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.