The Demarini line of high-end softball bats is considered the most popular brand among sporting goods dealers, based on a dealers’ survey. However, other brands such as Easton Red Line and Louisville Spring Steel are also performing well in the market. In fact, both brands are already highly priced to match that of the Demarini line. In line with this development, some dealers expressed concern that these price increases might result in sales slowdowns.
An exclusive SGB survey of a dozen team dealers has found that DeMarini may have snagged the top market share among high-end softball bat manufacturers, at least among dealers who carry the brand.
Although not all dealers surveyed were stocking the high-priced DeMarini, those who were almost unanimously reported the brand to be their top dollar-generator. For some, this is a relatively new phenomenon, while others said the bats first started flying last year.
“We thought it would slow up some, but it really hasn’t,” said Stan Nill, general manager of Nill Bros. Sporting Goods in Kansas City, KS. “DeMarini still has the hammer in this area.”
But dealers also reported strong sell throughs for the Easton Red Line, in softball as well as baseball – a market DeMarini will enter later this year. The Louisville Spring Steel softball bat was also reported to be selling well among dealers who’d received their shipments, although many noted that its later delivery date probably pushed sales toward the Easton Red Line.
“Our shipment of Red Line (baseball bats) sold through immediately,” said Dale Whitman, president of El Cajon, CA-based Sportland. “We sold a few of the composite softball bats too, but the main thing was the baseball. People have been primed to know that as soon as the College World Series happens, something new is coming out.”
Most dealers surveyed said that in terms of top-to-bottom volume, Easton remains the dominant player in baseball, while Louisville is still the leader in softball.
The perception among dealers was that both were directly going after DeMarini with their new higher price points (The Red Line retails for around $250, while Louisville’s Spring Steel clocks in at $240).
“Last year I thought things stabilized. Even high-end bats were well under $200. But [the success of] DeMarini drove things right back up again,” noted Nill.
Some dealers expressed fear that bat prices would hit a breaking point. One, in fact, said he is projecting a drop in sales next year for that reason.
But most reported that their overall bat business for ’97 – the second fall year in which C405 bats were on the market – was up, and that early signs indicated that key mid-season launches were a hit, boding well for Spring ’98.
Meanwhile, the Cryogenic series from Worth did not seem to be having the impact of the leading brands, although one dealer noted that many players are still loyal to Worth products. The Dudley Fusion softball bat remains mostly below the radar screen, with only a smattering of dealers planning to carry the product, and one who had it in stock reporting poor reviews from players.