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.