The present economic situation in the United States has been bad news for many types of businesses in recent months, and sports card dealers and hobby shop owners are certainly finding they are not immune. Recession-like economic indicators, high gas prices, skittish consumers, even the weather – it’s all adding up to challenging times for the sports collecting hobby.
“It just has been something else this year. I’ve never seen it like that,” said Diane Stahura, who owns Cheap Seats Sports Cards in Whiting, Ind., Stahura noted that, in her part of the state, the weather was also exceptionally bad this year. “People just aren’t shopping,” she said.
In Las Vegas, Rob Vandorick of All-Star Baseball said a decline in tourism is having an effect on his business. “We have a number of customers who work at the hotels and in the tourism-related businesses,” Vandorick said. “So when tourism is slow, those people are earning less and consequently they don’t have as much to spend on us.”
Vandorick added that the high rate of foreclosures in Las Vegas is also a concern. “I’ve lost customers who have been forced to relocate to more pocket-friendly cities,” he said.
In San Diego, Henry Frank owner of Centre City Collectibles, said he sees the economy as being the most immediate and long-term threat to his business.
“Right now, it’s very slow because of gas prices. Things are not happening right now,” he said. “I have enough in stock just to have what the customers want.”
Richard Martin of Scott’s Collectables in Stafford Springs, Conn., said the current economic conditions have him very concerned about the future of his business. “If oil and gas stay at these prices, it will be very tough to stay in business,” Martin said. “Our store traffic in March was half of what it was in January and February.”
Scott Wilkinson of Jackson’s Card Shop in Jackson, Tenn., said the best way to measure the health of the economy is by the number of people who are coming into his store looking to sell their cards. “The only people coming in are the ones trying to sell me their cards from the 1980s and ’90s,” Wilkinson said. He added that card companies are making it tough by continuing to release too many high-end products. “The companies have continued like everything is grand and people have plenty of money.”
Jenn McClaren, manager of American Legends in Scarsdale, N.Y., was also among those who said that the economy is the most immediate threat to business. But she is also optimistic. “Fortunately, we live in a day where we’re always changing. It will get better,” McClaren said. What concerns her most going forward would be the recovery period from a recession and whether people who had collected and left would return to the hobby.
However, McClaren is adapting. “We’re buying a lot of collections,” she said. “We buy a lot of very good, very old product. People are selling, and they’re selling the great stuff. We are buying it and are able to sell it to our collectors.”
John Dunphy, the owner of Cards-R-Fun in Nashville, Tenn. is also looking at the positive. “There’s something about sports that still draws them in. That’s my positive outlook. They don’t have to spend a whole lot of money. They won’t travel as much or go out to eat. This is a form of a treat, and I’m the only one in town.”