Saturday, February 28, 2009

Belle Haven Country Club - Alexandria, VA

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.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Winston Golf Company

The next time you are looking for something special to boost shop sales or a tournament favor that they’ll talk about for a long time put Andy Renshaw and Andy McDurmon to the task. If you can dream they can build it. Probably they’re most famous piece is the Merion Ice Bucket which is featured in their web page catalog. [the link to Winston Golf is on the right under Sites to Visit]

Winston Golf has taken customized leather goods to a new level with their ability to embroider as well as emboss some very unique items. They also eliminate a lot of fluff and middle men and as a result provide incredible pricing. They understand the tournament business and attention to detail that is required and their concern about pleasing their customer is sincere.

One of the great things about the golf business is the people you meet and there are not two finer young men in the industry. If you enjoy doing business with vendors who not only provide quality, value and service but ideas, enthusiasm and inspiration Andy and Andy will not disappoint.

To contact Andy directly call 800-755-1784 under the website link.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Climate in Orlando

The PGA Golf Show in Orlando was in many ways the same as it has been for years – same look, same hawkers and the same all-stars. There were a few new names, lines and innovations. Some of those I found interesting I have listed to the right of this entry and in some cases will discuss in future entries. The one underlying theme that was different and certainly touched everyone was the economic climate and its effect on the industry.

There have been company closings, eliminations of sales forces, cancellations, course closings, course foreclosures, and cutbacks of every fathomable sort. The cup appears dramatically ‘half-empty’. During times like these and assuming you still have a first tee and a Pro Shop door to unlock every morning the cup needs to remain ‘half-full’. The times, to quote Todd Martin of Fairway and Greene, are ‘Darwinian’ and only those working harder and willing to think outside the box will survive. New and creative in retail, as in politics, are what is brewing – anything that smells like yesterday’s coffee will not excite your customer. Consumer confidence is at an all time low, most shops were down 10-15% in the last quarter of last year and the experts are predicting the downturn to continue well into the beginning of the new season. How does this translate to managing your Pro Shop and what we control?

“Lower your inventory and sales projection” sounds like obvious advice but also smacks of the glass being half-empty.
Lowering your opening inventory level for the coming season, carefully planning the space, insuring that your buy includes all the needed categories to make your shop full service sounds better - add to that a conscious effort to be better merchandised, provide friendlier service with enhanced retail salesmanship and the glass starts to look half-full.

If reducing your inventory levels means using considerably less space, think about reconfiguring with a comfortable and compelling sitting area where members/regulars can shop catalogs and where shop staff can sit down with them to discuss their needs, available products and take special orders. Plan to keep a closer eye on this smaller inventory to perhaps replace it sooner than you would have in the past; having less goods that turn more often is a worthy goal in good times as well as bad in that it creates a perception of more selection. If your traffic is transient and you want to stay well-merchandised all season on the same ‘winners’ you can still lower par levels, count and fill more often and increase turns accordingly.

Considering all of the above, this is as good a time as any to consider partnering more closely with fewer vendors. How much of a golf ball selection do you really need to maintain to keep from losing sales? How many demo clubs do you need to have available without showing a loss? How many shirt lines do you need to provide to represent what is worthy and of value in the market? In this vendor narrowing process let the same priority that drives your other business decisions and hopefully has become a manifesto for your season prevail – SERVICE!

Deal only with companies and their representatives whose cup is half-full; those who want to help you educate and dress your staff, stop by and/or call as often as is needed to maintain the proper inventory level and have ideas along the lines of what we have been discussing.

Make getting through tough times a team effort for you, the staff and chosen vendors. Loyalty, an understanding of expectations among the group, sharing an upbeat presence and having an outgoing, optimistic attitude with the team as well as the customer is the job of the coach. Good things start at the top and roll downhill. We want the team member sweeping up to be talking half-full glasses.