $100 to $5000. Of course someone has to know/learn how to use the software. A G-code interpreter. $100-$200. The screen making machine. $30,000 -$200,000. The application process. $25,000, totally manual, one color. $80,000 - $500,000 for different degrees of automation and number of colors. Then there is the square footage necessary for the equipment, added utility install and the labor to operate the machines. So it would take a lot of uniforms to see any kind of payback, let alone any profit.
     
  18. JR 137

    JR 137 Grandmaster

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    I was looking up embroidery and screen printing stuff and came up with similar numbers. Pretty steep investment. There’s some local places that I could farm the work out to and pass the charge onto customers, but that’s got its drawbacks such as quality control and timetables.
     
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  19. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    There are professional embroidery machines under $10K. What makes sense for such an operation probably depends upon volume and complexity. Having someplace to farm out the more complex stuff (at least at first) is probably a better start-up approach. More important, probably, is bringing on someone who actually understands the issues in embroidery.

    For screen printing, I'd expect that's a less-needed process for uniforms, and something that's easy to farm out. Being able to produce patches (either in-house or via vendor) is probably more important. While embroidering a detailed patch may (not sure on this) require the higher-end machines, it may be that dye-sub printing patches is a better option - and it does produce some very nice results. To produce patches in-house, I think you'd need the equipment to merrow the edges (that stitching that finishes the edges of most patches). The dye-sub equipment (if done in-house) would also open up some options for custom streetwear.
     
  20. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    I don't think a store front would do that well. It seems that, regardless of style, the school owner will offer gear at a modest markup that they get wholesale from somewhere.

    What I think is a potentially viable model is to have maybe a small storefront with a modest warehouse, and a reliable network of wholesale suppliers. Count on 99% of your business coming from online marketing and sales.123
     

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