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Increasing Income from Martial Arts
School Pro Shop Sales Part 1

By Paul Reavlin

For those of you who have never operated a pro shop or who have been considering starting one in your facility, this next series of articles should be particularly helpful.

It is important to note when starting your pro shop that there must be an adequate amount of planning that goes into it. Further, starting this endeavor is not something you enter into lightly or with lack of focus.

Simply put: just because you put in a pro shop or display area doesn't mean you will sell anything. In fact, it is no guarantee at all. Many people have failed at merchandising or have not been as successful as they would like to be because of lack of focus, planning, and resources.

Before we can talk about the most basic steps to take to start a pro shop you MUST take the time to understand these concepts:

Focus: I have seen too many pro shop or merchandising operations fail because of lack of focus. A classic example of lack of focus is to buy only 1 or 2 of 20 different items as samples, to determine if all 20 items will sell well. The gym owner doesn't want to take the risk of buying a significant amount of any of the items so they try to buy just a few of each item.

Ultimately the gym owner can't focus on selling any one product because there are too many to sell. Further, once the initial stock (quantity of one or two) is sold there may be other customers who would have bought the item, but will never even see that it was available for sale. Therefore the test doesn't prove anything at all.

Planning: You do not begin to teach a student without some sort of curriculum or plan of how that student will progress through your system. The same should go for merchandising. You will need to continually plan to plan.

That means you should be determining what you are going to be doing with your pro shop 3 months in advance. You should have an idea of what items you will be bringing in and what items you will be discontinuing. You should know when you are going to run sales and specials and what those specials are going to be. You should do adequate goal setting and then use your planning to help meet those goals.

I have been to a number of schools where the gym owner has display cases with products that have dust all over them. Additionally, I have seen many facilities where the display or pro shop display has not been changed in 6 - 12 months. This is a result of poor planning.

Resources: Do not go down the merchandising road without determining the resources you truly need.

Questions you will need to answer for yourself include:

  • Do I really have the time to begin this endeavor?
  • Do I have enough space allocated to properly display merchandise that I want to sell?
  • Do I have adequate space allocated to stock extra inventory?
  • Do I have enough money to buy the merchandise I need to have on hand?
  • Do I have adequate computers or bookkeeping devices?
  • Do I have someone specifically designated to help out in the merchandising effort?

It makes no sense to begin a merchandising effort without answering these questions and securing these resources. I have seen gym owners determine that they want to buy a whole host of items only to determine that they couldn't afford all of the products on their list.

When they pared down the list, they were left with an unfocused group of items that wouldn't provide them with the adequate stock they needed to succeed. Additionally, I have seen gym owners start a merchandising operation without having enough time to do it right. Ultimately, the effort fails because they weren't prepared to put in the time that it would take to succeed.

In the articles that follow in this series, I will help you answer many of the questions listed above. Before we start I want you to additionally ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the sales tax laws in my state and do I need a license to resell merchandise?
  • Do I need a business permit and do I have it?
  • What are the items that every student needs to have to train in my facility?

If you do not know the answers to these questions, please start thinking about them now.


Paul Reavlin is the president of in Burbank, California. supplies martial arts equipment and products to over 3,000 schools across the U.S. Paul is a CPA and has a black belt in Krav Maga. He can be contacted with questions or comments at or 800-767-8288.


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