Bat makers stepping to the merchandising plate

Baseball and softball bat manufacturers are stepping up marketing strategies for their products. With retailers displaying high-priced bats alongside cheap ones, the sale of high-end products plummets. Manufacturers believe that retailers should display baseball bats in such a way that consumers are made aware not only of the price difference between bats but also the advantages and the technological innovations that went into the production of expensive bats. To this end some manufacturers such as DeMarini are offering their merchandise in a display rack designed to hold their products.

Price points on baseball and mens softball bats may be reaching for the upper deck, but when it comes to merchandising these high-tech products, the industry is still in the dugout.

Many retailers have $200 bats buried on the same racks as $50 varieties. Not only are these bats obscured by lower-priced items, but there’s nothing to explain to consumers why their price tags are so high. Without something to spell out the technology and performance they bring to the diamond, it’s almost a wonder that these bats sell at all.

“I think that retailers can do a better job of fixturing that would really help the consumer to understand the technological advances, but I also think manufacturers need to do a much better job as well,” said Bill Clark, vice president of sales at Hillerich & Bradsby. Clark said Louisville Slugger is developing an in-store system for displaying high-end bats, which may be ready for the 1999 season.

Manufacturers are also hoping retailers will separate items by brand names and avoid the salad bowl approach, as is common at many retailers when it comes to the bat racks.

“You go into a full-line store and its goofy. They’ll stick a $15 bat right there with a $300 bat,” said Bruce Coombe, VP of marketing at REDA, the exclusive distributor for DeMarini. “All the bat manufacturers want their own identity and little shops so to speak.”

To that end, DeMarini introduced a point of sale display at Super Show, a rack which holds DeMarini bats on the front and accessories on the back.

Last year Easton supported the launch of its Red Line bats with an in-store display, garnering an industry merchandising award. The display, which the company says will be used at 1,000 retail locations this year, features a tachometer to signify the strength of the scandium alloy used in the bats.

“There is education with all of it,” said Mike Zlaket, VP baseball/softball at Easton. “It’s a lot more than pulling the bats away from the others. It’s about telling a story, too.”

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