Checkmate! The chess business is suddenly booming


Chess, a game that dates back at least 1,500 years, is suddenly one of the coolest games topping wish lists this holiday season and retailers are struggling to keep it in stock.

The popularity of the game can be explained by two main factors: people are spending more time at home during the pandemic and the popularity of “The Queen’s Gambit,” a Netflix show that follows fictional chess prodigy Beth Harmon.

After the show premiered in October, sales of chess sets rose 87% in the United States, while sales of books on the game rose 603%, according to the market research firm. . NPD Group. The sudden gains come after flat, negative growth in these categories, according to the report.

“As Covid-19 hit, board games became more popular, and I have consistently commented in my reports that the basics would work well, chess was one of them,” said Gerrick Johnson, analyst at BMO Markets. capital that covers the toy. industry. “But again, no one knew the failures were going to explode. Now it’s a bit too late. Retailers can increase orders and manufacturers can ship what they have from warehouses, but they won’t be able to. do more and meet demand before next year.

“A number of parents called me and told me they had watched the show and wanted their daughters to get involved in chess.”

Jeff Myers has operated The Chess Store, an online retailer dedicated to the game, since 1999. He said he has never seen demand like in 2020.

“My wife and I watched ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ together and thought, ‘Wow, this is a great show’ and we wondered if that would help the business,” Myers said. “From the day we watched it until now, business has really picked up.”

The Chess Store’s November sales are three times higher than the same period last year. Myers also said the average order size was “on the rise,” with more and more customers choosing to purchase high-end chess sets.

With soaring demand and the coronavirus also complicating its supply chain, Myers said it was difficult to keep some items in stock.

“Because of Covid-19, we have seen great success with our suppliers overseas. In India, where I get my quality timber sets, they have been locked down. Our stocks are down because our suppliers are unable to operate or are drastically reduced, ”Myers told NBC News. “Our supplier in Spain was able to work for the most part, but our delivery was around 60 days late. And another supplier was supposed to be here a month ago.

Mark Kurtzman, owner of The Chess Exchange in New York City, said he was busy answering phone calls from parents interested in chess lessons for their children. Before the pandemic, he organized monthly tournaments for children. Although these are canceled, his network of 22 instructors still teach online and through socially distant masked classes and masked in person.

“A number of parents called me and told me that they had watched the show and wanted their daughters to get involved in chess,” Kurtzman said. “People are excited because it’s a cool show. I saw it and thought it was great.

While demand is high in 2020, everyone who spoke to NBC News said they believed they only had a limited amount of time left to take advantage of the surge in business.

“I think we have a one year window here where we will see business doing well and the interest will be there,” Myers said. “As more and more people watch the series over the next few months to a year, the business will do well over time, but I’m sure it will start to run out of steam and sales will eventually return. a little better or what they normally are. “


Comments are closed.