October 2012

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A Division of the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA)




Richard Charbonneau, Strauss Skates


Staying in front of the competition has always been a big part of Richard Charbonneau's life. The Minnesota native was a two-time world points champion drag racer, and his work on boats included the hydroplane speed-record setter of 171 mph. Then in 1983, after years of owning his own car repair business, Charbonneau shifted gears and with his wife Liz and their business partner Don Eyinck, bought Strauss Skates & Bicycles in Maplewood, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul.


Strauss is the oldest hockey shop in the nation and celebrated its 125th anniversary in early September. Eyinck's grandfather John E. Strauss, the founder of the business, and John Strauss Jr. were renowned for making skates worn by three-time Olympic figure skating champion Sonja Henie and NHL teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. But when the recession of the early 1980s hit, the Strausses could no longer afford to make their own skates and sold their business to the Charbonneaus and Eyinck.


In this first edition of "Dealer Face-Off," Richard Charbonneau talks about the positive aspects of the being involved in the hockey business, the initial challenges of modernizing the way Strauss did business and the current challenges of Internet sales, changes in customer habits and decreasing participation numbers in the sport.


Q. How did you get into the hockey business?


A. The Strausses were getting older and wanted to sell the business to Herb Brooks (St. Paul native and coach of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic gold medal winners), but Herb's brother was running a business and didn't want to take on another. We met the Strausses during a rough time in 1982-83 when interest rates were really high and we tried to put it together to help them.


My wife has always been a hockey fan since she was a little girl, and I was a hockey fan. I decided I wanted to try something different and get out of the garage business, and my wife was really excited about being involved with hockey and the people. The people come to you because they want to do a fun thing and it's always been a fun atmosphere. It was a nice fit and the people are wonderful. A lot of the customers and a lot of the hockey players (professional and collegiate) are such nice people when you get to meet them.

strauss skates.jpg
From left to right, Liz Charbonneau, Richard Charbonneau, Don Eyinck, Steve "Moose" Younghans, Shaun Hastings and Jenelle Hastings of Strauss Skates & Bicycles.


Q. What were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome during the early years?


A. Getting computerized and having enough inventory. The Strausses were doing manufacturing and primarily did figure skating blades. It got to the point where they couldn't afford the cost of producing the product - it was a really beautiful product that was all hand-made. We were getting a lot more hockey stores (starting) in the Twin Cities about this time, and it was getting more and more competitive. Everything was done on paper, so we had to streamline it and we went from five people in the office to my wife for a long time paying the bills and doing some of the ordering.


Q. How has the Internet impacted your business?


A. The Internet has definitely had a big effect. It's pulling a lot of money and it's killed little stores ... all over Minnesota they have dried up and gone away because they couldn't afford to carry a very good selection with the prices of things. The "Amazon sales tax" would help.


Even local people, if they're five miles away, want to go on-line and have it shipped to their house. The last few years have really been the most challenging in trying to adapt to the way different people think. Before you could succeed on basically good, hard work, but not everybody is as loyal with the times and they are more price-conscious. It's getting a lot more challenging, and we have to reinvent ourselves.


Something we're working on is with all of the personal and social media - promoting on phones and email is more of a factor, and we expanded that last year. We had a big party (for the 125th anniversary) and it was a bigger success than we could have imagined, and it was basically done through Twitter and email.


Q. Describe the hockey market in your area.


A. Unfortunately, (participation) numbers are down. There has been some bad publicity (regarding severe injuries from hits), and it has gotten so expensive with travel teams. Even people who can afford it are being careful with their money and things are more challenging. Kids like lacrosse and soccer because it's easy to play and it's not as expensive.


Q. What do you enjoy most about being in the hockey business?


A. It's the people - 99.9 percent of the people are friendly and happy and when they come in they're smiling and you explain (a product) to them. You give good service and attention and be fair with your pricing and you don't just run them through like a warehouse operation. Coaches like to come in and talk about different issues. Many times people have said we should have coffee tables for people to sit around and chat so we could become a social center.


If you are interested in being profiled as a subject of "Dealer Face-Off" in an issue of HDA's "The HockeyVoice" please contact Marty Maciaszek at mmaciaszek@nsga.org or by calling (800) 815-5422, ext. 126.




  Advertising and promotion


HDA used our monthly 30 SECONDS SURVEY to determine how dealers advertise and promote their business. We asked dealers to determine which areas they regularly used and which ones they rarely used with direct mail, email, Internet, newspapers, rink signage, TV/radio, social media, special events and telemarketing.





The most regularly used form among our respondents is email (69 percent), followed by social media (53.8) and special events, rink signage and Internet (46.2). All of the respondents said they rarely use direct mail or telemarketing. One respondent said word of mouth was used for advertising and promotion.


We appreciate the help from everyone who took the time to complete this month's survey and hope you will keep giving your input.





Making a "Mass" appeal to increase numbers


Kevin Kavanaugh was named the new executive director of Massachusetts Hockey. One of the goals of the former manager of membership development at USA Hockey is to find ways to increase participation numbers. Mass Hockey has more than 50,000 members.


"The two biggest barriers to entry in the sport are cost and commitment. There's the myth of the 4 a.m. practices. They don't happen," Kavanaugh said in an interview with the New England Hockey Journal. "We need to break down some of those misconceptions. And we need to let people know that hockey doesn't have to be a $7,500-a-year sport. It can be affordable. We need to create ways to welcome new people to the sport."


To read the entire interview, click here.


Marty Maciaszek joins HDA staff


The National Sporting Goods Association is pleased to announce that Marty Maciaszek has been hired as Assistant to the Director of the Team Dealer Division and co-director of HDA. Maciaszek joined the staff Sept. 7.
Maciaszek comes to NSGA after a 20-year career as a hall of fame sports reporter and columnist at the Arlington Heights, Ill. Daily Herald, where he also managed a staff of award-winning free-lance writers and correspondents who covered high school athletic events. In April 2012, Marty was inducted into the media wing of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.  

"Marty's experience playing, coaching and reporting on all levels of sports gives him a unique perspective that will help HDA better serve hockey dealers," said NSGA President & CEO Matt Carlson. "He is familiar with the rules-making organizations at the state and national level, and we expect him to be a valuable addition to the NSGA staff."


Marty can be reached at mmaciaszek@nsga.org or by phone at (800) 815-5422, ext. 126.



CCM named sponsor of ECHL All-Star Week


CCM will be the presenting sponsor of the 2013 ECHL All-Star Week, which includes the All-Star game Jan. 23 and a skills competition Jan. 22 in Loveland, Colo. CCM, which will receive a variety of promotional opportunities, has been the exclusive supplier of hockey sticks, helmets, visors, gloves, pants, track suits and protective equipment for ECHL players for the last eight seasons.


Ten coaches and 55 players who have participated in the ECHL All-Star Game have moved up to the NHL, according to an ECHL news release. For more details click here.


"Gear Up Minnesota!" program receives corporate support


Minnesota Hockey has a new corporate partner in Fruchi, which will focus its support on the "Gear Up Minnesota!" program. The program provides starter equipment grants to hockey associations. Fruchi, which offers an all-natural fruit smoothie, will give every association receiving an equipment grant four cases of smoothies to use for fundraising.


"We are thrilled to be supporting Minnesota Hockey and 'Gear Up Minnesota!' in the continued growth and development of the great game of hockey," said Karen Madden, the Brand Marketing Manager of Fruchi. "Through our fundraising program, we look forward to helping all kids across Minnesota live their dream of playing hockey."


Minnesota Hockey supplied 600 sets of equipment in 2012 through "Gear Up Minnesota!" and its supporting partners.



Perani's joins reality TV craze


Perani's Hockey World in Flint, Mich., will be profiled on a new reality TV show called World's Greatest. The show will highlight outstanding companies, people, products and and places began in late September. Perani's has been a fixture in Flint since the mid-1970s. To check out their website click here.



Let us know what's happening


If your company has news you would like to share, please send your press releases or information to Marty Maciaszek at mmaciaszek@nsga.org.




  See you in Las Vegas, Oct. 15-16


Chuck and Marty from the Hockey Dealers Association will be attending the annual Let's Play Hockey and Lacrosse International Expo. We will be at the Grow Hockey Summit hosted by the Herb Brooks Foundation and we will be walking the show floor at the first day of exhibits. We look forward to seeing you there and sharing some of the show highlights in the November newsletter.




    Chuck Signature          

Marty Maciaszek             Chuck Suritz


In This Issue
DEALER FACE-OFF: An interview with Richard Charbonneau of Strauss Skates in Minnesota
SURVEY SAYS ... Advertising and promotion
A "Mass" appeal to increase numbers
Marty Maciaszek joins the HDA staff
CCM to sponsor ECHL All-Star Week
Gear Up Minnesota! program gets new corporate sponsor
Perani's joins reality TV craze
Let us know what's happening
Let's Play Hockey Show in Las Vegas in mid-October
Did you know?  


Craig MacTavish was the last NHL player to play without a helmet when he retired in 1997. MacTavish scored 213 goals in his 17-year career and played on four Stanley Cup championship teams with the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers.




Nominations Open for NSGA College Scholarship Program  


The 2nd Annual College Scholarship program wil provide 14 scholarships worth $1,000 each to the top student employees of members of the Hockey Dealers Association, as well as student employees of NSGA Retailer and Team Dealer members. We've created several marketing pieces to make it easy fo you to get the information to your students.


Visit the Employer Page to download an employee break room flyer and email template, view frequently asked questions and learn more about the 2012 recipients and their employers.


Encourage your student employees to visit www.nsga.org/collegescholarship to apply today so they have plenty of time to collect their school transcript and recommendation from your company.  


Sponsorships Available for Management Conference/Team Dealer Summit


Opportunities to purchase sponsorships for the 49th Annual NSGA Management Conference and 15th Team Dealer Summit at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Visit  www.nsga.org/sponsorship for more information.



Please Contact Us 

c/o NSGA

1601 Feehanville Drive Suite 300

Mt. Prospect, IL 60056

Phone:800.815.5422 ext.108


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