Thursday, July 19, 2012

Some Like it Hot

TABASCO® is one of those iconic brands that almost every dictionary includes as a proprietary term along with other select trademarks like Kleenex or Coca-Cola. The “Rolls-Royce” of hot sauces, it is a truly ubiquitous product now sold in 165 countries and territories, and in 22 languages and dialects.  TABASCO® can be found in the White House and Buckingham Palace, on the International Space Station, and in the entire spectrum of restaurants — from five-star to mom-and-pop — around the globe. 

Golf fans will probably remember the notable branded presence TABASCO® had years ago, both in golf shops and on tour, with TABASCO®-decorated polo shirts. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Cecil Hymel, McIlhenny Company’s vice president in charge of its new apparel line; and George Gatesy, National Sales and Operations Director of McIlhenny’s apparel division. The clothing line that George is developing with a McIlhenny label is mainstream, not novelty-driven, golf apparel. The concept that has intrigued me since our meeting, however — and one that is totally optional with the customer — is that of developing incremental revenue by displaying the apparel in shops alongside TABASCO® pepper sauce and other McIlhenny food items.
The whole idea of trying something completely new in the golf shop is in fact not only bold but a challenge. There is only so much room for display and open-to-buy for inventory, most of which is necessarily dedicated to staples which are required to make a shop full service. The choice of categories to consider that have not already been explored but may be lucrative is also perplexing. The following interview will attempt to add some spice to this challenge and as Rob McNamara at Farmington Country Club explains, “Not everyone plays golf, but everyone eats!  Therefore, the idea of having food sold in my golf shop is fun and an opportunity for new business. Additionally, everyone wears clothes. Again, this gives me a chance to sell to people who may not be buying clothes just for golf purposes. We ran a simple promotion that gives away a free Tabasco item with the purchase of the McIlhenny shirt that was very successful. Their shirts are great quality at a very fair price so it gives a nice value promotion for our members”.
Cecil, while everyone knows the TABASCO® brand, I doubt many know much about the company and its unique history. Share some of McIlhenny Company’s background with us, if you would.

Well, Craig, the McIlhenny family has been making TABASCO® brand pepper sauce on Avery Island, Louisiana, since 1868. Edmund McIlhenny’s original formula has not changed in 144 years! His love of food and his great attention to quality, detail and craftsmanship has found its way into every TABASCO® brand product we make today — including this new line of apparel. Edmund’s family, now in its 5th generation of leadership, still owns and operates our company, and that’s why we incorporated the “E5G” logo into our new TABASCO® apparel line. “E5G” reminds us we are in Edmund’s 5th Generation of family leadership.  In addition, the apparel is made with a type of fabric we call “032 Dry.” This term comes from the Pantone Matching System color, known as Red 032, that corresponds to the exact shade of our red TABASCO® sauce.  These two cool tidbits of trivia might be appreciated by the average person who buys and wears our new clothing; but “E5G” and “032 Dry” also remind our company of the family and brand that stand behind this new line of apparel.
A little more about the history of the McIlhennys:  They are an absolutely fascinating American family. For instance, not many people know that Edmund’s son, John Avery McIlhenny (our 2nd President), stepped down from the company in 1898 to join Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders volunteer cavalry regiment.  So he was there with Roosevelt when the Rough Riders stormed San Juan Heights in Cuba.  John was also on the famous bear hunt with Roosevelt, when the President refused to shoot an injured bear, thus giving rise to the “teddy bear” craze that persists to the present. And then there’s John’s brother, E. A. “Ned” McIlhenny (3rd President), who went on two arctic expeditions in the 1890s, served as first president of Louisiana’s chapter of the Audubon Society, and helped to save the snowy egret from extinction. John’s son, Walter S. McIlhenny (4th President), a WWII hero, fought at Guadalcanal, New Britain, and Peleliu, received 2 Purple Hearts, the Silver Star, and the Navy Cross, and retired from the Marine Corps Reserve with the rank of brigadier general. Paul C.P. McIlhenny (Chairman and CEO) and Tony Avery Simmons (current President) have led McIlhenny Company into present-day prosperity, with six additional TABASCO® brand pepper sauces, many ancillary products, and the longest sustained period of financial growth in the company’s history.

The branded shirts had an interesting foray into golf in years past and then disappeared for a while. What is the reasoning and business intent in launching the McIlhenny Dry Goods™ and TABASCO® Sport apparel lines in today’s market?

As the world leader in pepper sauce, McIlhenny Company always seeks further brand extension through new product categories. Previously, McIlhenny sponsored PGA Tour players and enjoyed those relationships. The launch of these in-house brands, McIlhenny Dry Goods™ and TABASCO® Sport, allows us to re-establish ties with PGA Tour players while targeting the golf and sportswear markets.  We have always admired the integrity of the PGA and USGA and feel there is great alignment between our brand and the world of golf.

George, obviously you are not trying to rekindle the branded TABASCO® look.  What are the outstanding features of the line you have created?

Our new apparel line is more conservative, traditional, and collection-based, not novelty-driven like our golf shirts from five or ten years ago.  The McIlhenny Dry Goods™ brand, for instance, targets an upper-middle price point with classic and traditional designs for men and women.  The products have the look and feel of cotton, yet are moisture-wicking performance blends.  These 032 Dry Reserve fabrications are created exclusively for McIlhenny Dry Goods™.  This lifestyle collection is golf-functional and yet fashionable for everyday wear.  Our easy-care fabrications perform in every aspect of a golfer’s life.
Likewise, the TABASCO® Sport product line targets a middle price point for men and ladies.  However, it’s more contemporary in design and styling.  All TABASCO® Sport products are manufactured with our exclusive 032 Dry moisture-wicking fabrications.

The strength of the brand and its marketability are second-to-none, but what is the reason golf shop proprietors should give McIlhenny apparel space in their shops?

With our two apparel brands, golf shop accounts will capture the history and tradition of excellence that are intrinsic to our 144-year-old brand while achieving increased margins under our attractive pricing strategy.  PRICE + QUALITY = VALUE.  We offer the finest-quality product at wholesale pricing and this affords the pro shop owner increased gross profit margins.  In addition, we open new avenues for pro shop profitability with our TABASCO® hutch concept.  

Cecil, the four-foot hutch is an interesting add-on business for shops looking to offer their customers a distinctive new product. Explain the program, if you would.

The four-foot hutch was first discussed at the Orlando PGA Show this past January.  Actually, the original "hutch" concept is from the TABASCO® pepper sauce world.  Utilizing this merchandising strategy, we have experienced tremendous growth in our sauces and gourmet food products.  Giving pro shops the ability to offer TABASCO® pepper sauce, gourmet products, and merchandise in their apparel section gives McIlhenny Dry Goods™ and TABASCO® Sport a unique edge over every other apparel brand in the market.  TABASCO® is a winner at your dining table and on the golf course — It is a lifestyle. 
Moreover, we all know that every golf course has foodservice facilities, sometimes multiple facilities, and to be quite honest there is always room for improvement in terms of the golfer’s culinary experience. 
Also, I should note that many of the TABASCO® ancillary food items available on the hutch are not found per the mainstream grocery industry: for example, our TABASCO® spicy beans, okra and olives.  These, incidentally, are made specifically with bloody mary’s and other bar drinks in mind.  Other hutch items include great on- or off-course snacks, such as TABASCO® Hot Nuts, TABASCO® Spicy Chocolate, TABASCO® Cinnamon Candies, and Hot & Spicy Cheez-Its® with TABASCO®.  
The hutch program has been used in gourmet food shops for some time now, but at the PGA show Rob McNamara showed such enthusiasm for our food product line that we decided to marry the two concepts of food and apparel especially for use in golf shops.

Willowbend Country Club

Chip King at Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville, North Carolina wear-tested the product and was impressed. He now count and fills the McIlhenny solid shirt every Monday morning and is pleased with the sell-through and customer service. Chip explains that "We put in the line as a basic staple with a well known brand but that wasn't everywhere. With this product I have quality, value pricing and mens as well as ladies in colors and fabrication the members love. We quite often have guests wear one for the day's round and come back in and buy one in each color".

While some shops rarely switch apparel vendors others make a point of adding a new line every season, and all of us are always looking for something new to offer members/regulars. The hutch concept fascinated me as something that has incredible incremental potential whether you deal with private, public or resort clientele and George sent me a shirt that I wore this weekend and if I were one of Chip King's members I too would be buying other colors.