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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.