On My Mind

You certainly have to hand it to the team sports buying groups – Sports Inc. and Nation’s Best Sports – as the glue that is holding together the independent team dealers in America. With all of the disruptions swirling around them, these two still manage to not only stay relevant in a changing landscape, but to thrive to different degrees as they navigate these turbulent waters.

I had a chance to see both first hand the past two weeks as their annual buying group shows took me first to Indianapolis for the Sports Inc. event in early June and this week to Fort Worth for the NBS gathering.

First, Sports. Inc. Judging by the vibe around its recent Summer Buying Show the group and its members are doing well, indeed.

The first thing that impresses is the attendance. Invited to the opening keynote session featuring a speech by University of Minnesota head football coach PJ Fleck, we were amazed at just how many people were in that conference room – I figure somewhere around 1000. That would make it, without a doubt, the largest gathering of independent team dealers anywhere in America this year — to be matched, no doubt, at the Sports Inc. show in Las Vegas in November.

The next thing you notice when the show opened for its traditional Opening Night Buyers’ Stroll around is the energy in the room – from the vendors anticipating two days with their key customers to the dealer members ready to see what’s new and to get down to business. (Or maybe it was the refreshments on the show floor that added top the pleasant vibe.) Either way, that vibe was overwhelmingly positive.

There was even some novel marketing going on during the show from one of the newer exhibitors. Custom sandal vendor Summerskates brought a golf simulator to the show floor and offered Closest to the Pin prizes during the show and a $10,000 Hole in One prize.

Two weeks later the rejuvenated NBS show took place, with the merger of the Athletic Dealers of America pretty much completed. Although noticeably smaller than the Sports Inc. meeting, there is no doubt the vendors now fully appreciate the combining of the ADA and NBS groups into one entity, and one buying group show.

Here, too, one can sense the “we-are-all-in-this-together” environment. With the offices of disruptor-in-chief BSN Sports only a few miles down the road from the site of the NBS meeting in Fort Worth, TX, these independent team dealers are more than aware that to remain independent they also must be part of a bigger team. NBS continues to offer them that team to them.

So my hat is off to Todd Adams, Travis Elam and the Sports Inc. team and to Pete Schneider, Jim Chandley and Dave Stockmeyer of NBS for continuing to provide the support system for their members who know better than anyone that there is strength in numbers. They remain the foundation of the team sports business in America.