Monday, December 21, 2009

Tough Questions for 2010

2009 was, in fact, “Darwinian”. Retail evolved, in many respects quickly, because of a much more value–driven and discerning consumer. Golf retailers, typically more insulated and slower to react, sat in some cases like deer in the headlights and were appropriately run over. Those still standing are in an incredible position to prosper as certain fundamentals have not changed.

1. Pro Shops have customers by virtue of the game that other retailers envy.
2. Pro Shops have a brand by virtue of the course they are associated with that is unique.
3. Pro Shops have only their own lack of vision limiting their potential.

The blog is a year old and has attempted with its 30 entries to touch on many different aspects of golf shop retailing from marketing to merchandising. An underlying theme has developed from which all other concepts seem to take meaning and that is that success starts and ends with superior service, everything else is in-between. The in-between is important and should be constantly molded toward perfection but people buy from people they have a reason to like. The cliché is as old as business and will be true for at least as long as there are Pro Shops.

This being the case and the barometer for next year being only temperately optimistic, let’s review 2009, answering some tough questions with an eye toward the New Year. I have hyperlinked some key phrases back to appropriate entries to give the questions added meaning.

1. Is your staff comprised of likable assistants and clerks who will provide an incredibly pleasant atmosphere and experience for your customer?
2. Are they educated with the product knowledge they need to talk intelligently about all the products you are attempting to retail?
3. Have they been inspired to provide that knowledge as a service and follow-up?
4. Have they been empowered to think outside the box, to WOW your customer?

These are the toughest questions, as they may involve some tedious answers, but staff cannot be expected to produce if they are not educated and inspired. Once the bar has been raised and the culture has become one conducive to retail growth it will become quite clear which players do not enhance the team.

Some of the more meaningful in-between questions that should be answered by way of review are the following.

1. Is your inventory level at season end one that your sale history says will turn 3-4 times a year or better?
2. If not, have you devised a strategy to get it to that level?
3. Have you developed a plan for 2010 that involves buying to space and projected turns?
4. Have you developed a promotional schedule that will inspire your customer base - that will WOW your customer?

These are the considerations that should preempt any plans in Orlando or any decision as to how to invest in inventory for the coming year.

The blog is one year old and I hope has been a useful tool in running your business by providing suggestions, ideas, and another point of view. I will be hanging out in front of the Peter Millar booth at 9:30 Thursday morning in Orlando. I look forward to meeting any regular readers whom I have not had the pleasure of shaking hands with and wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Buy to a Strategy

The Merchandise Buy Plan Guide explains the homework and process involved in determining the proper levels and turns of inventory, categories and vendors. It is written generically enough to apply to any pro shop or retail situation. It does not discuss the need to be strategic with the choice of product and vendor as this is obviously different per shop.

The blueprint for your shop’s buy for the coming season may be the most important you have ever made as two things are true.

1. The experts aren’t expecting the current financial crunch to potentially start to heal itself until mid year 2010 at best.
2. Retail has changed dramatically over the past year and while it will recover with the economy the consumer’s enhanced quest for value will be long-lasting.

Retailers who aren’t aggressively going after the business are perceived as not interested enough to be competitive and are not being taken seriously.

I have had this conversation about consumer expectations with many of the major golf-vendor captains and the underlying suggestion is that pro shops need to be diligently ready to take markdowns that will turn inventory as that is the state of the industry. This is true to some extent but to my way of thinking should never be the overriding marketing principle especially since none of the captains mentioned above explained where the lost margin was going to come from. Said another way, old merchandise obviously needs to be reduced and removed but the buy plan should be built around a schedule designed to inspire the consumer not with markdowns but with promotions that are fun, easy to sign and talk up and where the lost margin is minimal and part of the plan. When you limit the vision in your grand design to the sale rack you teach your customer to wait until the merchandise is old before buying. This is not stratagem but defeatist merchandising that creates a downward spiral that is tough to reverse.

The schedule of promotions should be manicured to your customer climate and particular shop layout. Some of the important considerations are:

· What product will be inspirational?
· What vendors will work best with us?
· What category needs help?
· What will look best front & center and be the most customer friendly?

After these concerns are well thought through, the schedule could look something like the following which you will note never mentions percentages off and could become an occurrence that regular customers look forward to:

March, April – Buy a shirt and receive a free hat or perhaps a sleeve of balls

May, June – Buy two shirts and pick out a free pair of shorts

July, August – Any $100 purchase and pick a shirt off the sale rack for free

Sept, October – Any purchase of outerwear and take a pair of winter glove

November, December – Any $100 purchase receives free gift wrapping and a $20 gift certificate for that “other gift”.

Let’s look a little deeper at this schedule.

March, April - Caps can generally be bought for $5-$6 - less than 10% of an $80 shirt. Off-shore deals on caps require larger minimums but a lot of the initial commitment will go away as the result of a successful promotion. There is certainly never any lack of golf balls on special. Shirt vendors may take interest in your effort and help with marked-downs or early in-season off price. Perhaps you introduce Private Label shirts from Pima-Direct where the extra margin needed is built in to the suggested retail price.

May, June – Memorial Day, Father’s Day, etc. – shorts to golf-in season.
Many companies come to mind here, but Greg Norman, for example, has a program that reduces certain in-line shirts by 30% and allows you to buy $24 shorts for $17. Losing $8.50 per 30% off shirts by giving away a pair of these shorts yields 43% margin and is perfect for that center table and inspiring even to the consumer who typically buys his shorts at outlets. Nothing motivates like free. The important thing is that the price of the new spring shirt has not been compromised. The sale rack is in the back room only to be brought out strategically and the consumer is confronted with a proposal that is intriguing at worst.

July, August – Any residual shirts from the spring buy become the sale rack. New shirts for summer renewal should always be bought off-price anyway. Proper vendor relationships help this effort dramatically and will be the subject of a separate entry.

September, October - Think about giving winter gloves as a tournament favor and keeping the balance of that buy as a shop promotion while receiving a tournament discount.

November, December – Holiday business is a great time of year to be creative but many pro shops don’t want to buy special goods this time of year as much as they want to reduce existing inventory. There is no better way to do this than to use gift certificates to your advantage.

Your promotional strategy after thoughtful consideration of your particular shop may be quite different from that described above but the thought process will be the same. This type of promotional schedule combined with a merchandise buy plan based on sound retail principles of space and turn should be adhered to and become the focus of the shop. Participating vendors need to assist with discounts, point-of-sale material and education of your staff to maximize their ability to discuss the promoted products and advance promotions in general.

The next blog entry will discuss the past year in review but probably the most glaring aspect of this season's business was that shops that promoted maintained their volume and in some cases were able to wow their customer. The shops that didn’t have the vision to be aggressive with the times went backwards and those using markdowns as their only form of vigorous marketing lost considerable margin that will now be hard to recover.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Guilt Gift

Most Pro Shop owners and managers agree that there is a legitimate category of business that has to do with the male golfer taking home a gift to his significant other after a day on the links. Acknowledging that this business exists or has the potential to exist is easy – finding the right product to go after it with is another story. I am convinced that apparel is not the answer and that it is not typically a logo driven sale. The wife or girlfriend that would be appreciative of a souvenir logo would most likely be playing there herself and buy her own shirt or sweater.

The search for the four ‘P’s to fill this void has taken me to the principals at Boca Tennis and Golf Bags. Dahlia Manaker and Chrissy Nield have impressive resumes in the industry and Chrissy’s husband Scottie is a PGA Professional who owns the shop at Inverness Golf Club in Illinois. They both immediately understood what I had in mind to suggest with this blog entry and were delightful to deal with in putting it together.

The Product is obviously hand bags, though they have jewelry and headwear, etc. that they present in collections that makes purchasing and merchandising incredibly easy.

The Pricing is moderate – perfect for today’s market and the potential customer that we have been describing with the ‘guilt gift’ theme.

The Partners are genuinely interested in helping you develop this segment of your business.

The Program that Dahlia and Chrissy put together is described by them as follows:

Perfect ……
For that Special Someone at Home!!!!

Are you capitalizing on your women’s market? Give your customer the opportunity to go home with a statement that simply says, “I am thinking about you even when I am on the golf course!”

Boca Golf and Boca Tennis has made it easy for you. We have designed a small and inexpensive package that offers your customer an alternative when selecting a gift for that special someone. When we say perfect, it really is.

It’s easy to get started. For a small initial investment (only a few hundred dollars) you can purchase a collection similar to the photo above. With immediate success you will be ready for our replenishment program. Simply communicate with us as to what is selling and we will be responsive to your needs.

Boca Golf and Boca Tennis is currently supplying a customer base of approximately 1500 accounts. Our Golf and Tennis retail shops have enormous sell through success with our products. In addition, we have the capability to supply you with tournament requirements, tee-gifts and prizes.

Boca Golf and Boca Tennis is excited to introduce this new program, enhancing yet another part of your business. We customize each account creating the ideal mix and flow of handbags and accessories to augment your shop’s needs.

Boca Golf and Boca Tennis will provide you with a framed sign for you to attract this customer. Allow us to help create another opportunity that will encourage every customer to purchase something from your shop.

Top 10 reasons why you need to partner with Boca Golf and Boca Tennis

· We have no minimums.
· We have products that are fashion responsive.
· We can replenish your inventory to increase your profitability…so you won’t miss a sale.
· Our turn around time is fast. Really fast!
· We can customize our product range for your specific needs.
· Our broad range of pricing allows major margins.
· Creative product merchandising.
· Innovative marketing programs.
· All Boca Golf and Boca Tennis manufactured products are made in the USA.
· Perfect products for that Special Someone.

Please feel free to call Dahlia Manaker owner of Boca Golf and Boca Tennis at 1-888-409-4551 or email to get started today

Please mention this Blog when doing so.

There is a link to the Boca website to the right under 'Sites to Visit'. The program that Dahlia and Chrissy have suggested and the merchandising of same provide an easy, tasteful way to go after that somewhat elusive category of ‘guilt gift'.

The Merchandise Buy Plan Guide has been well received and is still available. The link to purchase it through PayPal is the Buy Now button to the right.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Phil Owenby on "Cutting Edge Service"

The successful pro shop in today’s competitive economy is providing "cutting edge", "think outside the box", exemplary service. Anything short of this does not provide the total golf experience that creates word of mouth marketing and should be considered a wasted opportunity. In previous blog entries I have talked about the Nordstrom approach to retail service, the concept of keeping in touch with the customer and using product vendors to help turn your staff into educated retail sales people as well as golf pros and cashiers. The first blog entry posted here (the Johnny the Bagger story) was about inspiring your staff to understand that good service is not a chore or even a challenge so much as it is ideas from the heart as to how to personalize the interaction and end up being sincere, fun efforts at making the customer’s day. Anyone who does not share the vision and understand service as such is going through the motions, will not be warmed up to by the customer and has the potential to ruin the efforts of others. This usually translates into stagnate shop sales at best and members/regulars being disgruntled with the perceived disinterest just as they would be with the lack of service anywhere.

No one that I have worked with in my golf career understands this better, sets the bar higher or translates this to the ‘golf experience’ more effectively than Phil Owenby. The mission at Kinloch Golf Club outside of Richmond where Phil is the Director of Golf is not to make the customer feel simply serviced but to make them feel special to the point where they can’t wait to tell someone about their day at an incredible golf course and how extraordinary everyone was that worked there.

Kinloch Golf Club was recently recognized as America’s 4th best private golf facility in the 2010 Golf World Readers’ Choice Rankings. The club received the only perfect “10.0” rating of the entire listing in the Service category and was ranked 1st in the country.

Phil, it seems that setting the bar high starts at the new hire interview. How do you instill new employees with the Kinloch mantra and what is your tact for defining expectations?

Bringing a new teammate onto the professional staff is a difficult process. You really do not know how an individual will respond to the culture, environment and responsibilities of the position until they are actually in the situation. My focus in the interview process is primarily based on attitude. We are in the hospitality business that requires a “can do” personality and genuine sense of wanting to assist others. It is important our staff members understand from the beginning that our club members and their guests are provided genuine southern hospitality including a friendly, courteous greeting and firm handshake on every visit. This sets the tone for the terrific golf experience that follows. We are very fortunate to have earned some recognition for our world class golf course conditions. The personality and service from our staff must be commensurate to fulfill our mission statement and business model. Our expectation for each staff member is based on attitude, anticipation, presentation and teamwork. These service principles are paramount to the success of our operations and are a continuous challenge to each staff member. Each principle is explained in great detail including examples of expectations and opportunities. We are continually focused on enhancing our service model with input and ideas from our staff members. Our goal is to be better today than we were yesterday.

As a consultant to Kinloch I have had the pleasure of sitting in on a full staff dinner where the primary subject discussed was good and better service. Phil, explain if you will, inspiring your staff in general as it is certainly a daily activity and do you see these efforts as creating revenue for the club?

The staff dinners are perfect times to throw a service topic on the table and let all team members respond. We get together in this setting without the encumbrance of telephones and the usual activities of the day. The idea is to get everyone excited about serving others and generating opportunities to improve our service operations. From these meetings we have incorporated operational programs including our custom golf ball program, vehicle detail service, departing beverage service and other services designed for convenience. Many of these ideas result in revenue producing programs, but are largely formed from service enhancement discussions at these dinners. As you have experienced, these meetings are comfortable and include many light hearted stories about daily activities. This casual environment enhances the opportunity to motivate and challenge us to provide more “knock your socks off” and “raving fans” service programs. The camaraderie and motivation of our team that produces more revenue producing opportunities are certainly the benefits of these dinners.

I continue to use the phrase ‘'think outside the box' in context with service and it starts at Kinloch when you come through the gate. Give us some examples of special treatment and the resulting stories and word of mouth that it can create.

It is standard procedure with our team that we all realize that “little things” make the big difference when it comes to service. Practices as simple as a Titleist 2-ball pack Thank You placed in a member locker for a large purchase or favor. Or, noticing a member (or guest) vehicle low on fuel and taking the time to fill before the round is complete. Another regular practice we promote with all team members is to be attentive when around our members and guests. People will always let you know how you can serve them better. Thinking outside of the box is not a complex phrase. We believe it is doing the little things that create convenience and comfort for our members and operations. The systems we have developed offer our staff members the opportunity to complete the expected tasks and to be aware of unexpected opportunities. A perfect example can be found in our locker room at Kinloch. Our locker room manager, Gilbert Taylor, has a wonderful positive attitude and inspires all of us with his constant flow of service ideas. One day we were talking about the shoes in our locker room and he mentioned that he would like to enhance the “look” of the entrance. His idea to place a Foot-Joy catalog on a pedestal with a display of new shoe styles where our members could review has become a terrific benefit to the operation. As a service to the members, he always reminds them when their golf and/or casual shoes are in need of repair or replacement, so the catalog and display fit perfectly for this subliminal sales opportunity. The benefits far outweigh the increase in revenues as it has created a great teamwork opportunity with the golf professional staff along with the awareness of better performance footwear for our members. Our members are always talking about the unique “look” that GT offers in the locker room.

I have run into people all over the country who have had the privilege and pleasure of spending a day at Kinloch relate their experience with the staff and say they can’t wait to play there again. Obviously this makes members proud as well as anxious to expose guests to their club. If this were true of more facilities and rounds of golf would there not be more golf played? I know your concern is Kinloch but would you agree that collectively everyone in the industry should be looking to enhance the ‘golf experience’?

The Kinloch Experience is all about our team, their attitude and their passion. Every member of our staff has a passion for excellence, enjoys being associated with the golf hospitality business and wants to be a part of the experience. It is about creating relationships with members and guests that creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and friendship. I go back to the four points of service including attitude, anticipation, presentation and teamwork that we continually impress on each other daily. It is truly contagious if you impart a positive, genuine attitude with anticipation of needs and desires while showing a neat, clean and inviting presentation surrounded with great teamwork. I do agree that any facility can benefit individually and collectively from this strategy of enhancing the experience. The Kinloch Experience is our brand that we continually develop and improve through the ideas and performance of our staff members. Our facilities, systems and service all improve through a constant desire to get better at our business model.

Kinloch Golf Club opened on April 14, 2001 and along with the above mentioned Golf World acknowledgment has been recognized as:

2001 #1 Best New Private Golf Course by Golf Digest
2008 Golf Digest Index Top 50 Golf Retreats - #7
2008 Golfweek Top 100 Golf Shops – Top 25 Private Clubs
2009 Golfweek Top 100 Modern Courses in US - #12
2009 Golf Magazine Top 100 Courses in US - #84

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Lifetime of Style

I was able to spend some time recently with the principals at Peter Millar in their showroom in Cary, NC and listen to them discuss the spring 2010 line and the inspiration for some of the changes and additions. Chris Knott (founder and overseer designer) and Scott Mahoney (President) have become good friends of mine because of their passion for style and their commitment to some of our mutual customers. They both shared their ideas for the coming season and how they see them being used in golf shops. The ideas were as new and fresh as any I’ve heard for 2010 and the product, as always, was special.

Rather than producing our interview (which I will do at some point in the future). I thought for this entry I would post the notes and video supplied to me by Millie Graham (Director of Marketing: who actually runs the company while Chris and Scott aren’t looking) as a preview for everyone of what’s to come.

Here are a few of her highlights:

Summer Comfort Collection

We have tripled our assortment of Summer Comfort product and the response has been unbelievable. We think you will like the new styles and colors offered for Spring 2010.

Knits - Our mercerized knit collection is complete and well thought out with 4 color stories. The colors are wearable and have cool trims and details that set us apart from the market. Each of the color collections are strong and will give your shop a boost of color throughout the spring & summer season.

Throwback Double Pique shirts – A classic cut pique with banded sleeves. Double pique is considered better than single pique because of its construction. This gives stability to the fabric resulting in a great hand and no pilling. The shirts are pigment dyed and then finished with an enzyme wash making them a great washed down color that is very soft. We showed this shirt to some of the younger Tour guys (Webb Simpson and Bill Haas) and they flipped over these knits.

Sun-washed Collection

We love this assortment of washed down with a broken–in feel knits, tees, sweaters, wovens and shorts. This is what guys are wearing “off” the golf course, on the weekends and on vacation. We have improved the offering in this collection with unique items such as:

Sun-washed wovens - New garment dyed silk/cotton shirts are the perfect light weight and just the right “washed down” color. We suggest when selling these to your members – have them hanging with the sleeves rolled up for a more casual look. As always, we have added unique details like inner contrast tipping on the necks and cuffs.

Broken in twill shorts - This short has a special pigment dye and wash that gives it a vintage feel.

Polos - Great colors, casual fit complete with the Sean collar.

Satin Washed polos & tees– Jersey knit that is garment dyed and then put through the same wash as our ¼ zip Interlock – this gives it a soft hand and silky finish. The collar on the knit has a poplin woven trim in the neck and placket. This gives the collar a crisp stand – we even added a left chest pocket.

Footwear Collection

With the success of our Driver Moccasins, we felt that it was time to debut a deeper collection of shoes that guys really want. The quality and craftsmanship of these shoes are incredible and we think that our customer will appreciate the new designs. Hand-made and fully lined. New styles to look for: Signature Boat Shoe, Pebble grain driver moccasin, Pebble grain Loafer, Suede Bit driver loafer (in 6 colors) which is also available in ladies.


New styles that merchandise great with all of the color collections. A fresh alternative to the canvas stretch twill belt is the Italian cotton braided sport belt available in 8 colors. Also new is the Suede belt with contrast stitching dyed to match the shoes exactly. Genuine Crocodile belts are a new item and are sure to be a favorite of many, especially among the Tour Players. In addition to the timeless colors of brown and black, we have added some pop colors that will merchandise beautifully with the knits and bottoms.


Added new models and made each one unique with details and trimmings. In addition to the timeless designs of Tattersall’s, checks and stripes – we added some fresh looks for spring including great linens with contrast trims and cuffs.

I have been tabling Peter Millar in the high-end shops for about five years. It has consistently outperformed everything else in these shops as far as sell-through is concerned. Their Summer Comfort has become a favorite with the pros I work with and they are incredible partners for tournaments needs with some unique product and ideas. The Peter Millar site is linked to the right under ‘Sites to Visit’ and is as well done as their catalog. The 2010 preview video is below.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Merchandise Buy Plan - A Simple How to Guide

Since putting the blog together in December of 2008 I have had a number of requests to offer a guide to the methodology I use to create buy-plans for my clients. I have written a 20 page guide providing, step-by-step, the thought process to formulate a buying strategy which will make your shop well merchandised but not over-inventoried. This buy plan technique is one which has impressed every shop owner or manager I have explained it to over the years and in my mind is bullet-proof in its ability to establish key shop levels. Most shops will be preparing to pre-book spring goods in August so I believe the guide is timely.

“At Kinloch Golf Club we have been fortunate to have Craig Kirchner as our merchandising consultant for more than five (5) years. He has assisted in reducing our inventory levels while enhancing the overall gross margins and increasing revenue substantially. Our professional staff has benefitted from his genuine and knowledgeable expertise in buying, display, inventory control and sales techniques. Craig can be an asset to any golf merchandising operation with his extensive background and product knowledge. I would recommend this guide to anyone.”

Phil Owenby – Kinloch Golf Club

“Craig Kirchner started working with me over 4 years ago. At that time I carried an average inventory of $145,000 to generate $400,000 in sales. Today my average inventory is $85,000 and we still generate close to $400,000 in sales. There is no more inventory sitting in the "back room" and I have been able to adapt more effectively to the changing economic conditions. There is no doubt that the principles contained in Craig's Book changed my business significantly for the better.”

Buddy Sass, PGA – Ocean City Golf Club

"A positive mindset accompanied by knowledge, experience and common sense are a formula for success in any field. Craig possesses and utilizes all these traits effectively in his approach to merchandising."

Mike Elliott, VP of Sales, Greg Norman Collection

"For the last five years Craig and his methodology have been very instrumental in assisting us with both our golf shop buy plan and the LPGA Championship merchandise tent. His methods work and we have been able to increase our profit margins with his plan.

Richard D. Rounsaville, General Manager/Director of Golf - Bulle Rock

"Golf Shops today have unprecedented opportunity to be successful. Economic dynamics are driving consumer behavior to be more demanding than ever of a value experience. That experience includes the presentation of the right products, at the right time with the right service in an efficient atmosphere. There is far grater value to the consumer in shopping for golf products in a golf shop where he/she can find properly targeted products that are easy to buy while being assisted by a knowledgeable staff member, versus driving to a mall and navigating a maze of shops with relatively no service in hopes of finding the right product. The key to a Golf Shop's success here is executing on this concept. While some shops most certainly do, many need help and Craig Kirchner has a proven track record of building successful golf shop operations. Now is the time for this industry to collectively pull itself up by its bootstraps and execute. I have used Craig's counsel and I highly recommend every golf shop who is looking for improvement do the same."

Mark Killeen, Managing Partner, Pima Direct

The cost for this bound primer is $79.95 including shipping and handling. I decided it was more practical and easier to use in hard copy and it will be shipped as soon as payment received. You can easily purchase this on PayPal (“BUY NOW” button to the right) or send a check to:

Craig R. Kirchner
1610 Stonegate Blvd.
Elkton, Md. 21921

I am confident that you will find this guide to be easy to implement and money well spent. I look forward to hearing from you if you have questions or comments at

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Day at Caves Valley

For more than 15 years, Fairway & Greene has produced the best cotton shirt in the golf business. Measured in terms of quality, sell through and perennial awards and accolades from the likes of the Association of Golf Merchandisers (AGM) and PGA Magazine, the company has firmly established itself as the industry leader. Since its inception in 1995, the company has remained dedicated to a focused green grass distribution policy, and today sells in excess of 3,500 golf shops in the United States, with another 500 outside of the country.

I recently had the privilege of joining Fairway & Greene President, Todd Martin, for a day of golf at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland, where Todd has been a member since 2000. One of the finest golf clubs in the country, it was indeed a very special afternoon of golf and camaraderie.

Todd and I had plenty of opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics about the company and the golf industry in general. On top of his duties for Fairway & Greene, Todd is also responsible for Zero Restriction Outerwear, both under the umbrella of parent company, Summit Golf Brands which also owns EP Pro. With three leading brands in their respective segments, Summit Golf Brands is indeed a soft goods powerhouse in the industry.

Todd is very articulate, with a quick wit and fantastic sense of humor – traits well honed after spending three years on Capitol Hill after graduating from college as a high-dollar fundraiser for Republican Senate Candidates. Even though we’re on opposite sides of the political spectrum, we both share a common passion for the golf business and the continued growth and success of the game.

Todd, we certainly want to talk about product and the future plans for the company, but listening to you share the history of Fairway & Greene has been a delight for me that not everyone in the industry has had the opportunity to hear.

The company was founded in 1994 with a unique focus on product quality and service excellence. At a time when virtually every manufacturer was driving their product and business decisions on the basis of cost and margin, we didn’t cut corners in any facet of the business. We made exceptional product, and backed it up with a sales team, embroidery, distribution and customer service the likes of which the industry had not seen. Hammering home the green grass exclusivity and support for the PGA Club Professional were big factors as well. Thanks to our efforts, we were able to earn a base of high profile loyal customers early on, and that has snowballed into arguably the most envied account base in golf today. Product has always been king here.

You are now responsible for sales of Zero Restriction. Tell us where that is headed and what one can expect going forward with not only the product but the service and fulfillment.

Like our other two brands, Zero Restriction has been the leading brand in performance outerwear for over a decade now. With so many fabric innovations and product feature patents, the brand is well respected across the industry, and further validated through the Professional Tours and international competitions. We have an outstanding new design team in place that has some brought some fresh looks and new products to the company, many inspired and drawn from extreme sports, but interpreted for golf. There has also been a rebirth of the brand with new corporate logos and imagery. From the flagship Gore-Tex waterproof suits, to Lightweight Windshirts, to our new Hybrid Wool TecKnits, the brand has experienced a rebirth that will ensure its leadership for many years to come.

It would be hard to improve on the ‘benchmark’ you have set, but what does Fairway & Greene have coming that is new and wonderful?

For Spring 2010, we have reduced our SKU count by almost 35% over Fall 2009. With all of the pressures affecting the economy and the golf industry specifically, it’s truly a return to fundamentals with an even greater focus on flexibility, partnership and service to our customers. At-once business has very quickly supplanted the traditional prebook mentality. We continue to have the largest and most comprehensive In Stock program in the better goods area, and we will be expanding out F&G Tech shirt program for Spring 2010. We have always focused on quality, classic styling. You won’t find us trying to launch or chase anything faddish. We’ll leave the UV/Mosquito/Vitamin/Bamboo sales pitches to others. Trends come and go, but classic traditional items always endure.

The industry as we have been discussing is suffering and I have quoted you in a previous entry as describing the current state of business as ‘Darwinian’. At the shop level I have been preaching promotion, service, salesmanship, enhanced presentation, etc. as all need to be pushed to new levels in order to inspire the consumer. At the vendor level what should the sermon be and what can the leader in the industry do to help inspire golf retail in these trying times?

When the industry was flush, marginal companies and clubs could fake it with relative ease. Now that the bottom has fallen out, everyone is exposed and is being judged on the true merits of their product, their service and their sales team. I would say our 15 years on the scene is now one of our greatest strengths. In an industry that is incredibly fickle and likes to delist brands with longevity, customers right now will only trust their precious OTB dollars with brands they know will be here 6 months from now, and will partner with them through the difficult times. This is a business for the long haul, and just like those that flipped houses with horrific results, brands and clubs that tried to come in and make a quick score are finding out just how difficult and expensive the golf business is.

Fairway & Greene, Zero Restriction and Todd especially have been incredible partners to me over the years, understanding that the business is one of outstanding service and unique, club specific needs. About five years ago over dinner Todd asked me what he could do to help my retail consulting clients. Unlike some others who have asked that and not remembered my answer past dessert; Todd has complied professionally with my reasonable request every season since.

No matter the request, the result is always special. I invited Todd to a staff dinner at Kinloch Golf Club in Richmond a few years ago, only to find out that he is an incredibly inspiring speaker who obviously has an entrenched knowledge of the golf business and golf apparel, but also can effectively talk about most anything related to the business. If you have an opportunity to make similar use of his talents, take full advantage, you won’t be disappointed.

Since putting the blog together in December of 2008 I have had a number of requests to offer a guide to the methodology I use to create buy-plans for my clients. I have written an E-Book providing, step-by-step, the thought process to formulate a buying strategy which will make your shop well merchandised but not over-inventoried. It will be available on the blog on or around the 20th of July at a reasonable price. Most shops will be preparing to pre-book Spring goods in August so I believe the guide will be timely.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Class Letter

I’m posting this letter from the House of Carrington to their customers as a blog entry for a number of different reasons. Their letter reflects the times as well as the state of business at the House of Carrington and is extremely well written. The principles who run the company, Andy Bell [President] and Jared Henzlik [Vice President], have become good friends and have great product. Their web site,, while not the typical tour through the catalog will suffice to impress upon the reader the level of marketing sophistication these gentlemen are attempting to bring to golf retail and I would like (as much as is possible on my part) to see them continue with their incredibly styled line and be a major force providing quality and class to the retail and golf industry through 2010.

June 1, 2009

Craig Kirchner
1610 Stonegate Blvd.
Elkton, MD 21921

Dear Craig,

I hope this letter finds you and your family in great health and your business finding some measure of success in this economy. I wanted to first say thank you for your support of House of Carrington. As a small, exclusively distributed luxury brand, it is only through strong relationships that we have found our early success. I take great pride in the efforts of our sales and customer service teams and the relationships they have built which have enabled our business to grow in extremely difficult conditions. Our success at retail, however, is entirely due to the belief of our retail partners, like you, in our brands and our products and sharing that belief and excitement with your customers. For that, I offer my deepest gratitude.

Over the past 12 to 18 months, we have all witnessed a challenging economic environment that only a few people have ever witnessed before. For me, once is enough. The business of wholesale and retail apparel has fundamentally changed right before our eyes. A business that was built on advance orders 5 to 8 months ahead of the start date is now gone. In its place we have a new business where both wholesalers and retailers alike, want to reduce inventory, buy what we need when we need it and avoid the advance commitments that backed up on all of us the last few seasons. The interesting thing about difficult times is that you learn a lot about yourself, your business and your business partners. We all must evaluate everything we do to ensure we have the right strategy going forward.

As much of a challenge as it represents for us as a wholesaler, when we put our retail hat on, we believe the new model of lower advance orders and stronger in-season orders is the right model for our customers. We also believe this model is here to stay and therefore we need to adapt how we do business. We must find a way to keep production minimums at the lowest possible levels and shorten lead times while offering a solid foundation of core items and small, but compelling fashion collections. We must also find ways to leverage technology to bring efficiencies to the order process, increase our speed to market, decrease costs and increase margins for ourselves and our retail partners. The challenge of adapting to this new market reality is a daunting one, but one we are excited to tackle. To quote a dear friend of HOC, we want to be the “idea guy” in the market and innovate with new products, new technology, and new ways of executing an old business model.

Our first step to adapt to the new reality is a complete evaluation of the coming fall season. In analyzing our advance orders for fall along with our production minimums and lead times, the most responsible business decision we can make is to not produce the fall collections. Based on production minimums, the amount of inventory required to fulfill the orders would create far too much excess. We would have made this decision sooner but we wanted to give the decision as much time as possible to look for signs of improvement. As you know all too well, retail has remained challenging on all fronts. Being a small, family owned business, our margin for error is small and we need to make sound financial decisions at every turn.

Our decision was a difficult one to make but probably no more difficult than decisions you have had to make in your own business. We are in a position with our current inventory to ensure flow of quality products throughout the fall season continuing to support you when you need us. We have beautiful sweaters, great colors and patterns in short sleeve and long sleeve knits and fleece, and amazing sport shirts made from the best fabrics in the world. Our mission as we move forward from today is to maximize the use of our existing inventory to service your needs as best we can for the fall season.

Our Spring 2010 collection is in the sample stage. We have already taken the steps necessary to ensure this collection is closely aligned with our strategy for the future. You can expect to see a solid foundation of great core items with small, but frequent fashion collections to maintain a consistent flow of product throughout the season. While we are cautious about the short term, we are optimistic about the future and excited by the challenge of adapting our business to the new market realities. We will certainly reach out to you when we are ready to present our line for Spring 10.

We sincerely appreciate your support both past and future. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary partnerships. Should you have any questions or suggestions about our product, our plan, our people or anything else, please feel free to call me directly at our corporate office.


Andy Bell

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Freeze Mode

I was in a pro shop recently on a bad weather day at a fairly high-end club. There was no play and one assistant pro [Jim] behind the counter when a member walked in and announced that he needed a rain-suit and that he was leaving for Scotland in two days. I saw Jim frown but offer to help the member see if they had what he needed; they didn’t have the large he needed. When the member left Jim looked at me and said, “I know what you are thinking, but we are in a freeze mode and haven’t been able to order anything for about a month now. That rain-suit is not the only thing we don’t have”.

Of course I’m thinking of all the obvious business implications, not the least of which is the $500 sale the shop just lost. The member who still has the need will find a rain-suit and at the same time a new place to shop. His attitude about his home base taking care of his needs has diminished considerably.

Unfortunately for everyone in the business this has become a mantra, ‘we do not have open to buy’. This message usually comes down from the head bean counter and for obvious financial reasons. Inventory may be higher than he prefers and sales generated so far this season do not seem to justify it. There is also the scenario where the shop's business is healthy but the club or facility doesn’t have capital, owns the shop and continues to look for expenses to cut.

At this point however we are no longer running a retail business, no longer are we trying to provide top of the line service, no longer are we providing the basics that are needed daily in order to be considered by regulars or members as a full service shop. Instead we are putting up a banner of negative marketing about our troubled waters and the question for the member becomes not just one of where to buy a rain-suit but where to be a member or a regular, where best to play and have the entire experience. Where will they be able to tend to my guest's needs?

Inventorying a rain-suit in the basic sizes and replacing one when it’s sold is not an ‘open to buy’ issue, it’s simply minding the store. A solid shirt section that is counted and filled every Tuesday morning to a par level of a week’s worth of shirt sales with a vendor who has the right solid shirt for your facility as an in-stock program with a 7 day turn-around is the most economical way to be in the solid shirt business. Not long ago I visited a shop that had pre-booked eight skus of men’s shorts for the season but were out of 38’s. They weren’t buying any more shorts as they were told to sell the ones they had and it isn’t even Father’s Day. Again, no one minding the store, lost revenue, members needing to buy elsewhere. A staff member should have been part of the strategic planning as regards each of these categories and responsible for keeping up the par levels to insure no loss of sales. Doing this effectively per all pertinent categories is the best way to lower inventories and increase turns which, of course, should be the goal.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cutting Edge Sourcing And Partnering

I recently had the pleasure of spending a day in the New York offices of the Greg Norman Collection visiting with Mike Elliott (V. P. of Sales), Jim Annese (Sales Manager) and their talented staff. The acquisition of GNC by The Tharanco Group is being applauded on the inside as a partner who will greatly enhance Norman’s efforts to be the leading authentic golf lifestyle brand, combining performance, luxury and style and they already seem to be projecting a more international aesthetic.

Several aspects of the brand that I have admired over the years are its focus on green grass distribution and its diversity of price points not only in fashion collections but essential in-stock programs which, when used properly, can significantly improve inventory turn rates and margin. Mike, Jim and the entire back -end operation are professionals who realize that each customer has unique needs; they pride themselves on being flexible and accommodating to specific needs.

Mike Elliott is a long time friend and incredibly business savvy and so I asked him to give us some general incite about the current state of affairs in the industry and the future of GNC specifically. This is what he had to say:

We are currently operating in the most challenging business environment of the modern day. That means customers are gravitating to well known quality brands offering a high perceived value relative to what the consumer has available to spend. Accordingly, brands that offer a diversity of products and price-points to meet the diversity of the consumer are well positioned. Additionally, brands that offer the latest in fashion and technological advances capture the imagination and attention of the consumers desiring the latest and greatest. Greg Norman Collection is uniquely positioned to appeal to all.

While Greg Norman Collection does offer a range of products that retail from $45 to in excess of $100, the niche positioning of the brand is $69 and under. In fact, the average retail price for 2010 will decrease slightly from 2009 levels based upon the need to respond to price compression in the marketplace today.

As for the fashion and technological inspiration, Greg Norman Collection is a clear leader in both respects. Since the inception of the brand, Greg Norman Collection has been widely known for its fashion offering with the hottest selling styles of today being the Raglan Mesh Performance Polo and the Argyle Body Mapping Polo. With the advent of the Play Dry sub-brand beginning in 2000, Greg Norman Collection made a commitment to lead the golf industry in performance fabric innovation. That commitment to product innovation has led to the offerings of today including ML50, 2-Below, TCT and G-Tech among others. Within the performance area, customers are raving about the ML50 fabric that is also used in conjunction with the 2-Below and TCT offering. ML50 represents a micro-luxury 50 denier synthetic fabric that provides a soft, silky hand, easy care and moisture wicking at $69 and less. 2-Below and TCT (TEMPERATURE CONTROL TECNOLOGY) both incorporate technological advances that provide cooling and heating of the skin for additional comfort on extreme days. In 2010, ML50 will be enhanced becoming ML75 and thus an even more luxurious fabric. As for the fashion aspect of this fabric, Greg Norman Collection began a new "embossing" process in Fall 2009 that will be expanded in 2010.

To Mike’s point - in merchandising the shops that I work with for spring the product that has caused the most enthusiasm and sell-through has been the GNC ML-50 shirts.

No one on either side of the table would deny the statement that golf is relationship-selling. Productive relationships in business are based on empathy that results in concerned colleagues managing to walk the same path towards matching goals. Mike and company have done an impressive job of putting together a hard-working team that ‘gets it’ - that do care about their partner’s business and are willing to think outside of the box if it benefits the customer. Mike and Jim and the rest of their team are the go-to guys for corporate needs, tournament needs and good business advice. Give them a call – I do, their Site link is to the right.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Million Dollar Dollar

The May Newsletter from Pima-Direct headlines two retail strategies and suggests that you choose one for 2009. The ‘Ostrich Strategy’ shows a cartoon of an ostrich with his head in the sand and enumerates the keys to the strategy of doing nothing and the expected results. The ‘Get Promoted Strategy’ contrasts the ostrich cartoon with a picture of a shirt and tie merchant carrying a huge ten dollar bill under his arm.

There is a restaurant in Newark, Del. that sends out a newsletter, much like Pima-Direct’s and the newsletter most Country Clubs and many public facilities keep their members and regular customers appraised of promotions with, called ‘The Scoop’. The restaurant is called CafĂ© Gelato and the owners think outside the box. The Scoop’s idea for May was obviously to entice patrons to bring Mom in to dine for Mother’s Day. The hook was marketed as ‘Millionaire Mom ‘ and the offering was that all Moms dining there on Mother’s Day weekend received a Delaware Lotto Ticket.

Most Pro Shops assuming decent weather have customers coming through the door; the challenge is to provide quality and expertise, sales help, product knowledge and to create an atmosphere that inspires shopping that is value-driven and fun. The two newsletters led me to this entry which will suggest that Mark Killeen at Pima-Direct is completely on target that all the ostriches with their head in the sand in the golf business are losing the retail battle. I want to contrast that with a merchant carrying a huge check for a million dollars instead of a ten-spot.

Here is the Pro Shop Strategy:

  • Pick a day of the week that is appropriate not only for your business but also coincides with the local Lottery drawings. Call it Saturday for this example.
  • Decide on a number of Lotto tickets you will be comfortable purchasing and that will make a difference for the day you have chosen based on your history of total sales for that day.
  • For this hypothetical let’s say 100 so we have a $100 investment.
  • Send out email announcements, a newsletter entry and a huge promotional sign in the shop. On Sunday have your own second drawing. Most lotto tickets have 6 numbers so you draw 6 numbers also.

'Millionaire Saturday'
The first 100 purchases of $50 or more
receive a Lotto ticket

Save your ticket for our Sunday Drawing!

5 numbers matched and Saturday’ purchase is free
4 numbers matched and Saturday’s purchase is 80% off
3 numbers matched and Saturday’s purchase is 60% off
2 numbers matched and Saturday’s purchase is 40% off
1 number matched and Saturday’s purchase is 20% off

Father's Day is fast approaching - you could have Millionaire Dad. The idea here is that Ostriches won’t be trying this hard but your shop will have some fun and have people talking about the promotion. Your cost is $1 per sale and hopefully some winners; hopefully a millionaire (then the word of mouth goes through the roof) and worst case scenario a quick 100 sales on Saturday morning. In the case of bad weather maybe you win the Lotto.

Hats off to Eddie Suchora at Park Country Club in Buffalo who beat his April sales forecast by double digits. Eddie very successfully instituted the Custom Ball Program for his members this spring and ran a promotion all month giving a free hat with the purchase of a shirt.

John Marino at Old Chatham in Durham, NC puts a signup sheet at the register for each of the Major Tournaments. The cost to the member is $25. There are eleven names per pool. After the cut at each tournament the staff randomly chooses the top ten names on the leader board and plugs in against the member names 1-10 per pool. Number 11 is the field. The winner per pool wins $275 shop credit. John credits this idea to Bob Ford who apparently has a $50 version as well. This idea works For Triple Crown races also and this Saturday is the Preakness.

Get out of the sand - it takes an idea, occasionally a small investment and the time it takes to print a sign.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

LinkedIn - The Group

The readership of the blog has grown exponentially since the Orlando Show to the point where there are readers in 40 countries. While some of these readers arrive at the blog as a result of Google searches and the like most come to it because an existing reader has forwarded them the Blog address. In other words, the major growth has come about as a result of those in the industry who have an interest in improving their business have networked to their friends and peers who have similar interests that reading the blog may have some value. Two things have become true as a result of this growth:

· Sending out entry announcements becomes too burdensome in volume for normal email services and can be perceived as spam.
· Services that are in the business of email marketing become more expensive as the readership grows and people ask to be added to the announcement list, and even as that growth is desired the blog was not supposed to become an expense.

In an effort to facilitate the networking aspect and evolve the value of the blog to the next level I have set up ‘The Successful Pro Shop” Group on has over 39 million members in over 200 countries including executives from all the Fortune 500 companies. It is the business version of Facebook or Myspace and will allow members of the group easy access to other group members, the profiles of other group members and the profiles of other groups such as “Global Golf’ and the ‘USGA’ group. It is also a great place to post your resume and network job opportunities. It allows me to send a weekly announcement to members about what’s new on the blog with no expense or spam issue.

If you haven’t already received an email invitation to join this group please accept this entry as that invitation. If you are already a member forward this entry to anyone you think may have an interest in this type of networking. The link to LinkedIn is to the right under ‘Sites to Visit’ and will remain there. Leaders in the industry from all sides of the table have already joined and I hope you will take a look and realize the value the Group can provide.

There are some other projects in the works that will also kick the blog up a notch including:
· Videos of product presentation by some of the best in the business and virtual tours of some of the infamous Pro Shops
· E-Books on merchandising and the science of creating a buy plan
· More interviews with leaders from both sides of the table

There is a Discussion area for ‘The Successful Pro Shop’ Group where members can post and have others comment on what they would like to know more about from one another as well as from the blog. Stay tuned but better yet join the group to stay in touch not only with the blog but potentially all those in the industry who realize that the BIG PICTURE is to improve Golf retail collectively.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In-House, On-Line

About ten years ago there were a number of companies competing to own and IPO the online tee-sheet business. Part of the marketing strategy of these efforts was to promise the shops they were partnering with free in-store kiosks where members/customers could make tee times online and/or shop with participating vendors in real-time inventories tied into POS systems which were also going to be provided. As it turned out most of the promises were smoke and mirrors, most of the companies are gone and the only thing remaining is the bad reputation of the term shop-kiosk.

In the entry entitled ‘The Climate in Orlando’ and in reference to reducing inventories by cutting back the space you need to merchandise with a sitting area, one of the asides mentioned in that discussion was that this area could be a spot where shop staff could sit and go through readily available catalogs of partnered vendors and make special order recommendations.

This entry will suggest taking that concept one step further by adding a laptop to the area with a desktop of icon links to all of the major vendors affiliated with the shop. Envision this laptop sitting on a coffee table in front of a small sofa that used to be functional only as a place to sit and try on golf shoes and where now customers can basically point and click to the entire inventory of goods that you have access to by virtue of the shop’s accounts. The backdrop for this desktop of links could be the message that the shop is in the business of servicing the members/regulars corporate and tournament needs. This is obviously an effort to drive the special order and corporate business, but it also accomplishes some things that are more subtle and perhaps not quite so apparent.

Most customers today fall into one of two categories: Customer A – the computer savvy, who like most of the population, are increasing their online shopping exponentially every year; or Customer B – the computer fearful who have trouble opening their email let alone point and clicking to drill down to a leather jacket from Peter Millar.

The laptop kiosk being suggested would intrigue Customer A to take the time to become increasingly familiar with all the goods and services your shop can make available. More interesting perhaps is the opportunity for your staff to teach Customer B how easy it is to navigate the desktop and shop online; more of the ‘above and beyond’ service to which we keep aspiring.

The process of creating this desktop should involve asking the following questions:

• Do the vendors you are researching have web sites that sell to the public? If they do you may want to reconsider your account.
• Does your mix of vendors include categories such as tailored clothing, lady’s handbags, luggage, crystal, blue jeans and tennis shoes. This is the perfect way to provide these categories with a minimum of - or no inventory?
• Does the shop want to go after ad specialty categories such as pencils, name-tags, key chains, tee shirts; who are these vendors and how do we open accounts with them?
• Do we have someone on staff that has the computer savvy to make this seamless and can they be incentivized to take ownership of the project?
• What is going to be the best way to introduce and market this concept to the customer base or membership? Obvious are newsletter and email announcements, but a special order contest among staff members could be fun also.

Make the screen saver a rolling slide show of pictures from the member guest or corporate outing. This will certainly attract attention and promote conversation.

For many shops, whether at private clubs or public facilities with a regular customer base, the special order business can represent as much as 20-25% of the total revenue per year and with a healthy hard-goods business, maybe more. Special orders other than the result of a lesson and club-fitting are almost always the idea of the customer. The kiosk will help inspire more of these ideas in-house. If you are already doing this or something similar please leave a comment.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Too Good to Ignore

The season is upon us and avid golfers are playing as weather permits. In many cases local courses and clubs are expecting rounds to be up as players and members will be traveling less to play and wanting to take maximum advantage of their memberships and/or the pricing at local public facilities. Consumer spending is at a low the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite some time, but it is not dead; it needs to be inspired. Promotions need to be front and center to represent value that is ‘Too Good to be Ignored’.

Start the process by analyzing your current inventory and scrutinizing it for any category that can be promoted or given away with a purchase, in which you are already over-inventoried. If you have gloves or towels that won’t turn twice this season give one away with the purchase of whatever merchandise you feel will inspire the most interest.

Knit shirts are the largest source of revenue in most shops so these will be the examples I use of merchandise needing the most inspiration. Sales managers of the major shirt vendors who travel the country; who see the good, the bad and the ugly are saying that 10% off, even 20-25% off ,doesn’t mean much to the average customer they are seeing so far this season. It means even less to me, in that unique promotions, as opposed to reduced-by-percentage sales, are more likely to catch the attention and be perceived as a value. Promotions can be fun (which everyone could use) and don’t require the consumer to do the math. A free hat or pair of cotton shorts with the purchase of a shirt or two is a great Father’s Day promotion.

“Buy a shirt, get a free hat, and putt for fill in the blank. Set up a small putting area in the shop where the customer can putt for a chance to win a free item or a free round of golf for themselves or a guest Not only will this inspire competition between the members of any foursome, you might create interest in a putter.

If you are not over-inventoried in any category and are not in a position to strategically buy for a promotion of this sort, everyone has time. Consider offering a free lesson at the range for any purchase of $100 or “Play a round with the Pro” for any purchase of $150.

It will take both time and effort to inspire your regulars to get back into the habit of buying new goods this season. ‘Too good to Ignore’ may be the ticket to making sure that the traffic you have re-develops that habit in your shop.

Park Country Club - Buffalo, NY

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Donald J. Ross Sportswear

One of the most firmly entrenched names in golf is now a startup apparel line. Anyone reading this blog knows at least some of the history of Donald Ross and can probably tell you their favorite Donald Ross course. Rob Stein and Paul Wold have put together an incredible selection of micro-poly shirts and merino wool over-shirts and are also in the logoed blazer business. I’m sure almost no one was expecting to see any new labels in Orlando; certainly not any that would excite them or hit a niche like this one does, but Rob and Paul who both have put in time with the Bobby Jones line and have resumes exemplifying good taste know what makes a knit handsome and have successfully translated that to affordable performance.


Rob, before we start talking specifically about shirts and performance let me take this opportunity to ask you the story about choosing what seems to me to be a great name for a new label?

We had become friends with the Ross family and were eventually able to convince them that using the name with the line that we would take to market would further enhance its history and reputation. Of course we also believe the name represents the quality, consistency, timelessness and simplicity of design and performance that we intended to build into the line. The ‘Donald Ross’ story is such a great immigrant story from beginning to end that everyone relates; as an American, as a human being, as well as a golfer.

I am typically not a fan of polyester shirts but found myself sending all my clients and friends to your booth at the show to see what I thought certainly were the most striking of the category and some of finest looking in general. What is it that distinguishes them from the competition?

Without speaking to or for the competition let me just say that we are all about traditional styling with high quality construction and fabrication. Take a good look at the collar, placket, buttons and yolk on the DJR product. We cut no corners. The features and benefits of good tech fabrication are not chemical treatment but intrinsically part of the poly yarn. We use micro-poly yarns which have a finer denier than most of the competition, are almost all made in Taiwan, and are very expensive at market. It is the fineness of the yarn and the gentleman’s cut that we have built the product around that provide a drape that fits more of the typical golf customer and actually aids in the moisture wicking. I think the best way to describe what we are going after with design is traditional patterns made exciting with color. We wanted to go where the competition isn’t. Of course that only works if you have a good story.

Paul, one of the great things about being new to the market place is that there is no baggage. What are your plans for distribution? Is the line intended to be primarily Green-Grass? Who do you see as your customer?

Glad you asked. We are totally green-grass. We designed the line for the traditional dresser that wants the benefits of easy care and moisture management without the high-tech look. We feel this customer has been neglected and that we have hit a niche. Golf is a classy sport with a sophisticated clientele that we feel will appreciate the cut and design of our shirts as well as the merino wool and Scottish cashmere over-shirts and sweaters that the line provides.

As you build a sales team and the volume and sell-through kick in are there plans for customer support, e.g., staff discounts, product knowledge seminars, trunk shows, POS pieces, etc?

Yes, yes, yes and yes. We want golf pros and shop managers wearing our product. We have trunk shows lined up and would enjoy doing seminars. We have POS signage we can ship with an opening order. Let me add that since we talked last we have moved our fulfillment including warehouse, embroidery and customer service to the Pinehurst area and all aspects of shipping and service will be top-drawer. We also love having a Pinehurst address.

Rob, Paul thank you for your time and for enlightening us about DJR. Is there anything you would like to add to this entry?

Yes, the launch is new, but it is the result of about two years of design, sourcing and marketing effort and we feel it is actually a good time to launch DJR in spite of all the negative talk about consumer spending because Paul and I are convinced it hits the niche we discussed incredibly well. The line provides value and styling that allows the better dresser an opportunity to get involved with tech fabric – it’s really that simple. Thanks Craig, it is always a pleasure to spend time with you.

Men’s knit shirts are the most important source of revenue in most Golf Pro Shops and one can make a case for every season showing the customer something new. This season the Donald Ross line is one you should look at before deciding what label will fit that bill. The link to their new brochure is one of the Sites to Visit. You can contact Rob Stein directly at (847) 274-4904, Paul Wold directly at (585) 704-8648 and the new company number is (910) 944-3114.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gentlemen’s (and Ladies’) Night

Today’s entry will be suggesting an upgrade on the concept most commonly labeled ‘The Trunk Show’. Invite one of the major apparel vendors to set up their entire line of samples for the coming season including any item that they currently have in inventory so as to be able to pre-book as well as take at-once orders. Set up in a conference room or grill room; any space that is appropriate to create a store-like atmosphere with rigged bust forms and attention-to-detail merchandising. With the leaders in the industry, Fairway and Greene, Peter Millar and Greg Norman, you can do Ladies’ as well as Men’s. Some of the other vendors that have great fall lines and would be outstanding partners in this venture are Carnoustie and House of Carrington. If your Club handles logoed blazers this is a good time to partner with a vendor who can send in a size run and fit your ‘gentlemen’ professionally. This gives your membership or regular customers an opportunity to get to know the Rep, hear the Company story, ask questions about the product and generally be wowed by the length and breadth of these lines.

Add to this event the same effort from a few noncompeting categories - perhaps a Martin Dingman or Ecco shoe table or a Zero Restriction rack of outerwear. Payne Mason will send in a Cuban Cigar roller for the appropriate commitment and perhaps a beer, wine or brandy tasting which local distributors can help you arrange and now you have a bazaar-like atmosphere that should create an evening’s worth of special orders as well as improve the sell through in the shop of the participating vendors.

Make sure that your staff is actively involved and knows how to suggest in a soft sell way that any corporate or tournament needs can be handled very effectively. Make the effort a win for the representatives involved by increasing their presence in the shop for the coming season. Being a good partner is a two-way street and of course this means picking your participants carefully and making sure that the ‘Gentlemen’s evening is part of the grand scheme of things for the season.

This concept will only work when it is planned months out and marketed as often and effectively as possible to create hype and a big enough audience to make the endeavor worthwhile to all parties concerned. That being said, it is a good idea to couple it with an Opening day or a Member/Guest or a Demo day and invite members to bring guests, friends and family. Obviously some type of discount is a good idea, a drawing for something significant (new driver or rainsuit) will draw a crowd and local entertainment is usually not hard to entice with some bartering. In short give them an evening or afternoon that they’ll talk about and perhaps start to look forward to because, assuming it is a hit and the feedback is good, you may want to do two events a year (one for fall and one for holiday/spring). It strengthens your relationship with the vendors involved and creates business with no inventory. More importantly it drives home the message, whether it is to members at a club or regular customers at a public facility, that your shop and staff are going the extra mile and that at a time when a lot of merchants are cowering in the corner hoping things get better by themselves your shop not only wants the business but wants to make it a pleasure to do business.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Less Volume - More Margin

No one wants to predict doom and gloom, however it is probably true that the typical shop this season should be projecting a decline in volume. Let’s take a worst case scenario of a 20% decrease for a theoretical shop doing $400,000/yr. Our hypothetical shop is now looking at $320,000 total revenue. Three things become immediately apparent:

· There is still 80% of the business to manage and the seeds need to be planted to grow it back to last year’s level and eventually increase it, perhaps dramatically.

· Doing business as usual can mean the downward spiral could continue to the point of being irretrievable.

· Assuming a 35% net margin on our shop of choice, increasing the margin 10% creates a better bottom line than last year. One of the sure ways to increase the margin in your shop is to sell more headwear which was the reason for and the subject of The Affordable Souvenir.

All of the above are just some of the reasons smart retailers and consumers are looking to the personalization and differentiation as well as the incredible value that is built into some of the new quality-oriented Private-Label efforts. One of the gurus in the golf industry who understands, preaches and executes this concept best is Mark Killeen of Pima Direct.

Mark – The first two pages of your catalog are quotes from some of the better merchandisers in the golf industry. Perhaps we could start our discussion of Pima Direct with some of these success stories.

We are proud and honored that we have so many success stories. Doing something different always brings some sense of apprehension. From the earliest stages of the company, we found a group of “Trendsetters” who were open to changing the way they do business. Matt Hall, Director of Golf at Turtle Bay and PGA District 11 President, immediately comes to mind. Matt saw the line in Las Vegas and thought the concept made sense. He gave us a small opening order and the product sold through at margins higher than he had previously realized. We are now his most profitable vendor. Last season we included quotes for the past two PGA National Merchandisers of the Year, Adam Carney and Brad Braden. The list goes on and on and what is most exciting is that the margin and volume successes are quite often greater than the buyers ever thought were possible.

There is a quote from you that resonates with me about your logo being the identifier of your Brand “so treat it like gold”. Without being negative about your major competition would you discuss ‘Brands’ and branding in general and where you think Private Label works best in the golf business.

Treat it like gold is correct! The club’s own brand will always be their best brand and the only brand they can totally manage. There is always room for the best branded products, but there should always be open-to-buy allocated to each clubs own brand. I learned this lesson from Nordstrom 20 years ago (we should all learn from the best!). At that time, Nordstrom was heavily weighted into inventory supplied by brands. They realized that the Nordstrom brand was as strong, if not stronger than the brands they carried. Nordy’s were strategically on the cutting edge by dramatically growing their own house brand and forging exclusive relationships with brands like Facconable that enabled them to manage pricing without the influence of their competition. This strategy, along with cutting edge customer service, has vaulted Nordstrom to be the retail darling of Wall Street. I believe that in today’s global retail market it is imperative for all retailers to control the pricing of some element of their inventory. With the evolution of the internet, consumers have so many more choices on where to direct their purchasing. The reality is almost every brand found in golf shops today can be found at discount prices outside the golf shop. The reasons for this are many, and perhaps grounds for another discussion, but with that being the case, sustainable profitability can only be managed by having product you can control. Again, learning from the best, every major retailer in the country will buy their house branded product BEFORE they place a penny with any brand. In knowing what they have already purchased with their own brand, they then go to the branded market and demand from their best brands the latest in fashion, fabric and color that does not directly duplicate the type of product they will carry in their house brand. This combination of custom house branded product and the best product from the brands is proven to be successful in all retail segments today. You will see this strategy employed by every major retailer from Neiman Marcus, to Saks, to Nordstrom all the way to Costco. McKinsey research has found the custom house brands to be by far the fastest growing category in all of retail; good, better and best. Golf is behind the curve but with our growth, we are helping them catch up.

The value of any product is only realized once it is purchased and used. What do you see as the key in a typical pro shop to getting the member/regular to try the new House Brand and what can Pima direct do to help the Pro Shop and its staff with that effort?

Great question and you have hit the key to success squarely. We as vendors are only successful when our products sell through the register and the consumer is satisfied with their purchase. We believe that if we can provide product with the best value to the retailer and the consumer, then the incentives are aligned for all to be satisfied. What I mean by that is we are focused on building product that offers our retailing partners the highest margins in the market on the finest quality products. If/when the retailer understands that this high margin /high value product can dramatically improve their profitability, they are incentivized to focus their efforts on selling it in their shops. As we have learned, consumers are always demanding more value, particularly today, and if/when our retailing partner realizes our products offer a tremendous value to their customer, then the retailer is confident in selling it. Today’s retail climate is the perfect time to introduce your own custom branded products in the shop as the consumer is demanding you do something different to provide more value. In every golf shop the value equation is: quality+price+service+brand equity = value. Research by McKinsey has shown that the first element of the value equation that consumers will value less in difficult times is brand equity so retailers must focus on the other three elements they can control to be successful. The more we all learn from the best, the better off we will be! Bottom line here is as Warren Buffett recently stated on CNBC, "Not only has the economy slowed down a lot, but people have really changed their habits like I haven't seen." Retailers must make adjustments directed toward understanding these changes in order to survive. Those who do not, run the risk of failure. Those who do make the adjustments have a chance not only to survive, but to thrive!

Golf retailers on an on-going basis need to improve the value of the product they provide. The best quality available at the best price, presented better than in the past, and coupled with empathetic service and salesmanship is a formula that needs constant attention. Rather than talk about Mark and his group and their commitment to service I thought more appropriate would be some quotes from some of the leaders of the industry.

Craig, happy to say something nice about this group....they did a wonderful job with us during the merchandising phase of hosting the 2007 US Open, product was great, pricing allowed us some extra margin and their service was spot on, I would highly recommend Mark and his team of professionals to all - BF

Bob Ford - Head Golf Professional

I have had the good fortune to have been working with Pima Direct since their very beginning. With a department store background, I recognized the value immediately in private label merchandise. It is the bread and butter of major retailer margins. Having the opportunity to introduce private label goods with such a small investment for the golf shops was an easy choice for me. Pima Direct is an absolute must-have for all of my resort accounts. It has had proven margins and sell-through in every situation. Speaking for the product, the quality and performance is outstanding, rivaling some of the best brands in our industry. It is also important to recognize that the Pima Direct team is easy to work with and they really listen to their customers, always ascertaining valuable feedback to improve their product.

Angelyn Horrell
President - Horrell Consulting

I have learned the following over my 51 years at Haggin Oaks.

“If our company continuously operates with progressive operational principles, quality business ethics and for the good of the game, we will always be a leader as the cycles of business and the game, come and go.”

It is important that you are aware that our company appreciates you and your team because you live and breathe this belief. By remaining consistent and on message by telling your story over and over and over, the cycles will come to you over time. What your company represents is needed and will become more needed as the golf industry realizes that passion for the game and the passion for the business of golf must be equal if they want to survive.


Ken Morton Sr.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Primers 101

Successful apparel buying for any retail space, including the typical golf pro shop, is about 80% science and 20% art. Everyone is an “artist” but very few “buyers” in golf fully understand the science.

The philosophy that makes the most sense for golf pro shop retailing and the areas that I work to improve both with the blog and hands-on with CK Consulting can be summed up in a few key phrases. A well planned shop, in order to be successful, needs to be attractively merchandised across all appropriate categories of goods that make it full service without being over-inventoried and it needs to provide service that is “above and beyond”.

Ask yourself a few pertinent questions:

Does your buy plan accomplish your sales goals?

Do you have the proper mix of apparel to make margin?

Is your retail space properly fixtured for maximum volume?

Would you be better off having a retail professional do this for you as well as train your sales staff to sell the goods?

Do you often find yourself over-inventoried and priced at a ‘no-margin’ level?

Whether you are attempting to manage your pro shop yourself or with the help of a professional retail consultant or buyer, the best way to institute a plan to address the scientific area of the formula is the ‘buy to space’ approach. Understanding the clientele and their wants and needs and tailoring this unique mix to the existing fixtures, traffic patterns and peak selling periods is part of the challenge. Having orders arrive that are expressly designed to fit a specific space, that are planned out according to the right turn ratio and that allow for a variety throughout the year of vendor, color and seasonally appropriate goods is also fundamental.

Another part of the equation involves establishing partnerships with key vendors both in hard goods and apparel. Titleist, Foot-joy, Zero Restriction, Fairway and Greene, Greg Norman, E.P. Pro, Imperial, Peter Millar, Pima-Direct and AHead are vendors that have partnered well for me and are willing to help key accounts with staff apparel, shop fixtures, visual display and product-knowledge seminars. Regional Golf Shows are the venue to be on the lookout for new and ‘next best’, but key vendors should be having their representatives visit the club often and with a purpose.

Staff appearance is critical for many reasons, not the least of which is that they are the first impression the Club gets to make. A staff that does not come to work well-groomed and properly attired will never be perceived as truly professional. Perhaps the most important part of the job of a Head Professional and the staff they train is to provide a ‘cutting edge service’, attitude and atmosphere. This can only be accomplished when the bar is set high, expectations understood and the proper education provided. A knowledgeable staff of walking mannequins that enjoys conveying that knowledge to members and guests is imperative to having a profitable shop that members/regulars are proud to patronize. A pro-shop that provides this type of service is open until the last member leaves for the day, it is also usually one with turnover due to promotion.

The Custom Ball Program entry raised a number of questions. I have posted the announcement
flyer that Hasentree created and used successfully to market the concept to their membership.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Affordable Souvenir

In Pro Shop parlance, 2009 may be remembered as the year of the “affordable souvenir”. Keep this and return on investment in mind as you think through product selection and prepare your staff for the upcoming season. The Winston Golf Company mentioned last week has some great products that fit this definition such as stainless mugs and coaster sets but probably the easiest way to provide this $25 - $30 item is with headwear.

Take a look at pre-books and the selection of shirts coming in for spring. Place an order for 6 dozen caps (6 skus, 12 deep) that are unique to your current selection and match up well with the incoming shirts, remembering that a neutral cap can work with even the most flamboyant of shirts. Role play with your staff suggesting headwear with every shirt purchase and display the six dozen piece order near the register to make this process easy. This retail salesmanship is the kind of service and conversation you want your staff to have a reputation for if they don’t already. If you sold 3000 shirts last year and 1000 hats and you were not educating your staff to suggest one with the other you lost 2000 opportunities to increase your volume and perhaps more importantly your margin.

A partner who has all the ammunition you need to improve this customized category is Imperial Headwear. Below are a few ideas as to how to take advantage of Imperial’s incredible service, innovation and realization that it is your brand being marketed on customized product – not theirs:

MARCH – Imperial can now ship New Era caps including licensed rights to Major League Baseball, NBA, NHL and collegiate logos. Consider buying six skus with the local college logos and set up a table with club-logoed shirts in the same colors with perhaps even some needle point belts and/or key bobs from Smathers & Branson with the same school logos. This is a great table to have on the floor for March Madness. More on Smathers & Branson later [see Sites to Visit].

APRIL – Build a shirt and hat table with the local MLB team logo on the cap. If you are at a high-end club in Denver thinking that the club logo is the only one you want to display, consider that all your headwear- wearing members probably own 10-12 caps and visors with the club logo but may also be adamant Rockies fans who would like to patronize the shop with that business. Check the MLB schedule and no matter where you are located, take advantage of the Yankees/Red Sox match-ups. The N.Y. Yankee cap is the largest selling customized cap on the planet and the Red Sox logoed headwear is not far behind.

MAY – Go Green! Buy six dozen caps that are recycled or naturally organic fibers - see pages 2-3 in the Imperial catalog [see Sites to Visit]. Place one each of the six caps on the counter and have your Imperial rep educate your staff as to how to strike up an Eco-Friendly conversation. Culturally it is one of the “in” topics to be discussing and an opportunity to sell a cap to the member/regular customer who has a wardrobe of club caps but only has cotton twill.

JUNE – Go High-Tech! Take an 8” wall, rig it with 3 – 4 waterfalls of performance shirts and finish off the top of the display with a shelf containing 6 – 8 skus of high tech caps that complement the shirts - see pages 4-8 in catalog. Again, make sure your staff understands the proper jargon to suggest this product. Four-ways that allow you to shelve one of the sides for caps is another great space for this performance story. POS pieces that explain high-tech product also help this type of display.

It may sound from these suggestions that there is some conflict between lowering your inventory advice and buying as many as 24 dozen extra hats this season but it is hard to be over-inventoried in goods that typically cost less than $10 per unit and easily retail for $25. It is, in fact, the category that should be easiest this season to increase and sell through if there is an execution of the plan.

Rick White (President), Roger Landry (Vice-President) and the rest of the Imperial group are truly empathic about your business. They can turn orders overnight and look at every customer problem/issue as an opportunity to separate their company from the competition. Imperial continues to reinvent themselves and their product line knowing that, while the basic cotton twill wall may remain the crux of your business, there should be more to your business. You may want to speak to your Imperial rep to give one or two of these ideas a try.

If you have any unique suggestions or experiences with merchandising headwear please share them in the comments under this entry.