A crew of case breakers from the United States is bringing the concept to Asia this month.
Eight representatives from GTS Distribution, along with Ripping Wax Inc., which encompasses Ripping Wax, Jaspy’s HobbyLand and Nasty Breaks are currently spending eight days in the Asia-Pacific region in an effort to further develop breaking initiatives and expose shops in those markets to the potential of building their breaking businesses.
The trip began May 14 and continues through Thursday. Company representatives are spending time at sports card shops in Taipei, Taiwan and Tokyo, Japan on an initial trip designed to not only run breaks in shops, but also expose them to GTS’ exclusive products developed in conjunction with the Topps Company. Boxes and cases are being broken live online, with some breaks taking place from the Far East stores.
Collectors in the United States can participate in these pick your team, random, multiple and personal case breaks of exclusive Asia-Pacific products. Additionally, Prior year exclusive Asia-Pacific products are being offered. Among the products being broken are Asia editions of 2015 Topps Tier One and Bowman Baseball as well as 2014 Bowman Sterling and Topps Tier One Asia.
Mint Card Shop in Tokyo Japan featuring a built in bar with the wax! This is just part of the store! pic.twitter.com/OSToJk0bEo
— Jaspy’s HobbyLand (@JaspysHobbyland) May 19, 2015
We chatted about the ambitious venture with Joe Fallon, Director of Marketing for GTS:
SC Daily: I don’t recall a trip like this in the past. As far as you know, is this a first?
JF: I know each of the manufacturers over the years have spent time in the Asia market and still do, but I am pretty sure this is a first for a distributor, at least with this number of people and with education and market growth as the initiative.
SC Daily: How did this come about and how long did it take to put it together? It’s an expensive trip, I assume. Can you tell us who is footing the bill?
JF: We did something similar on a much smaller scale in 2013, so the idea came out of a brainstorming we did a few years ago on different ways to increase interest and interaction overseas. This particular trip came together following The Industry Summit in March – with the execution (flights, hotels, shipping product) happening over the past three weeks. Everyone involved – GTS, Topps & Ripping Wax – believe making investments of this nature is good business.
SC Daily: How much of GTS is focused on Asia right now and how important is it to the market for current products and the industry as a whole? Is that part of the reason for it…expanding the case breaking market?
JF: Our main focus is and always will be U.S. hobby shops, period. The majority of our focus is spent in support of our domestic partners. However, over the past few years, GTS has invested in personnel to not only bolster what we do with the domestic hobby shops, but also look at opportunities for synergies and growth. Breaking, as one aspect of our business, is important to us; as is developing the Asia-Pacific market. The Asia-Pacific market has historically always worked in concert with the domestic market as it relates to domestic releases.
There have been periods, in different sports, where the Asia-Pacific region has absorbed more product than it currently does. We think there’s an opportunity to stimulate increased interest. The breaking phenomena, if you will, is one aspect of the domestic market that is under-developed in Asia, and we believe, with some assistance, our shops over there can increase their businesses. Breaking is not the only aspect we are focused on for Asia though. Attached is an example of something else we just offered to our shops in Asia.
SC Daily: I don’t think that many collectors are actually aware there are Asia exclusives. Tell us how long has this been going on and explain GTS’ role in developing these with Topps.
JF: We started this initiative with Topps late in 2012. GTS is Topps’ exclusive distribution partner for these products and SKUs. As you would expect, we work with Topps on product selection, SKU development, timing, etc.
SC Daily: If I were to open a box of the products listed in the release distributed in Asia and open a box of the North American version, how much difference would I see? Are there checklists produced for these?
JF: It really depends on the product. As a rule all of the content that is in the domestic release is in the Asia version. The Asia version then has additional, unique content that is mixed with the domestic. On something like the 2015 Bowman that just released there were, on average, 54 exclusive cards from different levels in each box. In contrast, the 2015 Tier One had exclusive hits in each case.
SC Daily: How much of the broadcast schedule is live in Asia?
JF: Due to travel and some flex in when we will be getting to each shop, there isn’t a set schedule. But these guys will likely be working with very little sleep on this trip. If they are not travelling, meeting or eating… they’ll likely be breaking in their rooms or with shops. Joe from Jaspy’s is in LA, breaking regular releases when Mike and Nick are not broadcasting in Asia.
SC Daily: Talk a little about the logistics of doing this such as any potential language barriers.
JF: They are not travelling with translators. The GTS team has been in the region on a fairly regular basis and they’re comfortable navigating without difficulty. I believe there are one or two shops where communication may require a friend assisting with translating.
SC Daily: Compare/contrast the Asian collecting market with North America right now from a GTS perspective.
JF: Good question. The markets are similar in that products that do well here tend to do well there – sport depending. Different sports do better in different countries within the Asia-Pacific region. High end products seem to do well both domestically and overseas, even more so in Asia. Within the Asia-Pacific region there are obviously a lot of countries, languages and economies to consider and work with. Like the U.S., the economy has impacted collecting habits, and recovery and rebuilding is part of the dialogue when discussing different areas.