In today's fast paced world in which consumers are constantly trying to remember dates and other details, it is important that a company no matter the industry follow through with the release date of a consumer product. When a company routinely delays a release or doesn't release a product without giving proper notice, consumers are likely to tune out the product or brand completely. The card industry not only suffers from delayed release dates, but doesn't give collectors much of a heads up as to why and when a product will actually release. What this does is kill momentum and impact every facet of the card industry. Below is a look at how the mysterious release dates for trading card products impacts all involved.
Brick & Mortar Hobby Stores:
The majority of small businesses operate on a hand shake relationship with their customers. One of the primary draws of a small business is that the customer has the opportunity to form a relationship with the store's owner. When a hobby shop owner promises their customer a product on a certain date and can't deliver, it reflects poorly on the hobby shop owner first and foremost. I've said this time and again, card companies need to step up to the plate and understand that their choices often make or break a brick & mortar hobby shop. Because the hobby shop is a small business, it is ultimately the first to go under based on card company choices and planning, as the card companies are big enough to absorb their poor decisions.
If an industry doesn't deliver what it promises, customers often make the choice to take their money to a different entertainment avenue. Another thing that frustrates collectors is that card companies websites are often so poorly maintained that finding a release date or change of a release date can be virtually impossible. How can you plan to purchase something when you have no clue when it comes out? The worst part to an everyday collector is looking forward to a product and searching for it all day to find out later that it didn't come out at all. Another area impacted is the value of a collector's cards, as card value is a direct result of consumer interest, which ultimately deminishes when a company doesn't deliver on a consistant basis.
Sports Card Writers:
When products don't come out on time, it makes it impossible for people like myself to tell their readers when a product comes out. For instance, when I create a product profile after news first breaks of a planned product, I put the release date they tell me, when that release date changes without giving proper notice, I can't convey the correct information to my readers. I try to constantly update dates, but ultimately many slip threw the cracks. Often times, a card company won't even tell you a product isn't releasing on time until the release date comes and goes without a release. I and every other writer in the industry would greatly appreciate something as simple as an e-mail or some means of delivering better and more accurate info to readers.
The sports card industry is constantly gaining momentum and losing momentum, this is largely due to the the mystery surrounding a product's release date. It's this simple, for cards to be a permanent staple in pop-culture (on the same level as video games), card companies need to provide consumers with a consistant flow of accurate information and updates.
Granted videogame release dates do occasionally slide, but due to the pre-sells at stores like Game Stop and Best Buy, it would be suicide for a company in the year 2010 to simply not ship a product without explanation. When a game is delayed, the company makes sure everyone knows it. Ten years ago, videogames had a problem with release dates, but today, when a game is supposed to come out, I can count on driving to a store and purchasing it, cards on the other-hand I cannot.
Ten Steps Toward Sports Card Prosperity
The simple fix is for card companies to be wake up and be accountable to those who sell their products, those who report on their products and those who purchase their products. Below are a few things I would like to see become uniform in this industry, all of which could help contribue to a new era of sports card prosperity.
- If you cannot promise a product on a certain date, don't pre-sell it to anyone.
- If you can't assure a release date, simply say something like quarter 1,2,3,4 or a month. Never commit to a release date unless you can deliver on the exact date promised.
- Topps, Panini, Upper Deck and every other card company's website should have a release calender that is constantly updated.
- If a card company delays a product, it should be announced at a minimum of 1-month in advance and brick & mortar hobby stores should have the option to not purchase the product if they committed to buying it.
- Every product should release on a Wednesday, creating a common day in which collectors can look forward to. Currently, Wednesday is the unofficial release date for products. It's time this becomes official.
- A product's release window should start 1-month prior to that sport's season and no later than 1-month after the conclusion of that sport's season.
- Under-commit and over-deliver. In other words, commit to manufacturing less products until you have proven you can deliver on them consistently, after that you can expand and introduce a new product to the lineup.
- Either everyone gets a product or no one gets it. There should never be cards on eBay from a product that not everyone had a chance to get. This includes both retail and hobby versions of a product.
- Make information readily available to every major sports card news site and blog, information shouldn't belong to the highest bidder.
- Card companies should make a concerted effort to make a product available within reasonable driving distance to any collector that wishes to purchase a product. In other words, if a product releases and a collector wants that product bad enough, they should be able to find it somewhere near them the day of it's release.
The majority of the steps above are do-able and would go a long way to improving the sports card world as a whole. Even accomplishing half of them would be a step in a solid, new direction for cards.