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Apr 25, 2008

Maximise mouthguard sales

Richard Evans, sales manager at OPRO, shows you how

In 2008 mouthguards could be the largest growth product for the traditional independent sports retailer.

Over the last 10 years there has been a change in attitude as to the importance of wearing appropriate protective equipment when participating in sporting activities. From the wearing of helmets in cricket, shinpads in football and mouthguards in rugby, hockey and various other contact sports, never before has the health and safety of sporting participants been of such importance. Whether the reason behind this is the health and safety implications of modern society or simply an educated public wanting the best protection when participating in their sport, the end result is increased sales within the sports equipment industry.

The governing bodies of rugby and hockey strongly recommend the use of mouthguards by junior players, and numerous schools in both the independent and state sector have made the use of mouthguards mandatory whilst participating in these sports. One school improvement officer has recently enforced a mandatory mouthguard policy across an entire county for all state school students involved in either rugby or hockey sessions. This even extends to the fact that all mouthguards worn must be correctly CE tested and certified.

With the majority of mouthguard sales made to school-age children, and with most schools playing contact sports of some type, the UK mouthguard market should see millions of units sold every year. Bearing in mind that children’s teeth change and develop as they grow, the mouthguard is an annual purchase at best, assuming it gets through a sporting season without getting lost.

In the past, the majority of mouthguard sales have been at the entry level, with a spend of around £2 being the norm. This, however, is changing. Specialist mouthguard brands, including Shock Doctor, Brain Pad and Signature, have been developing higher-value mouthguards for a number of years and anything between £7 and £30 can be spent on a product from these companies.

OPRO is the latest company to join the market, using 12 years’ experience gained in the custom-fit market to produce an innovative new way to self-fit a mouthguard. With a Gold Premium model retailing at around £23, excellent margins are available to the retailer. This, along with the major sports companies starting to brand their own mouthguards - Nike and Adidas included - demonstrates how much competition is appearing in this growing market.

How can the independent retailer maximise mouthguard revenue in 2008? As with all areas of the sports equipment market, product knowledge and customer education is the key, and is an area independent retailers traditionally score well in. Higher-priced mouthguards have technological advancements that offer both better fit/retention as well as greater all-round protection against injuries such as fractured teeth, laceration of the mouth and even concussion.

With this technical information to hand, knowledgeable staff need spend only a very short period of time highlighting the huge benefits offered by a premium brand and convince a customer to spend significantly more on their purchase. If you were educated as to how an extra £5 could help save your teeth then it is surely money well spent. Shifting the traditional £2 purchase to the £8 or even the £15 range can have a significant effect on turnover when you consider most independent retailers are selling in excess of 1,000 mouthguard units per year and many an awful lot more.

OPRO is well aware of the potential this market holds and is already conducting staff training sessions at retailers across the UK. Even though all OPROshields come with an audio visual CD of instructions, it is seen as a priority that staff selling the product are aware of the features and benefits they offer and how to fit one properly.

Knowledge of how to fit one properly is part of the reason that customers are prepared to spend up to £23 on the product. Feedback to date confirms that the top-end products are selling well. Many retailers report that by displaying the mouthguards behind the counter they can advise the customer appropriately before a purchase is made, and numerous better-informed customers are now moving to a higher value product.

So in summary, there are a number of factors to consider to ensure revenue from mouthguards is maximised in 2008:

• Stock a full range of mouthguards, both in terms of price point and colour range available.

• Have knowledge of the technical benefits higher-value mouthguards offer, as a well-informed customer can see the safety benefits of spending a little more money.

• Mouthguards behind the counter take up little space and are an easy addition to any ‘back-to-school’ shopping list.

• Maximise links with all local schools. Most schools will have a policy on the use of mouthguards, and if pupils play either rugby or hockey then the chances are they will be required to purchase a mouthguard of some type.

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