Friday, March 23, 2012

The Barrington No-Brainer

It is with great pleasure and personal satisfaction that I have this opportunity to speak with Wes Boyd, the Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Barrington Gifts and the spokesman for of one of the most visionary growth vehicles in the industry. The power of the internet grows exponentially daily and Barrington is one of the companies in the golf industry that has harnessed that clout. There story is compelling and one that everyone should understand and contemplate.

Wes, would you familiarize us with the history, principals and the mission statement of Barrington Gifts?

Barrington Gifts began 20 years ago, primarily servicing businesses with higher-end, retail-quality custom gifts. Through our factory-direct value proposition we sourced goods for important events, meetings and programs Current factory-direct corporate clients include blue-chip brands such as Microsoft, Ritz-Carlton, Fed-Ex, Facebook, Disney, Roche, SAP, Dell, NASDAQ, Wells Fargo, the National Basketball Association, PGA TOUR, US Tennis Association, Yale, Harvard Business School and many others.

Our mission is to delight our clients with truly distinctive, custom gifts that cannot be readily found in the market place with regard to craftsmanship, value and service. We accomplish this without exploiting people manufacturing the gifts under harsh conditions, but by blessing them as inherently valuable people with fair compensation and other life benefits not typically offered in overseas manufacturing. By owning and operating our own factory in Xiamen, China (vs. contract manufacturing overseas as most brands do), we are able to deliver a matchless level of customization and personalization to our clients and deliver a meaningful impact into the Xiamen community.

Barrington continues to evolve quickly but what categories of goods are currently available? Also, if you would, speak to the quality of these products and the ability of the company to customize and personalize.

Over the past four years, we have discovered that the custom lifestyle gifts (i.e. bags/luggage, leather accessories and writing instruments) we have provided to clients for business use, have the same appeal for golfers. This is a demographic that is often more interested in something different (not necessarily just another golf-specific item, which they have plenty of) according to our golf pro/merchandiser clients. This has proven true time and time again as we serve PGA TOUR and Champions TOUR events/pro-ams, the U.S. Open/USGA, the Masters/Augusta National and elite golf clubs across the U.S. such as Merion, Pine Valley, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Riviera, Southern Hills, Westchester, Winged Foot, several TPC’s, and numerous others.

Our custom branded custom fabric lining (sewn inside bags, portfolios, etc.) and gift packaging continue to make our gifts stand out in a crowded marketplace of luxury goods. We can deliver this level of customization at a minimum of only 24 units…impossible to attain from other manufacturers. We also can apply logos and personalization (i.e. initials debossed on leather, full names laser engraved onto writing instruments) to gifts from our Dallas inventory/fulfillment at only 1 unit purchased.

When we first met you handed me a business card that looked like a credit card and was also a $25 gift card. The E-Store program is obviously what I refer to in the title as a no-brainer, without going into all the detail explain if you will the basic concept.

It is a very simple and easy to implement program…we create and manage all aspects of a custom branded gift eStore for golf and country clubs in which members can purchase below-retail priced Barrington gifts (with club logo or personalized), and the club enjoys a hassle-free incremental revenue stream. A good example is

What are the key features and benefits, it seems well enough thought through that there is no down side but what in your mind is the primary upside and potential?

Clubs can offer their members unsurpassed value on a full line of luxury gifts without having to inventory them. By offering personalized gifts in addition to club logo decorated gifts, Barrington puts clubs into the holiday, birthday, congratulations and thank-you….personalized gifts business…a unique offering for most clubs appealing to affluent members always on the prowl for something special.

Additionally, Barrington has developed a risk-free way for clubs to create trial shopping at their custom gifts eStores by the use of $25 gift cards that clubs do NOT have to fund! How’s that for a teaser? I can explain how we accomplish this to any interested golf club buyer. The eStore clients can send an unlimited # of eGift Cards (free of charge) or order card stock and plastic gift cards at

Given the membership at the major clubs and the clientele at resorts it seems to me that one of the obvious opportunities this program provides is an avenue to corporate sales. How has this been addressed in the business plan?

Most golf club members are business people and influential people, and when they experience receiving a custom Barrington gift as a tee prize, they often naturally think about giving the same level of gift for their businesses. This presents a potentially larger revenue opportunity as the average business gift order is over $1,000. By simply displaying Barrington’s customization features in the pro shop or giving as a tee prize for a tournament, business people will invariably inquire into the availability of these Barrington gifts for business use.

Word of mouth should soon have Barrington Gifts a hot topic and you have a terrific sales organization that all seem to be very happy to be on board. That being said is there any other marketing you would want to share? Also if you would Wes tell us some of the social responsibility stories that I alluded to in Orlando Notes a couple of weeks ago.

I recently returned from a week in Xiamen, China visiting our factory and community. It is very encouraging to witness those benefitting, in tangible ways, from the business opportunities our clients trust us with fulfilling. We offer benefits such as healthcare coverage, maternity leave, adult education and other life-enhancing services to help our employees reach their potential. We financially support and provide human capital to help lead physical therapy and education in 3 orphanages created to serve special needs children. We are developing a few short videos from footage shot during our most recent trip to demonstrate how business awarded Barrington makes tangible, positive impact in changing the lives of “the least of these.”

This is obviously a company that has thought through their business model with an eye towards the future and the customer. The eStore concept is one I have a warm place in my heart for and everyone reading this should take Wes’s advice about contacting the company so as to understand this better and take advantage of an incredible opportunity to enhance their retail offering. To become the ambassador of driving members to the club’s own web site to shop quality customized goods which you don’t have to inventory in the shop is truly a no-brainer so much so that using Barrington for your next tournament favor and creating the link tomorrow should be easy determinations. Contact Felix Hernandez at 214-252-3557.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dunning Golf

I have had the opportunity to get to know Ralph Dunning founder of Dunning Golf over the last couple of weeks. If you are an apparel aficionado there may not be better conversation. Ralph is a truly unique individual who I am sure will become well known to the golf industry and quickly. His recent merger with Tharanco Lifestyle, owners of Greg Norman Collections is a coalition that will make waves in the industry. It is a pleasure to talk with him here and have something to do with that process. 

Ralph, I’m sure there are many readers of this blog who would say your reputation precedes you but for those who have not been introduced, would you tell us a bit about yourself and your background as an athlete?
Prior to entering the golf industry in 2001, I was involved in a company that designed and manufactured very high-end technical apparel for the sports of triathlon, cycling and running. I have been racing triathlons since 1989 and started playing golf in 2000 while at The Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. I was playing golf in Hawaiian heat in what was considered to be technical at the time which was heavy, pilled and had some odor issues. I thought to myself that I could design a shirt using fibers that I am currently running in, our triathlon products, and give it a more golf specific hand. I went home to Toronto, met with my mills and started working on engineering a shirt from the ground up with playability in mind. Within 6 months I had engineered and designed a complete system for players that went from next to skin all the way to really player specific outerwear. The outerwear in the marketplace at the time was bulky and I couldn’t figure out why guys were playing golf in it. I sent out some catalogues to some people and started to build a buzz in the Canadian market through some key shops. Mike Weir was wearing my outerwear (by choice, not by contract) during our first couple of seasons. I took some time off racing and really committed to learning the game of golf and the culture that surrounded it. I was still heavily involved in designing very high-end performance apparel for the cycling and running industries up until 2007 when we started to gain some momentum in the US. I was designing for Saucony Running, Cervelo Cycles and GT Bicycles. I started racing again in 2009 and have raced an Ironman every year since including the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii a couple of years ago.

I know from our discussions that your approach to designing and perfecting your product and the vision as to what Dunning Golf ultimately provides the marketplace is quite unique, expound on this if you would?

Our approach has always been based on playability first. Most companies, when they present their catalogue, talk about their color story or inspiration coming from Cape Cod or Moon River or Orange Banana. We are playability first and then we discuss our color ways and aesthetic based on making it easier for our retail partners to merchandise in shop. We aren’t interested in making statement clothing or being “radical” which seems to be the buzz right now with some of the colors and patterns I am seeing out there. Our aesthetic is very clean and classic with some athletic influences in terms of pattern detail. We run two distinct collections based on this: one being classic and the second being athletic. This actually makes sense when you think how players select their footwear.  Our classic aesthetic comes from my family’s history with British shirt and tie maker, “Turnbull and Asser”. They are the ultimate in British Old School Prep. Ken Williams who ran “Turnbull and Asser” and personally fitted and dressed the Royal Family along with most of the James Bond characters over the years had a huge influence on my design taste. Our athletic aesthetic is very clean and understated and speaks to my 20 plus years in endurance sports. I think the combination of both tastes is very important in the game right now and the game needs to stay focused on its tradition and etiquette, but at the same time adapt with the newer, athletic side of the game.
Our customer is interested in how the shirts fit with respect to the right length of sleeve or shoulder width.  Our shirts are designed to stay tucked in when at address and we add an extra couple of inches in the back of the shirttail so they won’t come untucked. Our shorts are cut specifically for players, meaning how they fit when you are at address with proper posture and your rear end is sticking out. We modify our fit each season with minor adjustments and make sure it is going to fit properly.
We introduced a “players system” from the very beginning that explained to players the importance of wearing three layers when playing in cold weather with very little bulk. If you look at how Zach Johnson dressed in 2007 when he won the Masters in a compression mock, technical polo and 4-way stretch vest, this was unheard of then. If you recall that year, it was very cold and most players were wearing bulky sweaters with big drapey sleeves. When you look at the industry today, this “players system” is a big part of the way tour players dress. Zach opened a lot of eyes that year and was even wearing our compression underwear.

Technical fabrics are a huge part of the game now and it’s no different than it was in 2005 when the majority of the industry was cotton. The consumer is so much more educated now on what is quality and offers premium performance.
The fabrics we introduce are proprietary and we work very hard to get the weights and hand of the fabric to be specific to the game. We spent 3 years to get our Interface Stretch fabric right before we launched it in 2007. It was a key fabric in allowing gentleman who were cotton players to be able to move into technical shirts with feeling they were wearing clingy polyester.
If you look around the industry now, there are numerous companies that are running a very similar fabric. It may appear to be the same, but the DNA of the fabric is not the same because we engineer our own fabric and then it is tested in the toughest arenas in the sporting world. 

The new partnership with Tharanco Lifestyles obviously clears the way for unlimited possibilities. What is the business plan going forward in terms of marketing, distribution and your participation?

I am very engaged in this new venture and am partners with Michael Setola and Haresh Tharani.   We spoke with a number of potential owners for Dunning Golf and they were exactly the type of partners we wanted to have the brand positioned with. The entire senior management of Tharanco Lifestyles consists of real players, meaning the game is a huge part of their lives and they truly understand the culture of the game.

We are now in a position to service the green grass golf industry the way it deserves to be serviced with a world-class infrastructure. Our distribution is very focused on green grass doors that cater to core golf players. The distribution will continue to be focused on the best 500 green grass clubs and resorts across the US and Canada.  I expect the brand to be globally distributed by the end of 2013. 

The design direction will continue to come from my Toronto design studio and I will continue to be very involved in the branding and marketing of the company.

Before the merger, Dunning Sportswear had a short but impressive run in golf shops in the states both in terms of sell-in and sell-through. It also was probably never properly understood even by die-hard fans. Is there a plan to educate both shop staffs and consumers?
We built a good business in the US with the infrastructure we had and we were very well financed. We also were able to partner with very premium doors and we built a very loyal following amongst core golfers. As a smaller brand you only have so much to spend on marketing and it makes it very difficult to get your true message out there to the consumer and our green grass partners.

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors with some product out there and I think now the industry is very aware of who we are and our strength at designing and manufacturing player specific apparel using the world’s best fibers and materials.

We built our brand basically on word of mouth and our competitors helped us do that.  We have always believed in creating categories and fabrics for a reason. We have never been one to just react because it is a trend. We are not interested in being a fashion company either. We are focused on being a players company and that means its all about fit and fabric. Having said that, I pay at least as much attention to fashion as anyone and am very aware of what is going on in the world of menswear. It is very heritage fueled in menswear and the look is very inspired by the 60’s - meaning the fits are cleaner. 

We just finished a video that gives some insight into the DNA of the brand as well as the new relationship with Tharanco that we will begin distributing through our sales representatives shortly.

What are the key elements that differentiate Dunning Golf from the multitude of other brands it will be competing with for shelf space?
At the PGA show it was really great to meet with an incredible amount of new retail partners who were aware of the brand, but never really looked at it. Our brand tagline is “Engineered for Athletes and Designed for Players”. This speaks to exactly who we are as a company.  Our products are authentic from a technical perspective because of my personal involvement in athletics and endurance sports. There is no faking it with our material, fit or construction. The “players” part really comes from the fact that we are offering an aesthetic that speaks to the tradition and etiquette associated with this game; clean and classic. This is important when you look at the demographics of the game. We used to get asked “Who is your demographic?” We always answered “players”. Look around who is wearing our product and it really does range from a 13 year old junior right up to an older play.

The industry is incredibly competitive and everyone has their hype or spin. We speak to the game and what our clothes are designed to do. There is a clear movement to the return of traditional looks with a modern country club aesthetic. We heard this message loud and clear at the recent PGA show. Most players have always dressed this way and will continue to dress this way. We also happen to offer a technical story that is real, not a reaction.

What do you see as the future of Dunning Golf and in particular “natural performance”?

Craig, that is a great question. I have been in the synthetic performance apparel industry for over 20 years. We have always manufactured products that don’t feel very synthetic and are now working with our key mills to introduce fabrics that are incredibly technical and look and feel natural. My son is 13, plays golf, is a purist when it comes to dressing to for the course and I find him occasionally on eBay hunting down Footjoy Classics. He skateboards and he rides BMX at a very high level, so he knows all about authentic skate brands. He chuckles at companies in our space who attempt to do the skate thing and he and his friends told me “if I want to look like a skateboarder I’ll wear skateboard brands but when I play golf I want to look traditional.” They are talking to me about how they want technical products that don’t feel technical and the fabrics I am showing them are just that. They are on the leading edge of what’s going and they are all talking about natural feeling performance. I think youth culture always lead the way and are years ahead of the average consumer. This will be a key for where golf goes both technically and aesthetically.

We have also been working with Merino fabrics for a very long time and in my cycling world, merino has always been a big part of it. There is a great buzz on Merino because it offers incredible technical performance with no odor issues and it really does work. You will see a major category development from us here.

This is a brand that is going to create cult customers and word of mouth and you want it on your radar.Good apparel partners are about product first but quickly behind that comes dedication to the retail success of the customer. The management team in place to take this brand forward includes Mike Elliott and Jimmy Glass, two of my oldest friends in the industry who owe their success to work ethic, empathy and integrity. You can't do much better than this team.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Increase Your Revenue

This week’s Crossing will focus on the big three: increased number of rounds, increased dollars spent per round and increased activity and revenue in the golf shop.  These are not easy commodities to come by in today’s market.

The program that I have recently been introduced to that clearly accomplishes all of these aspects is the Challenge Millions, owned and operated for the last 20 years by Gary Lopes.

During my career in golf I have been approached while playing a round to participate in par 3 promotions. I have also been asked by both facilities and other challenge operators to either help them formulate and/or market the concept and until now have declined.  Gary and his new partner Bobby Vermillion of Endless Golf have this program so well thought through and beneficial to all parties that I can’t see any downside and depending on the type of facility, it has the upside of adding fun and excitement to the round. The features are best viewed in the different links throughout the article and explained by Gary and Bob but I do want to list the benefits as I understand them because they are incredible and make the program a no-brainer.

Benefits to the golfer who participates for a $10 charge:

A year’s subscription to Golf Magazine or an annual renewal 

A custom fit wedge for only $9.95

Scratch off card (offer to include a discount in the pro shop: $5 off hat purchase or $10 off shirt purchase)

Tee shot on the green within a driver’s length wins a dozen golf balls

Hole-in-one wins a two day golf vacation and a shot for 1 million dollars at a featured  destination

Hole in One contest will be aired on a ½ hour television show put on by “Endless Golf”

Benefits to the course:

Golf course receives percentage of the $10 charge (depending on the program they choose, average course sells 200-300 sales per week

Participating golfer has to return to the shop to submit their registration for the subscription to Golf Magazine

Increased golf shop traffic and sales

 Detailed training and instructions on how to operate the program

A no-charge video on "Golf Destinations On Demand" available in over 4 million homes (value of this marketing exposure is $6,000)

        The obvious question that arises is “is this program going to hurt the image of the facility”. The video behind the  banner at the top that shows Bob and  Gary discussing the program and then the actual presentation should lay to rest that concern as properly handled as an ‘ambassador of fun’  the offer serves to add some excitement and value to the golf experience. Any lost margin on the hat and shirt discount can easily be creatively thought through on the front end as to what is offered and by the increase in volume.  
        I had an opportunity to see this work first hand at one of the facilities I work with in Ocean City, MD. In a shop that had trouble selling through two turns of pre-books the previous season we had multiple re-orders of both headwear and shirts in season. Our needs for goods through the summer allowed us to order off-shore deals on the headwear and off-price fill-ins on shirts that more than off-set the discounts. We replaced the dozen balls for the ‘within the driver tee shot’ with a free lunch in the restaurant which we were attempting to market anyway and that flexibility on Gary’s part to set the program to the individual needs of the facility was particularly appealing to me.
        I can’t think of any discussion more important than one about increasing dollars per round. I would suggest to anyone who feels the same and runs either semi-private, daily fee or a resort facility that they should have this turn-key conversation with Gary Lopes or Bobby Vermillion. Gary is available at  843-457-5447 or Also check out “Golf Destinations on Demand” on Comcast and contact Bob Vermillion at Endless Golf at 410-410-430-3281 or