Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Special Incremental

Custom Made Comfort - intriguing name. 

I met with Tony McBryan (CEO and Co-Founder of Custom Made Comfort at Bulle Rock in Aberdeen, MD. I was not previously familiar with the CMC product line but an hour later was convinced of its appeal, credibility as well as Tony’s passion and truly wanted to help him tell this story.

Tony, it is obvious to me after seeing this presentation that Custom Made Comfort products would appeal to any club or facility that has a desirable logo. Tell us if you will about your product selection and some of the process involved with producing it? Also how did you get started in the golf arena?

Craig, in October ’08 I found myself out of a job. Needless to say with two children in college I had to figure out what to do next as it was not a good time in the economy. I am a Textile Engineer who sold commercial textile equipment all over North America for twenty-eight years. I knew the technology available and all the manufacturers. A close friend who teaches at a private academy and is a member of Merion Golf Club suggested I make blankets for golf clubs. That day I drove to the club, with no appointment and an academy blanket in my bag. I walked into the Pro-Shop and asked for the head pro, introduced myself and showed him my product. The quality was impressive and within fifteen minutes, they e-mailed the club logo. I committed to returning within one week with a sample. Upon my return I asked if I could make the Walker Cup. Again I returned in one week with the sample, anxious to hear their response. I was excited to know that a club of this caliber was impressed with my passion, enthusiasm and commitment to the product, and most importantly the quality. That was the beginning of the success of our company, Merion has been ordering our products ever since. We currently have seven different items in their shop. Our goal was to secure twenty-five of the top one hundred clubs in the country. In ’09 we saw eighteen and sold over half, to date more than forty are Custom Made Comfort customers.

Having started with blankets, I quickly realized that having more than one product would increase our growth. I introduced new product ideas to some of the clubs and really listened to all of their comments. If they felt it would work, I would provide it. If not we discussed other options. It has been a total collaborative effort with my clients. I always ask about items in the shop that sell well and discuss what items they would like to have but are not available in the market. The goal is to supply premium products. It’s all about the club logo….it’s their identity, and carries high value. If it is put on a premium product, which is useable and practical, it sells!

A priority goal was to supply products that are “Made in the US” We put an American flag on every blanket. I had one account tell me that their member was so impressed with the “Made in America tag that he himself bought one dozen from the shop. It is impossible to supply low minimums and have it imported. Having been in the textile industry for many years, I’m not comfortable supplying a product that I cannot see being manufactured. I am in the factory at least one day of every week, coordinating with manufacturing during the design and production of our knit products to insure any issues are found before the product is delivered.

The process begins with the clubs’ digital artwork which we prefer in vector, tiff, jpeg, dst or pdf.  We convert them to the necessary formats that we use to manufacture our knitted blankets, printed totes, accessory bags, pillows and other items of interest. With the largest possible tiff or jpeg file we create several digital mock ups for review prior to sampling/production for their review. We can also recreate artwork in all formats as an additional service.

Congratulations on being chosen by The Wharton School to be written up as a small business success story. How did that come about and what other marketing plans do you have for the future?

As a result of contacting the Wharton Small Business Development Center to obtain sound business advice. I submitted my business plans and have had a consultant since June ’10. Periodically, I consult with them as well as inform them of our progress. In November ’12 based on our growth and continued enthusiasm for the business they wanted to publish a success story. Most start-up companies lose their passion within one year and/or find it difficult to maintain or increase sales. I’m now five years in and still deeply passionate about our products, clients and unlimited market potential. In addition to supplying the golf industry, we supply corporations, high schools, yacht clubs, and foundations.

We are looking into attending local merchandise shows via qualified PGA representatives, upgrading our website, and developing key strategic partners across the US and abroad. We are interested in those who possess a real passion for “Premium products for Premier accounts” and understand that product quality trumps product quantity. Building a client base takes time. If done properly, you create an annuity.

Explain the custom aspect of the product as pertains to tournaments, outings and corporate co-branding and any other partnership features that your business plan brings to the table?

We have and will custom design signature items for specific events. Dual logos for corporate events at a signature golf course create a one-of- a kind commemorative. This can be done on a variety of products. In my short time in the golf industry I realized that engaging your client in the customization process can lead to a long lasting business relationship. There is a difference between selling the everyday standard items expected to be in the shop and providing high value premium products that embody the essence of the club and its values. Not all of our products are good for all of our clients.  While our blankets have and continue to be our most recognized product, we are always developing new items that bring the same impact and sell-thru.

As far as resale in the shop is concerned, it seems extremely important that this product be displayed properly. Once that is the case it is hard to imagine someone who is proud of their logo not being impressed with the quality and appearance of your product selection and making an incremental purchase.

Any premium product deserves proper display in the shop. One of our tag lines, “You have to feel it to Believe it” cannot be truer. Once a client experiences the product for themselves, it sells itself. A well-versed staff is critical.  I have visited clubs and asked if they carry a similar product. Some have no idea where it is in the shop or have little or no opinion. The sales presentation shifts from the quality of our products to the importance of display. If your product cannot easily be displayed it makes it difficult for the members to purchase. We have suggested some very creative ways to present our products.

Back in ’09 we thought that forty-eight units would be our minimum. It only took a few visits to a few top clubs to realize this was not realistic. We offer a twelve-piece minimum on our blankets, less on our other products. Terms of payment are within 30 days, and we offer quantity discounts for larger volume orders. It makes better business sense not to overload your customer with product they might not sell. Ultimately we sell more products in the long run because we understand and respect the clubs’ business requirements. If we cannot sell the value of the item to the shop, there is no way the shop can sell the item to its members. We are working on a presentation video for display and the technical specifics of our offerings which make them a higher-end product and consequently more desirable.

Other than the banner at the right directing people to your web site, tell us how you would prefer that readers contact you? Also is there anything else you would like to say to the golf industry?

Either e-mail; or phone: 215-932-2696 is the best method to contact us.  We have clients coast to coast, so we are available 24/7.  The golf industry has been in difficult times as has almost every segment of the U.S. economy over the past four years. Our company doubled its sales in 2012.  The members of a club make the club. Offer them concepts and products that they are not expecting. Ask them about the shop’s environment, offerings or lack of offerings. Highlight new and different items. Every member should purchase something from the shop every season. Fresh display of both new and legacy products as well as seasonal events will surely assist in this goal. Thank you for the opportunity to tell our story and bring some fresh insight from a new supplier to the industry.

I asked Tony for some testimonials from existing customers and the following were kind enough to respond:

"Custom Made Comfort has developed products I am proud to offer our membership. The quality of the logos produced, along with the superiority of the pillos and blankets themselves have added to the level or professionalism we try to attain in our golf shop. In addition, Tony McBryan has been "spot on" with his service and creativity. I would be proud to recommend Custom Made Comfort to any professional wanting to enhance the quality of offerings in their golf shop ore retail establishment."
Bud Taylor, PGA Master Professional and Director of Golf, Old Palm Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

"I was fortunate to discover Custome Made Comfort thru a friend. I was amazed at the wonderful quality of the blankets and that they are American made!nThey have been terrific and easy to work with from submitting our logo, to getting design ideas in a timely manner and receiving the finished product quickly once our order was placed. I do not hesitate to recommend them to friends and associates. They have a quality product and a reasonable price."
Connie Shorb, the Pennsylvania State Women's Golf Association 

"I will commend you on seizing the opportunity and following up so quickly. The blanket looks and feels great and we look forward to carrying the product this coming season. The best thing you have going for you is your passion about your product and sharing it with your customers. That never hurt anyone in sales."
Chandler Withington, Assistant Golf Professional, Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, PA 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Close – A Visual to a “Yes”

There are a number of sales reps in the industry who are regular readers of this blog and while we have discussed in numerous entries how important it is to use them as a resource, this is the first entry that is focused on giving them something to use. The underlying theme of this discussion of closing a sale by “selling to space” can be used with any category of goods and in almost any retail situation. We will illustrate this concept with the hypothetical of the apparel rep attempting to place spring apparel for the first time with a head pro with whom he/she has been unable until now to get an appointment.

The Appointment:
Arrive early and study the shop as to the type of fixtures, location of fixtures and wall displays and their capacities for apparel both in terms of number of skus and total units.
Pay attention to the extent that the shop is departmentalized. Also make a mental note, albeit a cursory evaluation of how many vendors would comfortably fit in this space.

Introduce yourself to everyone available on staff who typically will be the representative of your product when you leave.

The Presentation:
Make the company prescribed presentation of the line pausing often to ask open-ended questions along the way.

Attempt to determine with these questions the nature of the shop’s business in terms of turn of product, type of clientele, competing brands (successful and unsuccessful) and what price points are important - or not. Obviously the other information you are looking for is what the buyer/head-pro that you are presenting to likes most about what you are showing.

Use this opportunity to express your empathy with their business. Develop the skill of being a good listener as well as presenter. Conveying the impression that you are adept with your product line and are very articulate is important. Conveying that you care about your potential customer’s business is at least as important and starts with being a good listener.

The Close:
This frankly is where many sales meetings fail. The presentation can be rehearsed but a good close is almost always the result of customized ‘thinking on your feet.”

Distill all the information that you have learned to this point and determine from a merchandising standpoint where best to put in the shop what the head-pro has intimated he likes and may work with his clientele. This becomes the close.

Remember that the close you are now ready to suggest is just that – a suggestion, an idea – and should be put forward with a “how about we try this” attitude.

The ‘Visual to a Yes”:
“Mr. Nye you mentioned you particularly liked our ‘Merion Collection’. That lead nesting table as you walk in the shop looks comfortably well merchandised with 18 skus and a bust form.  Let’s put together this look (lay out 18 skus that look great folded together and make sense). We can book it in a typical 1-med, 2-lge, 2-xl, 1-xxl which would make the delivery 108 units and would cost approximately $xxxx.xx.”

“You had also mentioned you thought our Performance Solid was perfect for your membership. This is an in-stock program so we can manage this staple all season and make it a real money-maker. How about we take the four-way that sits behind the lead table and which has 15 inch straight arms and put eight colors of the solid (2 colors per/arm) eight deep per color. Hang the eight shirts on a grid. We can consider this a par-level of 64 units and logoed will cost $xxxx.xx. I would like to come back at your convenience and work with someone on your staff to understand the business importance and the how-to of counting and filling this program.”

“We can book a back up order for the fashion table assuming a turn of product in 4-6 weeks with another 18 skus that would look like the following or if you are more comfortable we’ll wait and see how the ‘Merion group’ sells through.”

What have you accomplished?
You have created a total visual of your product line in the head-pro’s space with goods that he/she has already specified liking or thinking appropriate. You have taken any and all mystery out of how to move forward with the process. Instead of asking for the business you have suggested exactly what the partnership would involve and assuming the close to be well received only needs a "YES" to be completed.

Without announcing that you are about to deliver a primer on buying, that’s exactly what you have done. The buyer/head-pro should be realizing that your paint by number close is the way they should be thinking through the rest of their pre-book.
You have established yourself as a good listener and empathetic to the success of your product in their shop. Along these lines you should suggest at this point that at an appropriate time you would like to come back and have a round-table sit-down with the entire staff to discuss your brand, product knowledge, salesmanship and service.

You have established yourself as an “Idea-man”. You not only know your line but can suggest and describe the important points of the partnership from “buying to space” to raising the level of service of the staff. The sales associate in the territory deemed the “Idea Man” usually gets the first call when there is a tournament or corporate need or any other extra-curricular occurrence.

This is not the only way to close a sale or handle an appointment but it is effective. A typical close in the industry goes something like this. “Our records show that you did $8000.00 with us last season, would you like me to work you up an order for you for that amount and email it to you for approval?” At this point my response is always “What would this order look like and where will we put it”? These are fundamental questions that need to be answered before any ordering should be done and better that those answers be the IDEA of the rep, especially if we don’t have that sales history yet.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Craig's Crossing - Orlando Notes

Orlando is always fast-moving and it is difficult to focus on specifics as there are approximately 1000 exhibitors hosting a projected 43,000 PGA professionals, retailers and industry leaders. It is Mecca for the industry and interesting every year for its array of new products, ideas and services. I like to look for the details others may have missed as I walk the show and attempt to get to know its new exhibitors.

Here are a few of my topics of note, some of which I will be expanding on in coming weeks
  • Broken Earth Winery has a private label program and great wine at reasonable prices that is perfect for gifts, tournaments, house wines, etc.

  • AHEAD’s new booth and management team as well as their new apparel line are first rate. Read Scott Stone’s interview here.
  • Andy Renshaw (The Winston Collection) said,  "I think the greatest selling point of our covers is the fact that they are simple, no diamonds or chevrons, just classic leather with big, bold club embroidery. The other full grain, leather, head cover companies are dropping a small club logo at the bottom, worrying more about the design than the cover itself."
  • Ouray Sportswear recently interviewed here had a very successful show and made a lot of friends with product that was unique and reasonable.
  • A Girl's On-Course Survival Guide to Golf by Christina Ricci is a product you want to consider retailing in your shop. Adds incremental revenue to your ladies business. Christina when asked about adding new and creative products for women made the observation that, "This year at the Show I saw a new energy, a cool buzz that extends beyond optimism into a new attitude of 'We're ready.' Last year, I felt like it was still conceptual; Industry Professionals still were not fully committed. This year that's all changed. All I heard was, 'Let's do this!' 
  • Cynthia Wark (President of PGF) is a delight to talk to and won The Pinnacle Award for best new invention with a personal golf fan, designed to sit in the cup holder.
  • Brook’s Brothers booth was not a large booth but always busy.
  • Martin Dingman has added apparel to his offering. It is incredibly first rate as is everything Martin decides to build.
  • Alial Fital is not a look that everyone will like but has developed a following. More about these unique limited edition, Made in USA shirts in the near future.
  • Greg Norman and Dunning Golf had another great year, show and party at the Peabody on Friday evening.
  • Mark Killeen (Full Turn Direct) explained that the "new knit fabrications are driving a ton of interest in the market. Full Turn is offering a new luxury shirt that is a unique blend of Swiss Micro Tencel (for no wrinkles) and Supima cotton (for luxury hand) that is plated in white mulberry silk (naturally anti-microbial), and a new performance shirt that is a blend of Supima cotton and a bamboo charcoal infused micro poly that can be folded and stacked on a table." Contact

The PGA of America and PGA Worldwide Exhibitions announced that the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show will run Tuesday through Friday, January 21st – 24th. Demo Day will be at Orange County National Golf Center on Tuesday Jan. 21st rather than Wednesday of show week. This will make it easier for PGA head pros and other golf personnel to stay through the whole show; many attending members have been leaving Friday afternoon or evening so as to be back at their facilities, etc. for the weekend. It seems this move should make the last day of the show more meaningful.

There will be more extensive coverage of some of the above in the coming weeks.