WITH STYLE AND GRACE: Kersti Allik (her daughter in photo) says her shop focuses on selling high quality products.
Sports plays an important role in Estonian culture. The first Estonian mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records was a sportsman. Estonian sport was born before the independent state. Furthermore, sport was an important factor in the country’s national awakening.
Estonian sports include a wide array of activities that are practiced in the country. The most popular forms are cricket, badminton, tennis, chess, swimming, football and ice hockey and many others.
However, this industry is one of many which has suffered from the economic crisis.
According to Kersti Allik, managing Director of JIV Sport, the owner of Icestar shops, their business is specific, related to one branch of winter sports - figure skating - which is quite stable. “Of course, during last season there were a little bit less clients and lot of parents, whose children are involved in figure skating, bought used equipment. But in turn this season they compensate for last season’s poor sales, and have recently started buying more goods,” said Allik to The Baltic Times.
Allik mentioned that it was her daughter who inspired her to get into the business. “We help our customers to decide what skates are the best choice for them, considering their skating skills and targets.” She said that she has lost clients who were not able to pay the high fee for skating schools. “However, each season new skaters are coming, and there was no dramatic fall in sales. Actually, 50 percent of my clients are permanent clients, since they go for skating training and buy most of their equipment from Icestar shops.”
According to Allik, the future of sporting goods shops is bright, since people pay more attention to their physical health and are willing to get into various different sports. “We have been in the sports merchandise business since 2002. All top skaters of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are using our services and buying their equipment from our stores. Even some Russian, Swedish and Ukrainian skaters know our shops and generally buy from us. We are selling absolutely all the goods that skaters may need. We also have goods for gymnasts and dancers. We have 2 shops in Tallinn. Soon one more shop will be opened in Tartu. In Riga we have one Icestar shop as well,” she said.
Allik added that the company is focusing on a very narrow segment of sports, which includes figure skating (roller skating) and gymnastics, and dance equipment. “We keep our goods selection under very strict control, while selling only very well known and highly valued brands. We want to offer our clients top quality goods, especially skates and other footwear. Since we know what bad results wrong or poorly made boots can have on children’s feet.”
“We are also selling garments for skaters and dancers. There we offer mostly our own production under the JIV brand. Those items are specially designed, considering skaters or dancers special needs for materials and workouts. We try to keep average market prices so as to be competitive. At the same time we aim for innovations and offer each season something new, a style or materials,” Allik explained.
According to Christian Adami the owner of Kida & Ko, which represents ice hockey equipment for sale from the top brands, their business is surviving the economic crisis. “I hope it will get better in the future. We are soon planning to launch one ice-hockey oriented pro shop where clients can buy special products; there will also be services for skates and other equipment. Due to our good service - skate sharpening, consultation - we are gaining new clients every month.
According to Adami, the company sells hockey equipment suitable for recreational hockey players, right up to equipment appropriate for professional level players.
“I can say that we haven’t taken any big risks during the economic crisis. It is obvious that people buy less, but for specific things the market will always exist. We haven’t lost many clients during economic tough times. Besides, we have a lot of regular clients, most of them are ice-hockey players, figure-skaters, their parents or team therapists. Some of our clients are even well-known athletes.
Adami said that the company is specialized in ice-hockey products, but is also handling figure skating products. He said that he has been in this industry for 4 or 5 years. “We are planning to launch a shop in Tallinn in August or September. Up to now we have had only a workshop and a warehouse.”
In product offerings, he says that in comparison with other shops, “We usually offer a little bit lower price to get into the market.” He also considers that being good at listening to client wishes and giving them the best they want, or at least offering something similar, is one of the most important factors in this business.
The management at Red Dot paintball club, as well as at Red Dot shop, which sells paintball equipment, said that it is difficult to foresee the future of this market in Estonia and in the other Baltic States. “Nowdays it is very difficult to predict your own future, and to talk about Paintball’s future in Estonia is even more difficult. All I can say is that paintball as a hobby or as a sport will be always here in the Baltics, and the business will also exist. The only question is how this business will survive,” said Igor Mozzesov the owner of Red Dot.
He said that they are having difficult times in the business. “At this moment we are facing tough times, we have lost a lot of active players, which is why our business is also suffering. Fortunately, we have found some new business clients,” Mozzesov says.
The business owner added that his regular clients are mostly friends. “Because of the crisis, we have lost a lot of clients, the number of active players has decreased, which is natural and understandable as if one has financial problems. The customer will always try to save money on his hobbies. If previously we had games every weekend, now we can carry out games only once or twice a month.”
We try to offer all new goods that come out, from different paintball equipment manufacturers. We try to have in stock everything necessary for the game. And we try to offer the best paintballs that are available on the market by offering the best prices.” Mozzesov said he first played paintball in 2003.
“We have one shop which sells paintball equipment, and it is in the center of Tallinn, which we opened in the beginning of 2008.We try to offer the best prices in comparison with other stores offering the same goods. I think the quality of goods and service must also be the best, that’s to say on the highest level, so sometimes our competitors offer better prices than we do, but they usually offer analog goods with poor quality and warranties.”
Mozzesov noted that there is high competition between stores selling sports equipment in Estonia.
“There are only three other stores in Estonia selling paintball equipment, two in Tallinn and one next to Tallinn, at the same time there are a lot of online shops where one can buy paintball equipment.”
In my opinion, in order to survive, one must do his best to offer the best quality of goods with the best price. I also consider that one of the important factors in this business is to be friendly to everybody.
“If comparing with other countries, paintball in Estonia has the potential to grow as sport, as hobby and of course as business; we just have to carry out more work in this field, but usually we just don’t have enough free time to do this,” he says.