Saturday, August 10, 2013

(Bobby) Jones Global Sports

Waitt Company, an Omaha-based investment company, has acquired the Bobby Jones brand from the W. Diamond Group. Waitt Company has formed Jones Global Sports and appointed Any Bell, previously president of Bobby Jones, as the CEO of this new globally licensed affililiate.

Andy and I have been friends for 15 years and his industry savvy makes him a perfect fit for this role. The reason I was excited about interviewing Andy is his "outside the box" approach and the empathy he has for golf shop retailing and the game. I thought it would be great to hear from him on the new owners and their business plan and I'm always inspired hearing Andy talk about Bobby Jones.

We need to talk specifically about business but I think it is germane to hear you talk about Bobby Jones, the man, his commitment and how it all ties back to the brand.

A big part of my responsibility here is to not only manage the business but to tell the story of Bobby Jone, the man, and protect the legacy. I think it's easy to forget that he never earned a single dollar playing golf, accomplishing everything as an amateur. There's always a lot of emphasis on the "Grand Slam", but there's so much more, including being undefeated in all of his Walker Cups. After winning the U.S. Amateur at Merion to complete the final leg of the  slam, he retired from competitive golf to pursue other interests. When I say there is so much more, it also means outside of golf. He earned a B. S. in Engineering and an A. B. in English Literature, not to mention attending Emory University School of Law and passing the bar exam after only three semesters. Obviously he went on to co-found Augusta National and the Masters. His contributions to the game of golf are overwhelming. I think my favorite recognition of his accomplishments is the fact that the USGA's Sportsmanship award is named the Bob Jones Award. Behind all the winning, that pursuit of excellence and the way he went about his business is as inspirational as anything. That's what I challenge our organization every day; respect, character, integrity and the pursuit of excellence in everything we do is how we carry on the lasting legacy.

I thought it would be appropriate to discuss your business plan in the context of the "Grand Slam" of marketing (the four P's). Let's start by reviewing the product. Have there been changes and what are you most excited about?

We've made quite a few changes to product. There was a solid foundation in place but we believed we could make everything better. For Spring '14, you'll see us push the performance side of our business. Technology has come a long way in the last 5-8 years with performance fabrics and we need to be at the front of that development. I'm confident we can deliver performance in a Bobby Jones way. We'll also update all of our key items. We have some products that have been staples of the assortment for years and we need to breathe some life into them by making them modern and relevant for today's consumer.

The promotion of this product obviously starts with an unequaled emotional equity in the name, which makes the brand perfect as the sponsor of the M-Plus e-pub which PGA Magazine has launched. I have also heard you talk about remodeling the booth in Orlando and the way the product is presented.

From the beginning I've said our first challenge was to rebuild the trust of the trade in terms of our execution. I believe that Rick (Summers) and PGA Magazine provide the best platform to talk directly to the trade. When we sat down to discuss our respective plans, it was clear that there was a lot of common ground to work with and we were able to create long-term partnership.

While I love the PGA Show, I've felt for a long time that I was missing something in terms of how to present a brand in that avenue and make it emotional and interesting. We'll have a completely different point of view in 2014 that will be emotional, interesting and informative. The people at Reed listened to what we wanted to accomplish and have been a great partner in helping us get down this road. We'll be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Bobby Jones brand and I believe we have the right strategy to support such an important milestone.

Beyond that, we need to do a better job working directly with the golf shops one-on-one to promote the brand to their customers. We want to create digital assets that are versatile and easy to adapt to allow each golf shop to tailor their own message. Technology gives us all the opportunity to really get specific and talk to the right customer with the right message at the right time. We need to take advantage of that.

I'm sure the placement goal is to have space in the top shops around the world and partner with them in a meaningful enough way that it constitutes a differentiator in the marketplace. We have also talked about starting this process with consultive selling-in. Could you expound on this?

Clearly we have a premium brand and plan to partner with the right people that can have success selling Bobby Jones. I think the road to partnership and success is about having a lot of communication. Through some of the PGA Magazine Boot Camps, Ive had the opportunity to listen and participate in many discussions about the industry and the way in which we do business. My favorite part is to watch everyone roll their eyes when the discussion turns toward the selling/buying process. You can see the pained expressions on their faces at the thought of three hours in a room or van looking at 500 samples. I've talked to our sales team a lot about changing this process to what you refer to as "consultive" selling. If there's a solid dialogue between the buyer and seller about the business, the opportunities, the challenges, etc., the process of selecting product to fit into the plan is much easier and much less time consuming. We have 300 skus in our line, and I don't expect any one customer to see all of them. I'm serious. If one of our reps shows someone every SKU, clearly they did not have any conversation about the business. Our line is the size it is to accomodate multiple regions of the country, different types of operations and varying tastes. We need to spend less time showing/selecting product and more time discussing how to execute. This gives the best chance for success.

Andy, I want to thank you for your time and your efforts in the industry over an interesting career. I saved price for last but it is probably important, especially to any buyer who hasn't carried the line lately, to hear you speak to the current pricing strategy.

Price is important in the context of value. Value doesn't mean the least expensive but it does mean providing the absolute best product you can at a specific price point. A $500 sweater can have value
to a consumer as much as a $75 shirt. We're fortunate to have a brand name with a tremendous amount of equity with the consumer but there is still a little bit of perception that Bobby Jones is really expensive.Italian knitwear that is difficult to care for and requires the dreaded dry cleaner. Obviously this is the exact opposite position for what is working in the market today when performance and easy-care are significant factors. For someone who hasn't seen Bobby Jones in a while they will be pleasantly surprised at what we're doing with both the wholesale and retail price points.

To Andy's point, the Bobby Jones brand has a "tremendous amount of equity " and under its new leadership, and given the empathy and product value that is involved in the new business plan, this could be the perfect time to revisit and take advantage of that equity.