For flea market and swap meet vendors looking to sell more sports-related products, SportsLife Enterprises has an intriguing opportunity. SportsLife is a buying group, which means it is an organization of independent members who band together to negotiate great deals from suppliers. The members get the benefit of lower prices — with savings that exceed the cost of membership in the buying group — while suppliers benefit from greater sales.
SportsLife’s president, Ted Nevins explains it this way: “SportsLife is a buying group. Once someone becomes a member, we give them the tools and resources to either start up or expand their existing sporting goods or apparel business. We try to hook them up directly with wholesalers.”
There are other benefits of membership too. “When vendors join, they get a start up kit with a manual and how-to guide,” says Nevins. “We give them help through e-mail or an 800 number, as much as they need — it’s unlimited.” SportsLife also has a technology partner, which lets members become ecommerce merchants with online storefronts. “Once you are a member, you get access through our technology partner to software, a Web site, a shopping cart, so they can set up and sell online,” says Nevins.
Members also receive a newsletter, printed on paper, in the mail. “Instead of e-mailing a PDF that people just delete, we take the time and expense to write it up and print it up,” explains Nevins. “That’s in addition to a statement every month, and some coupons. I feel it gets read more doing it that way.” For those who prefer doing things online, there is a members-only Web site that has the same info, plus a supplier directory.
With almost 20 years of experience under his belt, Nevins has built his group into an effective organization. “We have about 500 to 1,000 active members using the group,” he says. “We’re not the largest in sales volume, because we try to help the little guy.”
Nevins wants to increase his user base of flea market vendors and push suppliers for even deeper discounts. “We want to help the flea market vendor make more money, with a snowball effect as our numbers grow.”
He empathizes with vendors who are selling through a recession. “A lot of them are trying to sell as best they can, and in this market, every wholesaler is looking at every possible customer,” says Nevins. “Most of our suppliers have very small minimums orders, such as $50, or $100, as a typical max. If it is much more that that, it doesn’t help us much either.”
SportsLife’s terms are reasonable, given the discounts that the organization negotiates for members. “Our full price is a $495 initial fee to sign up, plus $30 per month,” says Nevins. “But often we discount that initial fee.” For example, the company is discounting its membership fee for flea market vendors by $200, so that the initial fee is only $295. And Nevins says that he may be willing to negotiate an even better deal for the first vendors to contact him about SportsLife.
“If we can save the flea market guy 10 percent or 20 percent, that can add up, especially over a month of selling,” says Nevins. “My business model works best when I can get the vendor and the supplier together for volume sales.” He points out that he takes no percentage on negotiated deal — “I’m just taking the membership fee. I don’t need to stick my hand in the cookie jar and earn commissions, which would reduce the available discount for my members.”
For more information about SportsLife, visit SportsLife.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (800) 909-5433.