Used goods, know-how keep Capital Sporting Goods competitive

Last modified: 12/22/2014 4:06:42 PM
More than just a businessman, Dave Palisi is an advocate for youth sports. The Capital Sporting Goods owner wants kids getting active and wants parents to know that it’s not as expensive as they think – yes, even for hockey.

With 30 years in the business, Palisi said his focus in recent years has shifted to used sporting goods. He said especially during the worst of the economic recession, parents would look at their 8-year-olds who wanted to play hockey and imagine them as 15-year-old hockey players asking for the top-of-the-line $850 skates. But that’s all wrong, he said.

Palisi said he could outfit an 8-year-old with everything he or she needs to get playing hockey for under $100, and if the kid doesn’t end up wanting to keep at it, they can trade the stuff back in for the next sport’s equipment. He said coaches want their athletes playing multiple sports; it’s the parents, he said, who are more likely to hone in on just one specialty – and, in the process, justify “absolutely crazy” prices for high-end equipment.

“It’s amazing what these manufacturers are getting for prices. Baseball bats at $550? It’s crazy,” he said, noting that there’s not that much of a difference between that and an average bat.

That’s where his competitive advantage comes in, he said. While he can’t flood the airwaves with advertisements like Dick’s Sporting Goods does – or give away free merchandise to every Little League team in the area like Dick’s did when it first came to town – he can offer a better deal by selling customers the right product, not the most expensive one, he said.

Palisi said the most important factor in sporting goods is fit, and he’s been fitting hockey skates and other equipment for decades. Next to that, it’s buying the right product for your level of use, he said. If you’re playing six days a week, maybe you should go for a high-end product, otherwise you can likely get by on less.

“I won’t put an $850 skate on my shelf. I won’t offer it. I offer a $600 skate and I don’t like that. But it is what it is. . . . They are getting dedicated to their sports, and as these kids get older they are in need of quality equipment and it does cost money,” he said.

But the majority of his business is in the used department. At any given time, he said he has between 800 and 1,000 pieces for sale. And it’s all listed on his website, which is updated every Friday – that’s how he competes with Craigslist, he said.

“I ignore the eBays and the Craigslists to the extent that I am that,” he said. “I look at it as Craigslist live, eBay live, come try it on.”

Unlike Craigslist, he said, he vets all of his equipment to ensure that it’s going to be something that won’t let the buyer down. If a product doesn’t quite meet his standards, he said he may just give it away.

“I’m selling product that I want these kids to be able to use in a youth program,” he said.

He said he wishes he could have the chance to give advice to every young athlete “and tell them you don’t need to buy that $800 skate.”

“If you ask the CEO of a manufacturing company” why they sell such expensive equipment, he or she will say “it’s because we can.”

“The technology is not at that level. It’s marketing, it’s just all about marketing, but there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just the way the world is,” he said.

Palisi said many of his customers have been coming into the store for generations. He said parents with growing kids frequently come by with a bag of used sporting goods that they trade in and then go shopping for new gear. He also works closely with the teams themselves on the screen printing and embroidery side of his business.

Throughout the store, he has memorabilia from the local athletes he’s known. When you first walk in, there’s a wall of photos of old hockey teams with players who still shop at the store decades later. He has on display the hockey sticks of the players who scored game-winning goals during four different Concord High School state championships, as well as a T-shirt signed by last year’s state champion Concord High football players.

He said during those same years, several independent sports stores have come and gone in the city, and when big-box stores come in, it makes life difficult for small-business owners. But he intends to keep using experience and his personal connection with customers to his advantage.

“Come in here and you’re going to get answers,” he said. “I’m getting third generations now. It’s great.”



(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325 or nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickBReid.)


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