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.