Saturday, March 7, 2015

Gold Rush

I had an opportunity recently to speak with Larry Mathe who has been designing the Greg Norman Ladies line since fallof 2014. Larry was the founder and former CEO of EP Pro, the leading women's wear company in the green grass industry for over 15 years and his commitment to maintaining market share in the golf market is apparent not only in his conversation but in the look of the most recent line previewed in Orlando for fall of 2015.

Larry, it must be nice to being doing what you love, but being under the radar, so to speak. Why don’t you bring us up to date on recent histories and how your role with the Greg Norman team has evolved?

Craig I see myself as fortunate to be doing something that I have great a passion for and equally fortunate that I am working with a great team of people. The product side of the business is what I enjoy the most and when Mike Setola asked if I would partner with them on the women’s segment of their business it required very little thought on my part.
Shortly after teaming up GNC Robert LaFontant and Nikita Gandhi both from EP became part of the GNC womens team. Needless to say having spent many years working with Robert and Nikita we were able to influence the direction of the ladies product very quickly.

Your reputation in the industry as a leader in ladies apparel precedes you. What do you see as the future of this important part of the business and specifically how do you see the Greg Norman line creating differentiators in golf retail?

The Greg Norman Women’s  brand is a casual lifestyle collection that offers our customer traditional casual sportswear that embraces modern styling, fabrics and fit. While the collection is highly appropriate as golf apparel its greatest appeal is a versatility that allows the customer to feel very comfortable wearing the product in non-golf settings.
A great many of the product offerings in the women’s golf market share a sameness that we try to avoid. The Greg Norman collection is a result of a focus on tasteful and understandable fashion that allows the purchase decision to come without a great deal of effort.

The collections displayed in the booth in Orlando previewing Fall 2015 looked incredible. Have you seen anything lately at the shop level that excites you both in terms of merchandising and/or salesmanship?

While I do spend a fair amount of time on the road visiting shops- I tend to devote as much of my time to shopping retail stores as I find that in terms of design inspiration they have product assortments that offer a greater potential for having an influence on our product direction.
There are many very talented merchants in the golf industry who do a remarkable job-especially in view of the product assortments they have to choose from.

The ladies apparel business is one of the more difficult to manage in most parts of the country. What would be your advice to buyers as to how to maximize this part of their business?

Avoid duplication—how many color blocked polos do you really need to carry?

There are a number of different customer types that visit a shop on a daily basis- You need to find that balance where you can offer variety without spreading yourself too thin with too many vendors—4 to 5 womens vendors should be more than enough depending on the size and type of shop you have. I think a strong argument could be made that if you have a small to medium sized shop and have more than 4 women’s vendors you are over assorted.

The Gold Rush Collection in the fall 2015 Greg Norman Ladies line is black, white and gold and is probably the most sellable group of ladies apparel I have seen in a long time. Larry agreed that it is probaly the best he has produced in a career that has engendered many "bests".

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Woven

In the couple of weeks past, I had occasion to sit in on breakout sessions at the MOY conference, vendor presentations and many meetings with clubs where the subject of the viability of woven shirts comes up as an appropriate category for Golf Shop retail. All the major vendors that cater to the green grass channel have now added the category and of course all golf customers whether they are members of high-end clubs or playing municipals on the weekend wear them most of the time. A fairly traditional button down polo is what is usually implied when the invitation says casual business attire.

That being the case what is being merchandised regardless of the venue could be considered an impulse item in that the customer thinks to himself “I can always use another one of these”, and yet an oft heard comment from golf retailers is “well we tried them and didn’t do well."

So the key to selling this category is obviously to buy the right product and then to choose the proper mode of merchandising for your clientele, for the particular time of year and for the traffic pattern in your space. 

Giving your customer an opportunity to buy good quality brand name oxford basics is a good starting point when thinking of building a display – but just like selling white and khaki hats the display needs color to get the customer’s attention. The stripes, ginghams, and glen plaids are the interest arsenal and then you should consider the “gotta” have it because I can’t describe it piece where the only thing that comes to the mind of the shopper is “I don’t have one of those."

Table displays with bust forms layered with lifestyle pieces; vests, shirts and ties put together in gift boxes with tissue, and small tasteful logos on the left cuff are all important considerations. If the club logo doesn’t reduce well to a size appropriate for dress shirts use just the name of the club embroidered in script or the club font.

Make all of this effort very visible – perhaps a round table in front of the counter and don’t give up on it if it doesn’t take off immediately – it is a category worth showing dedication to and developing, it is a staple that your member/customer should be thinking of your shop as a resource for. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Shoe Time of Year

Preparing for the new season involves identifying the categories that are most affected by new beginnings. Everything starts with the staff understanding the product and the importance of the category and wanting to discuss their knowledge with the customer.

In an effort to increase sales in the shoe category provide your members/customers with better service and information about one of the most important pieces of equipment in their repertoire. The most effective way to accomplish this is to invite the sales associate from your major shoe vendor to make a full blown line presentation and product-knowledge seminar to your entire professional staff. They can provide detailed information regarding the construction and fitting of shoes, offer tried and true selling suggestion, but most importantly they explain that golf shoes are the foundation of the golf swing and drive home the significance of them being as properly fit as are clubs.

Create eye catching displays in the golf shop to attract attention and conversation about golf shoes. This is particularly true now that the spike-less phenomenon is still riding a crest. Install shoe displays in the locker room and enlist your locker room manager to assist in marketing golf shoe sales. Make sure that he is invited to the seminar and well versed on the benefit of having the correct fit and construction for comfortable and effective performance. Provide a catalog in the locker room as well as on the floor of the shop.

Put up a list of the entire staff in random order. Every dozen pair of shoes sold the next associate on the list gets a free pair of his choice and goes to the bottom of the list. Most vendors will participate in such an effort and are happy to give the baker’s dozen piece at no charge, let the sales rep announce the contest of sorts at his seminar and pick names out of the hat to create the random list.

 Have a spring TRADE-IN offering a significant discount to anyone bringing in an old pair and don’t hesitate to invite your key customers to the presentation with your staff.

Having just attended a number of Christmas parties where the entire Foot Joy line was displayed on tables for the purpose of taking special orders makes this suggestion seem a bit late except that it’s a good idea any time of the year as long the proper audience can be created; member/member and member/guest tournaments for example.

The strategy I use to create the proper inventory of shoes to sell from is to determine last year's sales and think in terms of two turns. Within that number of units I try to provide one style of golf shoe in all available sizes in whatever the most appropriate style and price is for that facility, so that anyone walking in who has forgotten their shoes can be fit in a pair for today's round and then build the rest of the selection around that depending on the importance and relevance of spike-less, street casual, ladies, etc. If special orders are a big part of a club business I order a number of onesies to fill displays.

The most important part of the strategy involves the staff understanding the product and the importance of the category and wanting to engage the customer as they enter the shop and discuss the knowledge that they are now so confident with.