The independent retailer celebrates 25 years in business this week and exemplifies everything modern retail needs to be in 2019.
Since 1994: Sportscard World will take you back in time
Matt Maloney and Ben Murphy have been working at Sportscard World since before Sunday Trading was allowed in Adelaide.
“We were in City Centre Arcade for pretty much 24 years,” says Matt.
City Centre Arcade is the one where the Nike Store is on Rundle Mall, and where the new Romeo’s Foodland Supermarket is currently being built.
Shop 5, Regent Arcade
101 Rundle Mall, Adelaide SA 5000
Matt and Ben moved to Regent Arcade last year and this Easter Weekend marks 25 years in business.
While the world has lurched through technological advances and been shrunk into a device we can carry around with us in our purse or pocket, Sportscard World continues to sell photos printed on pieces of cardboard at an astonishing rate.
Just reading 1994 on the store’s sign and saying it out loud feels nostalgic to us.
“It is,” says Matt with a chuckle. “Because we’ve both been here since the day the shop opened and we’ve seen all the different trends, even customers – guys we were dealing with who were 15[-years-old] like we were are now coming back and even bringing their kids to the store.”
Lining the walls of the small shop and laid out in glass cabinets around the perimeter of the store are individual and important cards. There are AFL cards and basketball cards. There are cards associated with hit Japanese TV shows like Yu-Gi-Oh!
Sportscard World’s customer base is broad in its age-range but there’s a shared fondness for the heady days of the 1990s when basketball was at the peak of its popularity.
“Michael Jordan,” says Matt. “Michael Jordan, Three Peat Chicago Bulls – that is why I got into this business.”
Matt and Ben disappear into the back of the shop and return moments later with two parcels – one an autographed Michal Jordan card, and the other his Chicago Bulls Rookie card. Both cards are worth money, but they’re worth more than that to Ben and Matt.
“These are for us,” says Matt, “they’re not for sale.”
So why didn’t this shop go out of business when the 2000s came on and Michael Jordan retired (for the third time)?
“It’s a niche market,” says Matt. “We have a niche market and a level of expertise that’s really appreciated by our customers.”
Sportscard World has a website but Matt and Ben don’t sell anything using ecommerce. You can email them and arrange a sale, but the focus is always on the physical.
“We have trade days here, out the front of the shop, where up to 20 or 40 people gather to show off their collection, talk and trade,” says Matt. “We’ve built a community around this store.”
Selling AFL cards has dovetailed nicely with the Adelaide Oval redevelopment, and on game days trade goes through the roof for the Regent Arcade retailer.
Matt says he’s had many different people come and buy cards from Sportscard World, including astronaut Andy Thomas and the parents of football players, looking for a card with their son or daughter on it.
“I don’t always recognise these people but we get to talking and I quickly work out the connection,” says Matt. “I’ve caught a couple players in here too, looking intensely over the collection on display, ‘Are you looking for your own card?’ I’ll ask. It’s fun, and once they get over their embarrassment we have a great moment there giving them their card.”
Sportscard World may appear as an anachronism on the retail landscape in 2019, but its core business is irrelevant when compared to its cultural relevance. They’re a niche retailer with expertise that has built and nurtured a community over the past 25 years. It’s no wonder they’re successful.
Matt pulls out a silver cellophane package. It’s roughly the same size as an iPhone. He asks us if we want to open a pack of original 1990 Skybox basketball cards. We do.
Instantly we’re teleported back to the Blackwood Triangle Newsagent, the anticipation, the smell – it’s 1994 again – and we just got a Shack rookie card!
If you know, you know.