In 2013 the Ladbrokes World Darts Championship saw a record breaking 1.5 million viewers tune in for the final between Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen and in 2015 the William Hill World Darts Championship will feature a record £1,250,000 prize fund.
There is also a circuit of major darts tournaments around the world. That elite darts is enjoying an upturn in popularity is something of an understatement, but how is this translating into the general dart’s market?
“The UK market is very buoyant,” Ian Flack, sales and marketing director at Winmau, says “Globally the sport has never been in better shape, with all of the large markets up this year, and there are many new and emerging markets that are rapidly expanding.
“There are numerous reasons why the player base is continuing to expand. The PDC continues to deliver a superb quality television product with huge amounts of airtime, while the BDO have benefited from a partnership with Eurosport that has seen the sport broadcast to tens of millions across the world.
“There are also some superb youth initiatives in place at the moment that are creating new opportunities for young players. The creation of the BDO World Youth Championships has sparked interest in the huge crop of young players and there are new youth academies being created all the time, such as the Winmau Darts Centre in Wolverhampton.”
More women are also taking the sport up, bucking the traditional darts trend. “Players such as nine-times world champion Trina Gulliver have not only taken the standard of the women’s game to new heights, but have encouraged many more ladies to try and emulate their success on the oche,” Flack says. “It’s meant we now aim far more products at the female player compared to several years ago.”
Flack says Winmau’s best-sellers include the Blade 4 Dual Core dartboard: “Our technicians have developed a unique Dual Core base for the latest edition, which improves durability and scoring potential, as well as a new Rota-Lock system that securely fixes the board to the wall and allows for easy rotation.
“In terms of darts, the Zagato is the most technically complex dart we manufacture. A new style of carton includes a foam insert, magnetic closure and an aluminium point protector.
Flack adds: “Most of our new range is being kept under wraps, but I can reveal that we have a new Paul ‘The Asset’ Nicholson tungsten series. We have been astonished at how popular Paul is, having signed him earlier in the year, and his new darts, which are available in standard tungsten and a brand new black onyx coating, will be available in late September.
“Other news is that we’re investing in a high-tech McLaren-style laboratory for our player analysis and product development. Our facilities are already state-of-the-art, but we will be introducing high definition, slow motion picture and video capture, among other concepts, to allow us to better analyse the flight and aerodynamics of our darts, as well as the mechanics of our professional players’ throws.”
Harrows Darts reports that the internet has been a key driver of the darts boom. “It’s without doubt helped to increase consumer knowledge about the technical aspects of the game,” Robert Pringle, sales and marketing director at Harrows, says. “It’s helped us to highlight the uniqueness of our products, which are all still made in our purpose built factories in England.
“Darts forums and social media, in particular, are massively increasing the consumer knowledge base. It means we’re seeing an increase in sales of the more technical and higher priced products.
“Our I.C.E. Tungsten ranges have proved to be an international hit, while our shaft collections includes a number of world class and technically innovative products, including Supergrip, Vibro and Speedline. Our industry leading flights are recognised globally for their quality, durability and superior aerodynamic performance.”
New from Harrows is the Clic darts system. “It’s been developed to take the flight and shaft concept to a new level,” Pringle says. “It’s extremely easy to assemble and, once fitted, the flights will not come off during play. It’s super-tough design gives it a long life, plus it has a perfect 90-degree wing that aids flight performance. The total weight is the same as a traditional system, so dart balance is unaffected. Shafts are available in three lengths and six colours, with matched coordinating flight.
“As we move into the winter season, we’ll be rolling out more new products, including the Aura 95 per cent tungsten steel tip. It incorporates laminar flow technology with blue titanium nitride infused into the tungsten to produce an exceptionally attractive and highly durable permanent coating.”
Target is also enjoying increased sales. “The dart 16-times world champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor uses is our best-selling dart and was the fastest selling dart of all time when it was launched in February,” Target’s international sales manager James Tattersall says. “Since its launch, Phil has thrown three nine-darters, including one on TV in the World Matchplay. He’s also won the German Darts Masters and the World Matchplay at Blackpool playing with it.
“In addition, we’ve just launched our new range of products. The big news is the Carrera Azzurri Cortex, a pioneering new barrel design where the grip is cut axially rather than radially to give a smoother grip release. This has never been done before and is the most technologically advanced dart in the world.”
Target is also evolving the look of its packaging. “Our new player imagery is very striking,” Tattersall says. “It adds excitement to an already exciting product when applied to packaging. It captures our players’ stage presence and personality. With players like Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis, we sponsor the best darts players in the world. Players are scared to play our team because they are legends - and this is reflected in how we depict our players.”
Image courtesy of Chris Sergeant.