Hobby Musings: Kids break initiative a big success for Fruitman – One of the biggest quandaries in the hobby is how to get younger collectors involved. Despite a seeming increase in youthful collecting over the past few years, it’s still been a common criticism that kids aren’t involved enough. One person who has been eager to combat that is Mike Fruitman of Mike’s Stadium Sportscards. The store owner was kind enough to talk with me about the special event he had with younger collectors in mind.
KS: Mike, you recently had a first-ever at your store. What more can you tell me about it?
MF: I was nominated by Rob Bertrand from GTS when Frank Whittaker from Ultra Pro was looking for a shop to work with. He wanted to take a kids initiative they shared at The National to the shop level. I was elated to be their guinea pig. Well, you know what I mean…
MF: I have made involving kids in the hobby a priority for decades and took it to the next level less than a year ago when I started my Kids Club. We now have over 350 younger collectors in the club, and I know that finding 30 of them to attend would be a snap.
KS: Overall, how do you think it went? Any plans for more?
MF: Fortunately I am comfortable talking in front of crowds and did not notice any yawns or head drops, so I am comfortable in saying I was on my A game. I made a point of only making my talking a small part of it and made sure to have a younger breaker present his breaking skills, as well as making sure to give the crowd a chance to ask anything they wanted to.
KS: This wasn’t your only kid-friendly initiative as you also have a kids club. What all does that entail?
MF: Each month every member of our Kids Club gets to stop in and pick up a free gift. Sometimes it is a promotional pack from one of the manufacturers, a free item from our $3 shelf, 10 free .25 cards, and this month we are giving away Ultra Pro boxes that will hold about 25 cards in top loaders.
KS: One of the big criticisms of the hobby is that not enough kids are involved. How do you respond to that?
MF: I would say that whomever is sharing that is uninformed. Granted, making kids a priority at my shop has been our focus and perhaps because we see so many younger collectors these days, I don’t know where that might come from. Kids have always been a giant factor at my shop and I took note last year at The National at how many younger collectors I almost stepped on (mostly kidding) as I walked the aisles.
We are seeing so many parents who collected able to share time with their kids (boys and girls) after school and each weekend. It is an honor to be reminded by so many dads with their kids that THEY were once the kids who were brought into my shop. Sure it makes me feel my 50 years, but it always puts a smile on my face.
MF: Lately NBA cards are king with kids, but it wasn’t too long ago that Patrick Mahomes ruled the collecting school. We have a lot of kids who collect what their parents are into, but the days of kids being dropped off at the shop to do their collecting thing is still a real thing.
KS: What do you think is the key to keeping younger collectors engaged in the future?
MF: For my shop, it is treating them with tremendous respect and appreciation. I try to go out of my way to make sure they get a free pack of sleeves with their box purchases, a free promo pack when possible, and it is fun to round down their purchases when I realize it is their hard-earned money paying the bills.
KS: What do you think the trading card manufacturers could do to help drive young collector engagement?
MF: It would be a great idea to see a manufacturer roll out a Kids Club initiative for shops to implement. I have been impressed with seeing some other shops step up and start them in their shops as well with great success. Each of the manufacturers have great support programs in place already, but seeing one step up and make kids a specific priority would have immediate and down-the-road impacts. I can’t tell you how many younger collectors I have gotten into cards in the past year. For shops who are wondering if it makes a difference, I can tell you that during the holidays and when it is birthday time, it makes a massive difference to their parents as well.
KS: If you could do a different event revolving around kids in your shop in the future, what would you want to do?
MF: Actually, I plan on offering a similar event when it is appropriate to host a public gathering that replicates what Ultra Pro and GTS did. GTS shared 30 2019 Donruss MLB Mega boxes that the kids were able to do their own breaks with. I have seen close to double digits worth of videos that they did after Sunday’s event. We might have a whole new generation of breakers in the Aurora area. Now to make sure they don’t poach all of my current collectors as their own. Seriously, the support I received from Ultra Pro both with free collecting kits, breakers mats and more, I don’t know how to top our first event, but that won’t stop me from trying.
Hobby Musings: Kids break initiative a big success for Fruitman
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