Why layaway is needed for hockey equipment

Tim Thomas, the biggest gear slut of them all.

Tim Thomas, the biggest gear slut of them all.

If you’re lucky to play hockey, let me congratulate you for somehow affording to pay for league fees, ice time, doctor visits and gear.

The equipment is expensive and us goaltenders get hit hard. Skates will last you for years once your feet stop growing, your chesty should last you a good five years or so before the bruising becomes more noticeable and that jock stays fresh, eh? All told, you’re looking at $2,000 for leg pads, a glove and blocker. The chesty can go for $500, pants are $200 and so on.

There was a time you could get away from not buying pro level gear and feel relatively protected and getting good performance. That went away when every beer leaguer could let off a shot like Shea Weber thanks to lighter, stronger one-piece sticks. Paying for that extra padding helps.  (For what it’s worth, I’ve heard for the last five years the Bauer gear that’s a a step below the pro level is pretty solid, but have yet to test it out.)

It’s time that hockey retailers offer layaway to get more people into newer, safer gear and to help eliminate financial barriers. I’ve seen similar requests on Goalie Gear Sluts United only for guys to get chirped saying use the PayPal payment plan or a credit card. The PayPal plan is actually a credit application and it’s only good for certain items on eBay. Some of us don’t want to carry an extra credit card, or any. We each have our own way of saving, too.

Used gear is an option, but the margin is lower for stores. The life in those pads aren’t usually much and at times were modified unbeknownst to the shop or customer. Buying online, you can’t tell the life of the pads in pictures thanks to kids getting smart with ways to remove puck marks from white-based pads. Unless you get a look at the knee cradle and calf wrap, it’s hard to tell how beat up the leg pads are.

What layaway does is holds the item you want so somebody else doesn’t buy it from under you, as long as you continue to make timely payments. Sometimes if a shop is out, they’re out. If they have to order if for you, they’re going to ask for money up front so they don’t have extra inventory.

The weird thing is that stores essentially do this for custom orders asking for like $600 or $800 down then the rest due when the work is completed and shipped. Still, that much as a deposit can be a little rich. Some of us just want stock gear, you know? Not all of us are Tim Thomas, going through five or six brands of gear a year.

The systems aren’t hard to set up and most computer-based POS systems should be able to handle it. If not, hook up a spreadsheet or Quicken to handle it. If you’re a small shop, all you need is a small back room with a couple shelves or a cage where each item is labeled with customer info or even a corresponding customer. Sure, charge a layaway convenience fee. It still would be worth it for the customer.

If you’re not sure how to create terms and rules, visit Kmart or Walmart when they have it during Christmas on how to handle cancellations and nonpayments. If they cancel, hold a percentage as a penalty unless they are buying something else in the pro shop.

This would be a great way for your local pro shop to help drive revenue and find a way to divert sales away from the big online shops.

On the flip side, places with tremendous stock like GoalieMonkey, Perani’s and TotalGoalie could all take this to the next level and offer online layaway. Kmart now offers this where you can create a layaway order online, choose the payment plan and when the layaway is paid off, the merchandise is picked up in store. With these big stores, they’d have to ship these out.

I’ve read how a couple of shops in Canada are smart enough to carry a store demo pad and have people pay to rent the pad and test it out before they decide on the pad they want to buy.

Some small shops are willing to allow you to do a layaway even if it’s not advertised. I haven’t tried that for hockey gear, but six years ago I wanted to get a bike, so I saw a Fuji hybrid bike in my local shop, gave the guy $300 then came in every two weeks and paid him until I could get it. I still have the bike today, which reminds me I ought to be riding it more now that my leg is better.

I have my eye on some pads that are marked down in Brandon and hope to convince the owner to let me pay on them and take them off his hands. In this case, they’re pads that have been in the shop for a few years now and haven’t found a buyer and he has lost money on them. These are the opportunities where a layaway system works for both people involved.

Do you know of a pro shop that offers layaway? How do they have their system set up? Comment below.

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