If you think custom goalie gear is out of reach, think again.
By John Fackoury
While contemplating expanding our hockey business into the realm of goalies, we noticed a huge difference: proportionately speaking, goalies buy far more custom equipment than skaters do.
If you’re not a goalie, you probably seldom or never hear these names: Passau, Don Simmons, John Brown, McKenney, Battram, Factory MAD, Kenesky, Boddam, Viper, Infinity (heck, some of you may not be that familiar with Brian’s, or even Vaughn for that matter).
How do all these brands make it? It’s simple: Because goalies love custom gear. Made-to-order products means it’s a lot easier for the little guys (like us) to survive, because not only can we provide a more personal touch, we can also operate at a much lower sales threshold (i.e., we don’t need to spend nearly as much money on upfront production).
Let’s take it back a step. What’s driving this love for custom goalie gear? Two things: Aesthetics and Economics.
In addition to performance, goalies are far more concerned with how their equipment looks than skaters are. Maybe it’s a function of the fact they’ve got bigger, more visible equipment. Or perhaps it’s a function of the type of personality the position attracts. Either way, the evidence is clear.
Take a quick browse around the internet for goaltender equipment and you’ll find tons of goalies gawking at beautiful gear. @tendy_setups and @sweetgoaliepads post pictures of pads on their Instagram accounts, and have amassed upwards of 25,000 followers each. Goalie Gear Sluts United (GGSU), a Facebook group, sees over 18,000 goalies that congregate daily to buy, sell, show off, get opinions, banter about their gear, etc.
The typical hockey retail operation involves a store putting up a boatload of money to buy a huge selection of products at the beginning of the year, which they intend to sell over the course of the season. Their goals are:
A. To have as little inventory as possible left over at the end of the year, that has to be sold at a loss
B. Not to lose too many sales from keeping a limited selection
It’s tricky enough to be accurate with skaters, but with goalies it’s even tougher. Goalie equipment costs way more than player equipment; stores don’t get things for free and have to pay for everything on their shelves. If a particular outlet wants to carry 4 brands of pads, each with 2 models, 6 sizes, and 3 colors, you’re looking at 144 variations of pads. Which is a lot of dough (and that’s just the pads).
Take into account that, mathematically, only about 10% of hockey players are goalies. Therefore, retailers have three choices:
- Have little-to-no goalie selection
- Risk having loads of unsold product at the end of the year
- Charge extra to make up for unsold items
What are we getting at here? For many goalies, your local store may not have anything remotely close to what you want (especially for the “outliers”: full-right goalies, super-tall goalies, etc.), and you’ll still be paying a premium. The logic is, “If I’m going to be spending ‘X’ amount anyway, why not order exactly what I want?” (In some cases, custom can even be less expensive.)
It’s even more impressive from a patriotic perspective: custom-made gear means these niche brands are made in the good ol’ US of A or Canada (ordering custom gear from overseas would take far too long and the shipping would be way too expensive).
So, any interest in becoming a goalie yet?
John Fackoury runs several hockey-related e-commerce websites, including JerseysMadeEasy.com (custom jerseys and socks) and CanadianJerseySuperstore.com.
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