The business of badminton

Have you ever had trouble finding shoes that fit? I was unsuccessfully searching for badminton shoes the other day. As I looked at distributors and retailers, two things became clear: (a) there’s a relatively small market for women in badminton (b) the business side of badminton can be slow and stock-driven. Even if you’re keen and ready to throw money around, if there’s no stock you can’t buy.

It’s also clear that business dealings are often complex and aligned with financial interests. For most SME business owners, they want business to be easy, straightforward and cost effective. But the reality is there’s always some pain in the way things are done currently.

Equipment Distributors

One thing I hate about badminton in Australia is the lack of choice of racquets, bags or clothing. Also the prices are higher compared with overseas.

From what I understand, if an import/distributor imports a product range, then a retailer can order a certain proportion. They might get 20% or 30% of what they ordered. This is because the supply chain is dynamic and demand-driven. The range of choice for consumers depends on the retail shop’s inventory as well as the distributor’s warehouse stock.

As an individual consumer, it’s frustrating to hear about stock or warehouse issues with wholesale suppliers. It’s not as easy as saying “here take my money, just get me the goods.” The power lies with business owners.

When a retailer doesn’t have a product, the next best solution is to hunt around. Online shopping has been a real boon by empowering consumers with cheaper prices and more choice. It can be surprisingly cost-effective if ordering a sufficient quantity.

Another solution is to travel overseas to buy gear. Obviously this is an expensive and inconvenient solution but it has a side benefit of delayed gratification.


Victor Badminton Centre in Lidcombe has tiered pricing for court hire

The court hire fee (typically $10-$26/hr.) covers rent and overheads like wages, utilities and insurance. In order to break even, businesses need to hire all or most of their courts out for a minimum number of hours per day per year.

There are established standards for badminton court design but it’s rare to find courts in Sydney which satisfy the stricter specs. Most players aren’t concerned with details like flooring, lighting, ceiling height, standard spacing. These things go unnoticed unless there is something really wrong, like inadequate lighting. Court owners, on the other hand, consider those details carefully because revenue is proportional to the number of courts and a good experience increases the likelihood of repeat business.

Court owners often compete with each other to attract people. Invariably more customers equates to more money and power. This means they might have off-peak pricing, special deals for members, and discount rates for badminton schools. A word-of-mouth marketing strategy also seems to work well in Sydney’s small badminton community.

Lastly, a wise friend once told me “never mix business and leisure”. Looking at the game from a different perspective, effective people and ethical businesses allow players to focus on just enjoying badminton. Unfortunately when hiccups and problems arise in the business side, it can also adversely affect players.


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