Sportscard shops adjust to slumping economy

Sportscard shops adjust to slumping economy
Paula Nakata
Paula Nakata
Bruce Kawakami
Bruce Kawakami

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

MAKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The slumping economy has been forcing many small businesses to adjust or get swamped.

That even goes for a hobby that's been around since the turn of the 19th century. Some say sportscard collecting is becoming a thing of the past.

Just 15 years ago, there were 40 cards shops on Oahu and now there are only about five left.

To the few that remain, staying alive, means keeping a small inventory and creating a welcoming atmosphere.

Keith and Paula Nakata have owned Paula's Sportscards for nearly two decades.

They've seen many slumps on the field, but up until this year, they've never witnessed their own slump.

"For pretty much most of my career, sales have always improved with almost no effort, this year, with the economy the way it is, it's the first year, I've had a difficult time," Paula said.

After a 35 percent drop in sales this year, Paula is putting things in perspective.

"At this time, maybe it's not prudent to spend as much on cards, so I want to be here if you want it, I don't try to increase sales, I'm trying to lessen my inventory," she said.

It doesn't mean cards are going away for good, but the collectibles are getting a whole new look.

Instead of just keeping them in a box, the new generation is meant for playing, meaning businesses are turning into battle grounds for customer's tournaments.

"I'm trying to broaden my consumer base, by doing a lot of gaming, I have a room dedicated to gaming, it seats 24 players," Paula said.

So instead of people just stopping by to buy and sell, they're encouraged to hang out in a welcoming locker room.

"TV, chairs, atmosphere, kind of like the non-alcoholic Cheers, I've had some people stay here for hours," Paula said.

Bruce Kawakami is one of those people. He's been coming here since it opened.

"In the beginning I was just kind of getting into cards and then later on, when she started having Magic, it was just a fun atmosphere," Kawakami said.

Paula says card values have also gone down. For instance, a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card which was once $100 is now worth $50.

"Sometimes, people don't care about the value, they just have the enjoyment of having their favorite team, there's a value you cant put on that, that you can have something you enjoy and gives you a piece of the game," she said.

And it's not just a slow economy, experts don't believe the values will ever return to what they were.