A week ago, the Canucks announced their plan to hike ticket prices for next season. The amount isn’t much (up to 3.3% for a certain percentage of tickets) but the decision to follow through on this raise is significant. In an economy such as this one, with so many people being laid-off or seeing their job otherwise downsized, this isn’t a very sound PR move.
Canucks’ chief operating officer Victor de Bonis argues that “the 2009/2010 price hike is the lowest since the team moved to GM Place in 1995”, presumably believing this shouldn’t be a significant issue for consumers. Further, he feels the team is justified in its inflation:
“We’re not isolated from the economic issue but the product is very good and the team is right there so the fan base continues to be very strong and supportive.”
Despite the fact the team is currently doing well, we could argue all day about the quality of the “product.” (i.e. I especially wonder how he would’ve argued his point in late January, when everyone in sight was writing his team off for the year?) Regardless, it’s not the most important point. That would be the fact that a team who already charges more than nearly every other team in the NHL, feels they can bump the bill up just a wee bit more to get more money out of fans’ pockets.
While ‘supply and demand’ might suggest they’re simply following good economic reasoning, in the real world they seem willfully ignorant of new realities.
One of the Canucks strongest assets is their sold-out season ticket base and particularly their waiting list of consumers waiting to buy those tickets. But how solid is that waiting list? The economy has changed drastically in the last few months, and for someone who put their name on that list two years ago, current circumstances are likely to be much different today. And are the Canucks so sure that their season ticket base can economically afford to keep investing in tickets at the current cost, much less with added expense?
When teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning do a drastic price slash, it doesn’t really compare to a city like Vancouver where the supply-and-demand issue is so much more drastic. But if you want a more reasonable comparison, look no further than the Minnesota Wild. The Wild have sold out every ticket since the inception of the franchise and also possess an admirable waiting list for those tickets—and yet this year they decided to impose a price freeze for next season.
In essence, Minnesota has offered an economic olive branch to their fans, sure to build goodwill and strengthen loyalty; in Vancouver, they simply printed up a new bill.
The Canucks can justify it by saying it’s a good product that’s in demand, but I think they’ve missed a great opportunity here. They could have used this economic drought as a way to give their fans a small break, to acknowledge the hardships being suffered by their consumers, in order to better loyalty to the team in the future. Instead, they used it as an opportunity to grab a few more pennies.
That might be sound economic planning for the coming season, but I think it’s bad strategy for the long term. Especially given that GM Place’s 700+ employees, who are currently working without a contract, just voted for strike action this past Saturday. Depending how that plays out (and I have no idea myself what the impact will be on the Canucks game experience, but it sure doesn’t bode well) it seems like—more than ever—the Canucks should be trying to solidify their fans’ loyalty… not testing it.