Play It Again Sports buying show not about "glitz"

Buyers from several hundred Play It Again Sports franchises came to Reno Feb. 14-15 to the chain's winter show, one of two it holds each year.
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Quietly storming into town, buyers from several hundred Play It Again Sports franchises came to Reno Feb. 14-15 to the chain's winter show, one of two it holds each year. Fitness companies represented included Keys, Horizon, Cap, Body Solid, Everlast, Harbinger, Spri, Stamina, Kettler and, for the first time, Northern Lights.

Just over 100 exhibitors from all sporting goods categories came to the show, the company's marketing manager Mike Bush told SNEWS, with perhaps only about 200 booth spaces occupied since the show, he says, is "not about glitz and glamour."

Play It Again Sports, part of the Winmark Corp. (Nasdaq: WINA) near Minneapolis, Minn., puts on the private shows to make sure its franchisees get "a chance to see companies and products in a controlled environment," Bush said, and so they don't have to compete with other stores for a company's time and attention.

Fitness makes up about 25 percent of all of the 477 North American stores' total business, making the fitness category a significant part of the chain's sales, Bush said. Other key categories include hockey, golf, baseball/softball, snow sports, and wheeled sports such as in-line skating.

"They do very well for us," said Eric Goldapske, Horizon Fitness western regional sales manager who was at the show, which he called "well-attended." Goldapske said the chain's influence is due to the number of its locations, with just over 400 in the United States.

SNEWS View: Play It Again is very very picky indeed about who is at its shows. Not just anyone can decide to exhibit, but rather a company must be invited by a steering committee. That means that getting the stamp of approval from corporate with an invitation to exhibit isn't to be taken lightly, nor is choosing to set up a booth to be trifled with. You see, every franchisee makes his or her own buying decisions so being there could mean not only significant business to a company, but also significant branding and consumer awareness, especially since some of the chain's franchises sell as much as 50 percent fitness. The size and the growing importance of Play It Again also says something about where the entire sporting goods market is headed, with more and more full-line sports stores trying to take on the specialty market, as SNEWS discussed in a piece in January. One can see a hint of that by the addition of a company like Northern Lights.

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