Thursday, December 20, 2012


I was recently invited to Denver to spend time with the management team at Ouray Sportswear by Roger Landry (former Vice President of Sales for Imperial Headwear) to discuss their entrance into the golf market.

Ouray (You-Ray) is a 48-year-old decorated sportswear business that delivers approximately 2,000,000 units a year to resorts and collegiate bookstores.

Knowing little else about the company and not sure how to pronounce their name, my thoughts on the plane going west were obviously why and how were they planning to throw themselves into the fire and that other than having the foresight to hire Roger what other assets did they have that would make them a worthy partner to golf shop owners. After spending two days with the Ouray owners and managers talking about the how of launching into the golf market, my attitude about the why transformed to “everyone should want to do business with this incredibly talented and passionate team.”

It also seemed that the best way to convey this enthusiasm, in as transparent a way as possible, was to share the conversation of these meetings with the group which consisted of the following:

Ryan Harrington – President and part of the ownership group

Roger Landry – Vice President and General Manager of Ouray Sportswear Golf

John Whitt – Vice President of Operations

Allison Danforth – Director, Product Design & Development

Greg Hubbell – Creative Art Director

After touring the facility it is obvious to me that Ouray takes a back seat to no one in ability to design, improvise and apply art to apparel. Much of the embroidery work being provided to golf shops these days is outsourced so it is refreshing to have an opportunity to discuss not only revolutionary advances in application and the efficiency of those processes but actual demographic research as to what type of art and in what colors is appropriate for certain customer sub-sets. What will this unique skill set mean to the golf industry?

Greg Hubbell:

We’re all very excited about Ouray Sportswear’s launch into the golf market. In preparation, we’ve spent a lot of time working with industry experts, golf shop owners & buyers, and sales reps, as well as running focus groups with different golfing demographics, to dial in our artistic direction.  The input we’ve received has helped us narrow our new golf offering to 5 vibes for 2013. 

An art vibe is a genre of art that is targeted at a specific demographic as defined by the fonts, graphic shapes, graphic sizes, colors, textures and decorating techniques that best appeal to that target demographic. What we’ll be presenting in Orlando is fresh, new and on trend for the golf lifestyle.

Roger Landry:

I’ve been really impressed with how Greg’s team takes an analytical approach to art and creates best selling graphics based on what is working at retail.  There are twenty-two (22) production and graphic artists in-house that generate over 1,000 pieces of new creative art per year that add to a database of 10,000 actively sold graphics.  That’s 10,000 graphics that have never been seen before in the golf market that our reps and customers can easily access to search, sort and develop new looks for their patrons.

John Whitt:

Not only do we have incredible art but we have world-class domestic decoration capabilities in our 85,000 sq. ft. lean manufacturing facility that is managed using six sigma operating principles. In addition to standard screen print and embroidery techniques, we also domestically decorate using soft-hand fashion inks, foil, glitter, rhinestones, over-sized prints, 3D embroidery, tackle-twill, appliqué, woven labels, patches, heat transfers, sublimation, and combinations of all of the above in various multi-process techniques.

It’s important for us to lead the market with new decorating techniques as well.  Please come by booth #4573 at the PGA Merchandise Show and see a new digital appliqué technique that has never been done before in the golf market that will really have great applications for women’s visors and extremely detailed club or event logos.

Roger Landry:

Again, the domestic decoration capabilities are incredible but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we also have incredible international apparel and headwear supply chain partners.  For example, we have dedicated capacity with the number one headwear vendor in Asia that gives us overseas decoration capabilities and lead times that rival anyone in the industry.

The product line of headwear has been redeveloped for golf but just as intriguing to me is the quality and value pricing as well as the expertise that has gone into designing the lifestyle apparel categories that you take to your existing markets. While the timing of any launch is never perfect, it is true that many golf retailers are not only seeking a partner that can help them improvise or modify their logo and its presentation but are also looking for a source for interesting outerwear, fleece and tee shirts. Let’s talk a bit about lifestyle apparel and what that could mean, perhaps incrementally, in golf shops.

Ryan Harrington

We first became interested in the golf market when we learned of the typical lead times, pricing and on-time shipping records of the incumbent headwear companies.  We knew our streamlined operation provided a real opportunity for our headwear line and our focus on service.  As we started to present the line and received feedback from golf buyers we were blown away by the response to our apparel offering.

Roger Landry:

Every green grass shop has dedicated a significant amount of retail space to “on-course” apparel styles such as performance polos and outerwear.  Our apparel line allows a club to generate incremental sales from members and guests that want to wear “off-course” or lifestyle apparel with their club identity.  Members and guests are proud of the courses and clubs where they belong and play but they need apparel that is appropriate or when they are watching their kids play sports, going to the beach or for a hike, grabbing dinner with friends, celebrating the big game or simply heading to the gym.

Allison Danforth:

That’s right Roger.  While most of our thirty-seven (37) headwear styles are perfect for the golf course, we have refined our destination resort and collegiate product lines to develop a golf lifestyle apparel collection.
 It is a very focused collection that merchandises well together and allows any course to develop a real story based on our seventeen (17) Men’s and Unisex pieces and our sixteen (16) Women’s pieces.  The line consists of a wide range of high quality t-shirts, fleece, light-weight, mid-weight, specialty and outerwear pieces that use color and decoration to merchandise together into tight collections.  As part of our service model, these collections can be ordered with small minimums and regularly changed out as a way to keep things fresh and seasonal.  I think I’m most excited about our unique Women’s collection and the proprietary, specialty pieces like the Asym Hood and our French Terry Crew that are new to golf and sized appropriately for real women golfers.

Ryan Harrington

I agree with you Allison and I think it is important to reinforce that these sales are incremental sales.

We have talked about product and art. What else is being strategized to bring to the golf market that could be seen as crystallizing a partnership? Why would a golf-shop owner or buyer switch over to Ouray headwear and/or apparel. Said another way – What is the blue ocean strategy?

Ryan Harrington:

As you have reminded us Craig, blue ocean strategy suggests that an organization should create new demand in an uncontested market space, rather than compete head-to-head with other suppliers in an existing industry.  Our lifestyle headwear and apparel line represents a completely new and fresh entry into the golf market that will generate incremental revenues for our customers.  While I would never wear my fashion-denim jeans to the club, I do wear them out for dinner with my family.  Similarly, I would love to wear a soft-hand t-shirt with a cool graphic identifying my club when I go out.  My wife would love to wear a warm, soft, mid-weight piece on the lake at night with a distressed treatment of the club logo.  These pieces just did not exist in the golf market until now and represent an enormous untapped revenue stream for our customers.

Roger Landry:

As much as I am excited about our lifestyle apparel line for golf, I’ve been a headwear focused guy for twenty years.  What makes our headwear offering fit the blue ocean strategy?  We are packaging our tight collection of the best selling golf headwear styles and our lifestyle apparel offering with a combination of programs tailored to offer real value to our green grass partners.

For starters, we’ll be offering FREE UPS Ground shipping on both headwear and apparel orders 24/7/365. In and of itself, that offers a huge savings and enhanced margins to our customers. Beyond free shipping, however, we have aggressive dating programs in place to support the seasonality of the golf business.

For example, our July 10 dating program allows customers to pre book orders for deliveries starting March 1 so that their stores are well merchandised in the late winter and early spring with no payment due until July 10th. A similar program allows sun belt customers to begin taking deliveries November 1st with no payment due until February 10th.

Finally, we offer incredible MOQ flexibility. Upon meeting a low $500 initial order minimum, reorders need only be $100 or more. As Allison mentioned earlier, this part of our service model helps our customers keep their assortments fresh year round. Taken together, these programs are the most compelling I’ve had the opportunity to offer in my golf career.

John Whitt:

It may not be a blue ocean strategy but our competition doesn’t seem as focused as we are on service.  For the past four years we have maintained an on-time shipping rate over 98% and credits and returns have averaged below 1.8% of sales over the same timeframe.  Our embroidery minimums (12 pieces), screen print minimums (48 of a graphic/24 of a graphic color), and 5 business day re-order lead times allow customers to chase best sellers and add an infinite variety to their retail selection.  High quality garments and decoration techniques are nothing without service, service, and more service.

Roger Landry:

After 30 years in the golf industry, I joined Ouray Sportswear because of its world class product and decoration, commitment to a golf-specific headwear assortment, a lifestyle apparel collection that represents an incremental sale for our customer, standard free shipping, generous payment terms, and an incredible history of on-time shipping and service.  How can a golf-shop owner or buyer not make the switch or at least try Ouray Sportswear in 2013?

This is a must stop at the PGA Show, particularly to discuss as they do – lifestyle, art innovation and a meaningful partnership opportunity as they are offering incredible dating and free freight. Ouray will be in Booth 4573 with cocktails Thursday and Friday afternoon which is a great time to get to know this group.

As a show special, Ouray will be providing my services for a day of shop consultation from a drawing for those who stop by and leave a business card.  I will be there and look forward to seeing you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Baby Steps

When rounds are down and dollars per round are suffering, someone in authority often declares "We have to change the culture around here."
Putting this change into place is a mystery for some and so a Google search on “organizational culture change” yields millions of results and an abundance of consultants who will help. Their plan typically suggests involved training, re-organization, new systems and social media. All journalism addressing future retail assumes the use of technology, the use of the internet to expand inventories, improved communication with members and customers and mobile devices that provide product knowledge. These endeavors are also part of most canned presentations from consultants and promise to be complex and therefore expensive – “but obviously a necessary step you need to take.”

Most of these comprehensive programs involve a lot of time, money and effort but rarely address what was wrong with the culture in the first place because they involve broad stroke, generic solutions. My reason for pointing this out is it seems an unusually high number of pros in the industry lately are discussing whether  this is the road they should be going down to get their staff and facility back on track. I was told about a big name consulting firm that charged $15,000 to visit, suggest enhancing the club web site and develop a program of social media and wanted another $30,000 for the rest of the program. While the use of new technology will be part of the future of retail and I am fully in favor of getting in front of that effort, more immediate change can be realized by what I am referring to as  “Baby Steps,” - one of the biggest problems with the formula consulting firms is they attack many cultural dynamics all at once and as I suggested don’t always attack the true culprit at all.
There is another way.  

 I have written a 40 page handbook entitled “The Winning Golf Culture” providing tools and inspiration and taking advantage of the unique relationships that are a fundamental of pro shop retail to help you and your staff move forward in today’s market to wow your customers. It offers techniques employed by professional salespeople from approaching customers to cultivating their future business. The mind set and methods discussed have impressed every shop owner or manager as well the CEOs and sales managers of companies in the golf industry that I have advised over the years. It provides a program that will put the process into a context that allows it to be tackled one dynamic at a time and assumes that unless you have been living in a hazard of late that you know that the internet needs to be effectively used to enhance your business. Here’s what some leaders in the industry had to say about the manual.

One of the great things about Mr. Kirchner's Service Manual is that Craig shares his successful formulas for success. He does not stand on circumstance, nor hide behind his paid consultancy services with some secret messages. Instead, his easy-to-read booklet reveals his wisdom regarding service, initiative and plain ‘good sense.’ Craig shares his powerful sense of observation with examples of how we all benefit from customer care. We think so highly of his writings that we have made his manual required reading for all our employees...his insights are as useful for vendors as they are for merchants.

Richard White
Former President & CEO
Imperial Headwear, Inc.

Craig Kirchner’s ‘The Winning Golf Culture – A Service and Sales Manual’ is inspiring to any PGA Professional who desires to take his or her service operation to the ‘next level’. It is one of the best things I have read in 30+ years in the golf business. It will be ‘required reading’ for my staff, present and future. After reading it carefully, it simply makes you want to do a better job providing service to your members and customers. Not only does the manual motivate, but it is enjoyable to read also. From this point forward, my entire staff will look for opportunities to create ‘wow factors’ each day. In the golf business, staff complacency can sometimes set in. Craig. Thank you for the wake-up call.

Dean Hurst, PGA
Bayville Golf Club
Head Golf Professional

Quite simply, Craig Kirchner gets IT! “The Winning Golf Culture” is a road map to a successful Golf Retail Enterprise. Golf Shops in America today are poised to succeed unlike ever before because their members, guests and customers believe and value the Clubs/Shops own Brand. That Brand is the sum of many parts, quite possibly the most compelling being SERVICE. That SERVICE element is completely under the shop’s control….it is the shop’s choice to make it important. Golf facility owners, GM’s, Professionals and Shop Managers can accomplish great things only if they raise the bar of expectations of their shop operations, understand their unique opportunity to compete, and execute as the best retailers in the world do every day. Craig can absolutely help them along that path.

Mark Killeen
Managing Partner
Full Turn - Pima Direct

‘The Winning Golf Culture’ is required reading for anyone in the golf business or the service business period. After reading the manual I feel like I could run a marathon. Craig inspires you with his stories and first hand experiences to be better and better with each customer interaction. His experience and superior knowledge has enlightened our staff and has made us aware that everyone’s WOW factor may be different and that our attitude will influence the desired results and for that we thank him.

John H. Marino
Head Golf Professional
Old Chatham Golf Club

Another home run for Craig Kirchner! This service manual is the blueprint for creating a culture of connection with the customer. Apply these principles and you WILL be more successful. And work will be more fun too.

Buddy Sass
Head Golf Professional
Ocean City Golf Club

The cost for this bound primer is $79.95 including shipping and handling. You can easily purchase it 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 this manual will provide your facility an incredibly competitive edge and fresh new outlook and therefore be money well spent. I bring it up now because it is considerably less expensive than the $45,000 plunge and possibly more pertinent to your situation.
For group presentations and a comprehensive evaluation of a custom “organizational change” that does not require a second mortgage call me at 410-392-0330. I look forward to hearing from you - if you have questions or comments contact me at

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Golf Retail – White Paper

I am often accused of elitism in the sense that some of what I espouse in my writing seems appropriate only for high-end golf shops. I plead guilty. Custom ball programs, retail sales training seminars and birthday cards from the staff, are all top tier concepts that attempt to show how service and good retail programs can be differentiators. This “white paper” will be more generic in scope but more poignant in focus. I want to talk about why some shops fail or decide to fail in a retail sense and define to some extent that failure. Any such conversation demands definition also as to what type retail operation is in fact being attempted. Golf and its stat counters – AGM, Data Tech, PGA, etc., generally categorize golf retail into the following:

A.      Public     B. Private    C. Resort     D. Off-course

It is easy to decipher your shop in these terms but perhaps not so easy would be to classify yourself in more general retail terms. Are you looking to provide with the space, staff and inventory you have devoted to retail, 1) A specialty store 2) A convenience store or 3) A super store?

It is easy to pigeon-hole your shop as Public or Semi-Private but perhaps not so easy to lump yourself in the self-service convenience store bracket, especially after just coming from a meeting where the purchase of a launch monitor was discussed for the range. It is important to determine exactly what you want from your shop in terms of image and profit before making some of the following pertinent marketing decisions:

·         Amount of service –
o   Self-service
o   Limited service
o   Full service
·         Product assortment
o   Life-style, boutique
o   Logo driven
o   Limited to needs of the game
·         Price decisions
o   High markup, low volume
o   Low markup on higher volume
o   High-low pricing – full retail plus sales and promotions
o   Every-day low pricing
Only after one has seriously dealt with these issues and defined what they really expect their shop to represent can one judge success or failure.

According to an AGM member survey the following table is probably a fairly accurate gauge:




Let’s suppose you have determined you are at a public facility that only wants the shop to be a successful convenience store. You have limited staff and budget, you have limited your product assortment to golf essentials and have priced the inventory you do have very aggressively so as to be super competitive. If this is what and who you have decided you are content to be, then realize also that you obviously cannot judge your success or failure against $10.00/round and 30.7% profit margin. What you could be weighing against your savings in time and effort at the retail level is whether that limitation has affected your facility’s image enough to reduce rounds and their revenues. In other words you would be back at the fundamental golf profitability issue of total dollars per round.
Now let’s assume you have decided to not abandon retail and do want to understand the difference between success and failure. Sometimes the important decisions start with knowing what not to do. Often the following issues need to be addressed:

Lack of empathetic (level five) leadership
Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great” introduced the concept of “level five leadership” as someone who blends genuine personal humility with intense professional will.

Lack of understanding of the target market
            Know your demographics and assume a love of the game.

Lack of skilled sales staff
Set the bar high concerning service expectations at hiring and then on an on-going basis train salesmanship

Lack of product knowledge
Use vendors to help educate staff as to product knowledge. There is nothing more telling than staff who not only don’t talk about products in inventory but truly don’t know how.

Lack of service culture
            If you are - or hire a level five leader you will have a service culture.

Lack of proper inventory levels
Inventory levels that make your space “well merchandised but not over inventoried” give you the best chance for retail success. It is like being on second base with no outs.

All of these points have been discussed in previous entries and are worthy of repeating as they are the heart and soul of retail. There is also nothing so constant as change – what was great leadership and knowledge of target markets five years ago did not involve today’s technology and internet. Product knowledge had nothing to do with polyester. People and planning still make for successful retail, but not with yesterday’s skill sets and not without thinking outside the box regardless of your facility’s stature.  Future installments will detail more closely some of these points in as non-elitist way as possible. I thought this white paper approach important because all pertinent determinations regarding identity and realistic goals should be seen as the primary exercise.