Monday, January 21, 2013

Craig’s Crossing – 2013

There was certainly some upheaval in the industry in 2012. Looking to the coming season Tom Nolan (new Chairman of the Board for Summit Brands) said, “I am excited about the 2013  season. In my new position with Summit, I get the sense that the market as well as this company is ready to explode. The market has been in a period of retraction, but I feel like the strong have survived and now will re-establish themselves as leaders across all spaces - companies, people, clubs, etc. Darwinism is a good thing sometimes, and historically the best economies and periods of growth for this country have come at times after a retraction. I’m bullish on the future for the golf industry as well as SummitGolf Brands.”

In 2009, I wrote that the year had been Darwinian and so appreciate Tom Nolan’s phrasing and outlook. This past year has been no less epic in proportion. Retail continues to evolve, in many respects very quickly, because of a much more value–driven and discerning consumer. Golf retailers in some cases have responded to this challenge, others became stagnant and suffered accordingly. Those still standing are in an incredible position to prosper as certain fundamentals have not changed.

1. Pro Shops have customers by virtue of the game that other retailers envy.
2. Pro Shops have a brand by virtue of the course they are associated with that is unique.
3. Pro Shops have only their own lack of vision limiting their potential.

An underlying theme has developed from which all other concepts seem to take meaning and that is that success starts and ends with superior service, everything else is in-between. The in-between is important and should be constantly molded toward perfection but people buy from people they have a reason to like. The cliché is as old as business and will be true for at least as long as there are Pro Shops.

This being the case and the barometer for next year being only temperately optimistic, let’s review 2012, answering some tough questions with an eye toward the New Year. I have hyperlinked some key phrases back to appropriate entries to give the questions added meaning.

Is your staff comprised of likable assistants and clerks who will provide an incredibly pleasant atmosphere and experience for your customer ? 

Are they educated with the product knowledge they need to talk intelligently about all the products you are attempting to retail?

Have they been empowered to think outside the box, to WOW your customer?

These are the toughest questions, as they may involve some tedious answers, but staff cannot be expected to produce if they are not educated and inspired. Once the bar has been raised and the culture has become one conducive to retail growth it will become quite clear which players do not enhance the team.

Some of the more meaningful in-between questions that should be answered by way of review are the following.

Is your inventory level at peak season one that your sale history says will turn 3-4 times a year or better?

If the answer to the above question is no, have you devised a strategy to get it to that level?

Have you developed
a promotional schedule that will inspire sales?

These are the considerations that should preempt any plans in Orlando or any decision as to how to invest in inventory for the coming year. These were the key topics discussed at the recent Merchandiser of the Year Conference at the Omni Champions Gate Resort which was an incredible event put on by PGA Magazine and I’m sure will be discussed often as the year progresses.

On the lighter side, for the Super Bowl -

Tom Nolan picks the 49ers.

Mike Elliott (EVP of Sales-Golf, Tharanco Lifestyles) is excited about golf for 2013 and the prospects for Greg Norman Collection and Dunning Golf. Mike thinks Joe Flacco is the real deal and picks the Ravens.

Bob Ford (Head Professional at Oakmont Country Club and Seminole Golf Club) says “I am as excited and optimistic about 2013 as I was 35 years ago when I was first starting in the business.” Bob likes San Francisco in the Super Bowl.

Roger Landry (former Vice President of Sales for Imperial Headwear) now Vice President and General Manager of Ouray Sportswear Golf wishes everyone a Happy New Year and invites everyone to Booth #4573 in Orlando. Roger’s Super Bowl pick is the San Francisco 49ers.

Rob Stein (co-founder and President of Donald Ross Sportswear) and my MVP winner in 2009 wants to thank his employees and customers for an outstanding 2012 and looks forward to a prosperous 2013 for everyone. Rob says he is going out on a limb and picking a Harbaugh to win the Super Bowl.

Sharon Sunoo (founder and President of Birdy and Grace) says this is the year to pump up your ladies’ business and B&G would like to help. Their Booth # is 5058 and Sharon is picking the Ravens.

Patrick Seither (Head Professional at Carmel Country Club) says that this is the year to let software help you with customer/member profiles and surveys. Patrick’s pick is the 49ers.

Scott Stone (recently promoted to National Sales Manager for AHEAD) says “We have given both the booth at the show (#4757) and our entire apparel line an incredible facelift for 2013 and I like the Ravens to give Ray Lewis the perfect end to his career.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has graciously provided their time, energy and ideas when called upon during the year for commentary to be included in my various entries. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the vendors and facilities who have called upon me to help them with their marketing. I am always available to provide a visit to your facility to customize a buy plan and determine proper inventory levels and turn, as well as provide a customer-service and retail training seminar for your entire staff. It has been a pleasure to be of assistance and I look forward to working with new clients in the coming year.  

I wish everyone a prosperous season and look forward to seeing you in Orlando.  I am picking the Ravens to win the Super Bowl!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sell Through Surprise

One of the categories that enjoyed unusual success this season was gifts that retailed for less than $25, ranging from exploding golf balls to shoe trees. One of the newest and most innovative products that benefitted most from this trend was Tin Cup. I met with Tin Cup President, Cabell Fooshe who offices in Falls Church, VA to discuss his product and the phenomenon.

Cabell, describe the product for us in your words and share with us the story on how it originated and its growth since.

Tin Cup is a golf ball marking stencil that enables golfers to customize their ball with a logo of choice.   We are proud to say that Tin Cup is 100% made in the USA and comprised of stainless steel.   The idea was developed by Jim Millar when he wanted a unique way for golfers to mark their ball.   We formed Tin Cup Products, LLC in July 2009 and created a website that has been a vital part of the business. We were honored to win “Best New Product” at the 2010 PGA Show, which really helped us gain exposure.  The next key was finding strong independent sales representatives to expand our retail business.   Tin Cup is now in more than 1,200 golf shops and stores across the country and increasing by the day.

Tin Cup seems to be an incremental sale in that magic $25 range. Do you also see it as a growing category and are there any particular demographics for your customer (young, old), (private, public)?

One of the best things about Tin Cup is that it is a great product for anyone who loves golf.   The rules of golf do say that the golfer must be able to identify the golf ball during play and there’s no better way than with Tin Cup!    We have helped to create a new category and we see golfers of all skill levels having fun marking their golf balls.  Other products on the market don’t come close to providing the options and fun of Tin Cup, making it the ideal gift for any occasion.

I want to congratulate you on being on the Today Show. How did that come about and what other marketing plans do you have for the future?

This past year we hired Buffalo Communications to help us with our Public Relations and they have done an outstanding job getting us publicity with the Today Show,, The Golf Channel, Men’s Journal, Cigar Aficionado and numerous others publications.  Such exposure to the golf sector and the lifestyle channel has really boosted our brand awareness and exposed  our unique product to a larger audience.

Explain the custom aspect of the product as pertains to tournaments, outings, corporate and club logos and any other partnership features Tin Cup brings to the table?

Customization is a small but key aspect of our business. In addition to the more than 100 animal, collegiate and military designs we also create custom logos which make for a fantastic giveaway for Tournaments, outings, weddings and corporate gifts.  The process is quick and easy, once we’re given the artwork of choice.  We’ve created unique styles for celebrities, Tour players, major corporations and wedding party favors.  You can also craft a package that includes a custom cup, leather pouch, pen and a clip to attach the cup to your golf bag.

Are there plans for the future for any other innovative products that have perhaps come about as a result of the success of the ball-markers.

We are always looking into other products to help expand our business and make golf fun and easy for the masses.  Some popular items we added recently include Poker Chips and Ball Markers with some of our logos.  Keep checking out our website – – to see the latest.

Tell us how to find you at the PGA show in Orlando and whether there are any show specials or messages?

We will be located at Booth #2216 at the 2013 PGA Show and will certainly have a few show specials for retailers. We’re excited about a new spinner display that showcases 24 different designs and holds up to 144 cups.  Early reviews have been very positive.  Any purchase order of 72 or more cups will result in 8 complimentary cups. We also plan to have some drawings and giveaways so please come by and see us at Booth #2216!!!!!!

Everyone I have talked to who has put Tin Cup in their shop has mentioned being very pleased and surprised at the sell through and the custom service in regards to re-orders. 

As Cabell pointed out, the product is fun and somewhat custom - a magic formula this year at the right retail.
The entire range of items retailing successfully in the $20-$25 range should be targeted at the show in Orlando especially in categories that perhaps haven't been tried before but have a proven track record.