Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Defying Gravity

So what are those big boxes at Target that spit out single pack cards? Well we efficiently refer to them as Gravity Feeds. They came about roughly 4 years ago and developed into multiple configurations over the years. The idea came from the early years of trading cards at Mass Market. If you can remember back into the 90's (Collective Soul, Reebok Pumps, Ren & Stimpy, Tecmo Bowl dang Bo was fast!) trading cards were most of the time found in plastic containers that you were only able to remove one pack at a time. More often times than not it would damage the cards inside. Not a great sales tactic, but the funny thing in this industry is that we think shrink (theft, stealing, ripping off, etc) is a very large percent. In actuality it is not nearly as high as one would think. Topic for another day!

Back to the gravity feeds, we wanted to come up with an idea that would market the product better within our section and consumers could see it with out being at the actual rack. So we developed a 14" tall gravity feed built on that old plastic box concept. The early on results were stunning, the gravity feeds were out performing traditional foil box by a crazy number. This was in entertainment titles only. So we branched over to sports, the lift was not nearly as high as entertainment but certainly still there. So why was sports lower? My perception is that because change is difficult and people are very much traditionalists. Its very difficult to get people accept something different than they are used to seeing, doing, buying, etc. Is it because its more difficult to search through for that one or two packs you want? Is it because you can not get the fourth pack down on the left stack of the box (I just pulled that number out....it is meaningless)?

I do all I can to make sure that from my end the ratio's are the same as the 24ct box. Moving forward you might start to see exclusive subsets, inserts, etc in only the gravity feed SKU. The biggest issue with the gravity feed is that the actual box is pricey. So the pack count has to be much higher and that increases every ones exposure on the product. If we lower the pack count then the gravity feed is not a feasible product anymore and the manufacturer would need to dilute the content or lower card count. Neither one is a viable option for us.

So question of the day....What would make you buy more Gravity Feed packs besides putting an actual dollar in the ninety-nine cent packs? Does an exclusive subset work (t-205, dick perez, MJ legacy, etc)? Does just having maybe 5-10 of the subset cards can only be found in the gravity feed work? What about a certain cut signature is only in the gravity feed? What about some of the short prints?

Off Topic--------I have been asked for some more background information on myself by numerous people. So here goes some tidbits for today: I am huge Cubs fan (Ryno rules my world), the Chiefs are my NFL team (our future is looking better), I enjoy the NBA (no real team for me, but I can be bought).

My favorite set of all time is Topps 1975 MLB, because it was totally different than years prior. Not to mention it had a lot of great player rookies yet still contained a good number of great players from the 60's. I view it as a set that was before its time.


  1. I'll buy retail if it gets me a cool-looking insert/subset or if it gives me a better price per card on the base cards.

    But if it starts getting to the point where I have to buy blasters to get "X" subset, gravity feed packs to get "Y" subset and some other form of packs to get "Z" subset, I'll probably pass on everything.

    I know that I'll avoid any product that short-prints base set cards and expects me to chase a certain type of pack to have a chance of finding them.

  2. I avoid any single retail packs like the plague. There is an old guy who searches the packs at all of the stores in the area - which I could actually live with if he didn't destroy the cards he leaves behinds. Confrontations and involving store personnel have had no effect. Hence, the only single pack I have bought in the last three years at Target, Wal-Mart or Fred Meyer is one pack of 2009 Topps out of the gravity feed just to see what the cards looked like. And yes I have caught him removing all of the cards from the gravity feed and searching them - I think it was UD Heroes last year. Pack-Searchers probably hurt your sells more than anything and you should really teach store personnel to stop them.

  3. I agree with Paul. I understand separate inserts for Hobby and retail. But separate inserts based in pack-type wind up hurting the overall product. It's bad enough that there are separate inserts for Wal-Mart, Target, and K-Mart. Separate inserts for Target Blasters, Wal-Mart Gravity Feeds, Jumbos, and K-Mart loose packs is a bit excessive.

    One way to prevent pack-searching is to re-design the gravity feed by making it narrower. Fleer had it right in the mid-90s when they briefly experimented with gravity feed-type boxes.

  4. The gravity feeds that I see are almost always a mess, with packs all over the place after having been searched. If I get anything from one, I usually try to pull from higher in the stack to get one that hasn't been manhandled. Not sure what could be done about it, though. Making a "gravity-only" insert set would just increase the searching, which is a Bad Thing.

  5. How about no inserts and more base cards. How many inserts (autos and fabric cards) have been made for just about any player? All of these inserts over the years have diluted the whole market. Let’s go back to the 1975 cards. Wow me with the sub sets in the set and photos. Keep the parallel set if you must. Me as a consumer will be much pickier with my disposable income in 2009. Never mix products like Topps Heritage update. Six base cards and 2 highlight cards. Those 2 highlight cards are trash! Thanks for allowing me to vent!

  6. I normally avoid gravity packs because of the increased risk of getting a damaged pack. It is rare for me to see a gravity tube with all the packs lined up like they should be. Most of the time you can tell people have pulled packs out, evaluated them and put the ones they didn't want back.

    A different insert sounds like it would spur sales on the surface. But I agree with the others that it would further devalue the brands and turn collectors off.

    That said though if I really liked the insert and it had players I collected I would buy them. But my collecting focus has narrowed every year so the odds of putting one out that I had to have are not strong.