Monday, July 21, 2008

An Interview With Mark Sapir

Mark Sapir has been the head honcho for etopps for about two years now. He is originally from New Mexico, went to business school at NYU and worked in marketing at Kraft Foods for 8 years before being hired by Topps.

This is a transcription of a telephone interview that occurred earlier today.

EIHM:How is the state of etopps right now?
MS: I think it's in a good place. The card quality is great. The games have better value. Membership is growing. Our challenges are to get better, have better customer service, manage print runs and continue to improve the core. Our product has demand on the secondary market. The endgame is to make sure the platform is sustainable, not just to make money.

EIMH: What needs improvement besides improving the core?
MS: Increasing the membership. At first I wasn't confident new members would stay. Thanks to a better product and the newer sets such as Allen & Ginter and the Mickey Mantle collection, we've brought in newer collectors.

EIMH: Will there be more advertising for etopps to get new members?
MS: Yes, now that I'm confident that new members will stay with etopps, it seems worth the investment.

EIMH: I like how McFarlane covers a lot of different genres. Have you considered expanding etopps to cover movies such as Star Wars for example?
MS: I would only do it if it complemented etopps.

EIMH: How has Michael Eisner influenced etopps?
MS: He hasn't directly but he has a lot of ideas and considers etopps an amazing platform.

Incidentally, last week Topps hired a new Chief Digital Officer who came from which has the reputation of being one of the best sports website.

EIMH: Are we done for now with baseball autographs with Jose Reyes?
MS: No. In fact, we are getting the second batch of 2008 baseball in-hands soon and when they become available we will be going after players to sign these cards, getting all of the good rookies.

EIMH: Will these be offered soon?
MS: I'm not sure. By the time we got last year's rookies signed, we were already in the football season and it doesn't make sense to offer baseball autographs during football. But if we can get any of these rookies to sign before football, we will try to offer them.

When it comes to those who get shut-out from autographs, we can either raise the price, offer more quantity or don't do any at all. But I think people like the autograph program and we'd rather have as many players as possible with a maximum quantity of 100. Obviously, I would rather see shut-outs than lost revenue and it's hard to predict what will sell out. It probably was a mistake to allow up to 3 Prince Fielder autographs per account rather than 1.

EIMH: Would you consider raising print runs on base cards considering the response you have received from those who complain about getting shut-out?
MS: We are always evaluating and adjusting print-run and price. I think right now the platform is in a good place. We'd rather have shut-outs vs. flood the market. It's not the worst thing in the world and it helps the secondary market.

Look at it this way, the ones who complained about the unlimited quantity print run [Ian Kennedy] also complained about getting shut-out.

EIMH: What are the challenges etopps faces besides improving its core and better customer service?
MS: Plenty of things: getting players, getting cards printed that are of high quality, getting images available at IPO--not once did we offer a card this baseball season that had the words "image coming soon" rather than the player's picture. We're continuing each week to stop multi-port owners so everyone gets a shot at IPOs.

EIHM: Is there anything new that will be announced at the econ next month?
MS: Yes, there will be an announcement about a new secondary market partnership to buy, sell and trade etopps cards that I think people are going to like.


Anonymous said...

Great job to get this, Derek.

Harish said...

Great questions and answers from Sapir, particularly,

"Yes, there will be an announcement about a new secondary market partnership to buy, sell and trade etopps cards that I think people are going to like"

Wow can't wait for that!

Anonymous said...

A few canned responses that we've seen under the "Ask eTopps" heading, but still a good job overall. I wonder what the secondary news is...

No Brainer Bargains said...

In hindsight, even my questions could have had the "ask etopps" feel to it. It's kinda hard to make it different when you're using the same writing format and same medium. Maybe next time I'll record it with me on video so it comes out less canned.

I think what didn't come across in this format is capturing his tone of voice and emphasis that etopps is not in it for the money. I think he said this at least five times during the interview.

And if I recorded it on video, it would be easier to post. Who wants to transcribe and edit a 15 minute interview?