Bowling Balls: The Story Of A Flooded Market
by James Goulding III
Hello everyone, I hope you all had a safe and happy holiday season, I know I did. This blog installment deals with the subject of bowling balls, and more specifically the amount of bowling balls produced by each bowling ball company. We have all had that moment when we are looking forward to the purchase of a new bowling ball, and look into what might be the best fit for your game. The problem is, this process can take on a life of its own due to the slew of bowling balls out there, with all different types of cover stocks, hook ratings, core combinations, etc. It can be more of a hassle to find a new bowling ball, when it should be a fun and enjoyable process. Why do bowling ball companies feel the need to push SO many bowling balls out in a short period of time? I don’t know if I have a specific answer for that, as I am sure the ball companies have people with a better marketing background than I have (o.k. so I have NO marketing background, you get my point). They must have a handle on what people want, or what they THINK they want, but it really seems like a lot of overkill on the market to me. Without further a due, I am going to go into detail about EXACTLY what has been put out on the market. My criteria for the following list is to list bowling balls that were put on the USBC approved bowling ball list for the period of one calendar year, which in this case is January 2009 – January 2010. The list can be found here: http://usbcongress.http.internapcdn.net/usbcongress/bowl/equipandspecs/pdfs/approved_balllist.pdf
So, here is the list, in descending order of the bowling ball company and the number of bowling balls they released in ( ) next to their name, from the time period of one year from January 2009 – January 2010:
Profi Shop (39)
US Act (13)
900 Global (12)
Caffeine Sports (6)
Bowlers Paradise/Elite (5)
Lane #1 (5)
ARK International (3)
Hard Ball (3)
CAL Bowling (2)
Lloyd Price Brand (2)
Lord Field (2)
Vision X (2)
High Sports (1)
Total = 258 bowling balls from 33 Manufacturers
There were 258 bowling balls produced in the last 12 months from 33 different companies. That is an average of 21 – 22 bowling balls per month!!!!!! That just seems crazy to me. Is there really a need to make THAT many new bowling balls every year? The list includes ALL types of approved bowling balls. Reactive resin, particle, urethane, polyester, everything. Also, this list contains many companies that are either not U.S. based, or don’t sell their bowling balls in the U.S. at all. So, for the sake of argument, let me create a new list, one that has the bowling balls you are most likely to see in your local pro shop window, shopping on the internet, or in a catalog at the bowling alley. This list will contain equipment approved by the USBC and the PBA Tour for the calendar year of January 2009 – January 2010. Here is the approved ball list, in descending order, with the company names followed by the number of balls they had approved in ( ) next to their name:
900 Global (12)
Total = 146 bowling balls from 11 Manufacturers
There was a total of 146 bowling balls produced in the last 12 months by 11 different companies approved by the USBC and PBA for use in competition. This equates to about 12 bowling balls per month, or on average about 1 new release per month per company. This is, in my opinion, still a staggering amount bowling balls to be on the market in a short period of time. It seems that no matter what the economy does, bowling balls keep pouring out of these companies by the dozens, with no conceivable end in sight. How is the average league bowler supposed to make up their mind and decide on the (1) ball they might get per season with so many choices? They can ask their local pro shop for help, but not even the best of shops can know the ball reaction and characteristics of 146 different bowling balls, and how each one would either work or not work for a specific bowler. How are tournament bowlers supposed to limit their bowling bag to a solid 5 or 6 ball arsenal with so many choices? These are just a few of the problems with having SO many bowling balls out there at once.
Another problem is how and when bowling ball companies decide to slash prices on what they call “older equipment” (even if it is only 2 – 3 months old) to make way for new stuff coming down the pipeline. Pro shops buy a certain amount of balls from their distributor at a set price, and need to sell the balls at a price slightly above what they paid so that they can make money and stay in business. What happens many times, though, is that the ball companies will cut the price of certain balls they are dis-continuing, but the pro shop is stuck since they bought the balls at the higher price point. So, the shop either loses a smaller amount money on the ball and sells it cheaper, or lets it sit on the shelf, take up room, and they lose A LOT more money on the ball. Bowlers can buy the dis-continued ball from an internet retailer for the cut price, and pro shop basically gets screwed on the whole deal. That is another issue I have with all these releases by bowling ball companies, they don’t think about how their need to release the next “big thing” on the market affects those who actually buy and sell their product.
I would like to see a system where the USBC limits the number of bowling balls they will approve from companies to 5 or 6 a year per company. The companies can make more bowling balls, but the USBC would only approve 5 or 6 of those for competition. If you did that, you could cut down on the amount of bowling balls out there by a significant amount. For example, if you take the 11 companies above that are both USBC and PBA approved, and limit them to 6 balls a year maximum, then it would mean you would have 66 new releases every year instead of the 146 you had this past year. That cuts down on number of balls by 80, or 55%!!! That is a huge improvement, in my opinion, compared to the current “ball of the week club” mentality the bowling ball companies stuff down our throats now. There would be less overlap (reaction-wise) between bowling balls, consumers would have an easier time making the proper choice of equipment for their game, and pro shops wouldn’t have to worry as much about bowling balls being dis-continued and losing money to online retailers who buy up the remainder of supplies from distributors. This is a win-win situation for everyone. I think that the bowling ball companies would still sell plenty of product to turn over a profit even with a limited number of the type of bowling balls being produced. They could save money on the cost of creating a whole new mold design for each ball, and by limiting that to 6 balls per year, that would be a huge savings in research and development costs.
In closing, I would like to say that I enjoy buying bowling balls just as much as the next bowler, but I think there should be a limit to what is being thrown out there to the public to choose from. I know I would still buy the same 4 or 5 balls per year even if there were only 66 balls to choose from, instead of the 146 there are out there from the last calendar year. The market is flooded with so many balls that seemingly overlap left and right, so by limiting the number of possible bowling ball combinations companies can make, you help ensure a higher quality of product, and help restore competitive balance to the market. The smaller companies like Motiv and MoRich can keep up better with the big boys like Brunswick and Ebonite, and I think that is a good thing overall for the sport of bowling. Also, pro shops will have a much better knowledge base as it pertains to each new bowling ball release since they will have a smaller sample size to review, and they can have a better idea of where prices should be set for the bowling balls they DO purchase from distributors. As always, the opinions expressed in the blog are my own, and in no way reflect the opinions of the Maine State USBC or any of its members. Thank you for reading, and feel free to leave a comment or question on anything you read in the blog.