Whether its trade-ins or discount sales, secondhand sports equipment stores are scoring big with bargain-hunting consumers.
Play It Again Sports owners say used equipment sales are up, as more sports enthusiasts are changing their buying habits. Budget-wary athletes are trying keep their hobbies affordable in tough economic times.
"People have become more value-conscious of the goods they're buying," said Thomas Mulhall, a Play It Again Sports owner. "Our store has always been associated with value, so we're doing well."
As a result, used sales at Mulhall's two stores in Mesa and Tucson are up about 10 percent, he said. This is good news for Mulhall, who recently moved Mesa's Play It Again Sports to 1457 W. Southern Avenue from its previous location at 1954 W. Broadway Road.
Mike Mutch from Gilbert came into the new store looking to catch a deal on a softball bat for his 8-year-old daughter, Maddy.
Not only did he find one, but he also picked up a bat for himself - a used Miken bat for $165. If he bought the bat new, it would have cost $300.
"One of my buddies bought this bat and paid twice as much for it," Mutch said, smiling. "And I don't even have to break this one in."
The stores are also benefiting as more cash-strapped customers come in to trade old equipment in for money.
Henry Tjhie of Tempe walked in looking to unload an incomplete set of golf clubs that's been sitting in his shed for years. After looking the clubs over, the store decided to buy one of the clubs, a Ping I-Wedge, for $5.
"I'm happy to get anything," Tjhie said, "They're just going to sit in the shed anyway."
This type of transaction is at the core of Play It Again's profitability. Tjhie's wedge will be put on the shelf and sold for $15. If Tjhie took store credit instead, he would have gotten $7.50, or half the value.
Either way, Play It Again pockets a healthy return.
Play It Again also sells new equipment - in fact, about 60 percent of its product mix is new. But used merchandise is the store's bread and butter.
"We can't get enough used equipment in here," Mulhall said. "We need it to keep up with the growing demand."
Greg Haase agrees. He owns Play It Again Sports stores in Gilbert and Tempe. He said sales at his stores for this year's baseball season have increased between 10 to 15 percent.
The biggest draw is Play It Again's reputation for being economical, Haase said. Consumers know they can find a bargain at his stores, he said. Bats and gloves are selling for $100 to $200 less than what they did a year ago.
"Good quality items go out just as fast as they come in," he said. "Everybody's looking for high value."
However, big-ticket items such as treadmills are "hard moving," Haase said. The price tag is still too much for consumers to take on.
Kevin Alms, owner of the Sports Exchange in Mesa, said store sales have remained steady. But he has noticed that in the past six months, used equipment has gotten more attention from his customers.
Alms also sells his merchandise on Craigslist.org. It accounts for about 30 percent of his business, he said. Alms is able to reach more customers through the Web site, and it enables him to sell off much of Sports Exchange's football, boxing, and mixed-martial-arts equipment.
"With the deals I'm offering, I want to reach as many people as possible," he said.