Saturday, December 5, 2015

Holiday Gift Giving

This will not be an article that suggests holiday props or Xmas trees. I assume everyone
has their own way of dressing up the shop for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  What I thought would be appropriate to discuss however would be the different modes that shops find themselves in this time of year and what that means to the merchandising effort.

Some facilities, for example, find themselves over-inventoried and not in the frame of mind to buy with the gift giving of their patrons as an incentive. Many clubs save open to buy in an effort to be able to provide the latest hot items for the members to shop and see that as an important part of the service they provide. Depending on seasonality some clubs retail drops off so significantly with lack of play that there is no real effort made to entice the member or regular to think "shop with us". Some shops are closed by the holidays and others are ramping up for snow birds. No matter where you are in this scheme of things if you have an email list you can attempt to do business by offering to drop ship gift-wrapped inventory or special orders. The inventory you do own can be pre-wrapped or bundled with ribbon, apparel items can be boxed as outfits and anything smaller than a shoe box can be suggested as stocking stuffers.

For the shops with open-to-buy and festivities planned, here are some cool ideas for gift-giving some of which I’ve mentioned here in the past:

Signs by the Sea – Basically if you can dream it you can order it on a rustic sign form Kathy Yevchak (  This is a very cool new company that is easy to get started with and can provide that customized gift with the golf touch.

KJUS Outerware – Sportswear made of innovative, high performance fabrication with a distinctive clear design. The perfect gift for the outdoors man.

Marc Joseph – designer brand of fashion forward footwear. The driver mocs do well in shops, but their entire line is built with attention to detail.

 Fore Kids Golf – Holiday gift giving is really about the kids and every shop with a logo that members have pride in can sell this product with the same pride. The clothes are made with luxurious soft Pima Cotton and are all designed to be logoed. Kelsey Mclean is the principal.

Seamus Golf  -  A head-cover company that has pouches, bags and hand-forged on course tools that are great for gift giving

Winston Collectionleather goods embossed with the club logo. My favorite are their embroidered leather pillows.

 Personal Golf Fan - Battery powered fan for the cart is a great gift item for the avid golfer particularly in the warmer climes. Contact Cynthia Wark(

Como Sport - The best Italian cottons, merino and cashmere for the discerning. Call Jimmy Glass.

Always the go-to gift that should be mentioned here and should be mentioned often in the shop is the gift certificate. No matter what mode your holiday business finds itself this time of year, gift certificates are easy and don’t require new inventory. Many businesses, particularly restaurants have contests for employees with significant prizes to those that sell the most gift certificates.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Open to Buy / Buy Plan

There seems to be confusion at some facilities between an open-to-buy report and a buy plan. While they are both valuable retail tools they are not one and the same. A good definition of the difference is an article by Ted Hurlbut. Ted Hurlbut is the Principal of Hurlbut & Associates, a retail consulting and business advisory firm based in Foxboro, Massachusetts. He is focused on helping his clients increase sales, margins, profitability, and cash flow, and is particularly attuned to the challenges facing smaller, independent, entrepreneurial retailers. You can learn more about Ted, and Hurlbut & Associates, at

So what exactly is an Open-To-Buy?
The clearest and simplest definition is that it is a financial budget for retail merchandise. Let's look at this more closely.
An Open-To-Buy relates directly to retail merchandise, is structured specifically to address the needs of retailers, and is a tool designed to assist retailers manage and replenish their most significant asset, their inventory investment.
An Open-To-Buy is a budget, and involves the full range of budgetary functions. It begins with the planning process, is future oriented, provides guidance on how much to buy, and provides benchmarks for evaluating progress, and adjusting future plans.
An Open-To-Buy is a financial tool, in that the units of measure are typically dollars, usually retail dollars but sometimes cost dollars, and that it can be tied back to the financial control process.
An Open-To-Buy can work on any level that a retailer needs it to. It can be used to track merchandise at the company, department, classification or sub-classification level. In rare cases for a small retailer, it can even be used to track an individual item.
Fashion and Seasonal Merchandise versus Basic In-Stock Items
It is important to note from the start, that as a replenishment tool, an Open-To-Buy is not appropriate for all categories of merchandise. It is most appropriate for fashion merchandise where the specific items may change, but the departments, classifications and sub-classifications remain relatively stable, and seasonal merchandise where inventories are brought in at the beginning of the selling season, and need to be managed down to pre-determined ending level at the end of the selling season.
In the case of fashion or seasonal merchandise, an Open-To-Buy answers the question of how much to buy, but not necessarily the question of which specific items to buy. For that, a detailed assortment plan is necessary, which lays out exactly what items will be coming in when, and provides a plan for how all of the individual items come together to form a compelling merchandise assortment
In contrast, an Open-To Buy is not appropriate as a replenishment tool for day-in and day-out basics. These staple items are more effectively replenished using an automatic replenishment program running off of pre-determined minimum and maximum inventory parameters. In the case of these in-stock basics, an Open-To-Buy may still serve a valuable budget and control function at a department or category level.
Like any budget, an Open-To-Buy starts with a plan, then compares actual results to that plan and quantifies any variances. Carefully considered planning is the critical first step in constructing an Open-To-Buy.
The planning process begins with building a sales plan. For small retailers, most sales plans are broken out by the month, although in some cases, especially highly seasonal businesses or categories, it may be more appropriate to plan sales by the week. The question to ask is a very basic one: "What is the most likely level of sales from stock (excluding special orders) by month (or week)?"
Once a sales plan has been developed, the next piece of the planning process is to build an inventory plan. The question to ask is this: "How much inventory do I need at the end of each month to support the next month's sales (in some cases the ending inventory may need to support more than just one month of future sales), as well as maintain effective merchandise displays?"
The sales plan numbers referred to are projections based on dollars and usually arrived at by analyzing last year’s sales and either adding or subtracting projected increases or decreases by percentage depending on all the obvious factors.
The inventory plan that this article mentions in the above paragraph is what I refer to as a buy plan, is measured in units not dollars and is as Ted Hurlbut points out the rest of the story. The merchandise buy plan guide explains how to base this unit plan on space, fixturing, categories and turns with the goal being “well-merchandised but not over-inventoried.”
The dollars and units approach is neither optional nor a debate between the two methods but in my mind, the only approach and the proper tools with which the small retailer can write appropriate orders per vendor and given their capacity. When a well developed Buy Plan is used in conjunction with an Open to Buy report and confirms that given existing inventory levels allow your planned buys in terms of dollars invested - a certain peace of mind develops that at least the planning part of the retail process is in sync.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Open to Buy Wizard

Recently I have been talking with Tim Ogle, an expert on open to buy planning and the founder and president of Open to Buy Wizard (OTBW) software. The You-Tube link provided below is Tim speaking at a 2014 Independent Retail Conference in Las Vegas.

There are a number of key points that provided a common ground for our conversation:

1.      Realizing that having optimum inventory levels per classification is the key to maximizing retail efficiency as well as profits.

2.      Agreeing that over-buying is one of the biggest issues affecting the merchandising of any retail operation and the erosion of profits. 

The methodology I have used over the years (The Merchandise Buy Plan Guide) determines optimum inventory levels based on space and turn on a yearly basis but does not update on a monthly basis the evolution of that plan. The ability to stay on top of these levels as they change is one of the benefits that OTBW provides.

Mr. Ogle, we start our dialog with an agreement that an understanding of optimum inventory levels is probably the most important piece of retail management for any effective buy plan. Before we get into a discussion of the basic concepts of retail and how they are enhanced by your service and apply to golf shop management please tell us what caused you to get into this business and why for the last 15 years you have been offering this "open to buy" software service.

20 years ago, my wife was an award winning buyer-merchandiser at three resort golf shops in Arizona. I have a business finance background. We began developing an open to buy spreadsheet for her personal use. In the next two years it became apparent that there was no (good) spreadsheet solution to this task. It was like trying to solve a three dimensional problem with a two dimensional tool. If the spreadsheet was too simple, it lacked accuracy. If it was too complex, it was too time consuming. We finally recognized that to be done efficiently, otb planning requires a database (software) solution. It took us three years of development and testing before we offered our first version. Our current cloud based program has come a long way from those early days and the result is the best of both worlds: simple, time efficient and comprehensive.

I think it would be great for our purposes and readership to have you define the more important basics as there are different types of "open to buy", different methods of calculation and therefore many terms and concepts properly and improperly used when discussing your area of expertise.

Interesting question. You reference the term "Buy Plan" in your first question. That could be defined as a once a year budgeting of sale and inventory levels and purchases required to reach those levels. It is only valid on the day that it is calculated. As we all know, retailing is not a static business. Every order placed and every sale made changes the factors that are used to calculate amounts to buy. To have a true "Open-to-Buy" plan, these variables must be updated regularly and the open-to-buy re-calculated. Sounds hard, works easy.

I have always prescribed that inventory levels be based on space and turns tied to peaks in the season with any increases projected at increasing turns not inventory.

We provide a similar option where the user selects inventory targets or ranges for each month and classification. However, a preferred and powerful benefit of OTBW is a performance driven approach. OTBW users select their own retail performance standards such as "COGS%", "Turn Ratio", and "% of Sales" from the shop to the subcategory level. The program calculates the optimum inventory targets, and it is surprising how much difference this makes. With good performance standards and the assurance of having optimum inventory in every classification every month there is no reason to overbuy, no reason to dilute margins with excess clearance sales. Many of our golf shop managers have gradually become comfortable with turn rations as high as (4) which insures a 3 month supply at all times. The margins and return on investment that result from this are a major improvement over previous performance. Look at the Annual Comparison charts of one of our long term golf shop customers. Sales are up every year for the past 5 years and the inventory is down every year. Note: If the last three months of 2015 have inventory and sales equal to last year, the annual average inventory will be $91,129 at cost. The total sales will be $497,052.

Increasing sales with less inventory can be counter intuitive for some managers who believe the more inventory you have the more you will sell. We have found that optimum inventory will turn faster, be fresher and sell more. It works!

It has always seemed to that the cliche "good-in, good-out: trash-in, trash-out" is very real when discussing software and its effective use. Tell us what is involved with input and set-up of your system and how you have customized this somewhat for golf.

We have two versions, Golf or Retail. The only difference is the inclusion of "rounds" and "sales per round" reports in the golf version. The Set-up is very time efficient. About 2-3 hours followed by a one hour telephone walk-through. Going forward, one hour per month updating EOM and on-order data. We provide unlimited no-cost email or telephone support so users call us if they have questions or need help. We send a monthly newsletter to keep everyone updated, offer operational tips, etc. OTBW can be programmed for automated data import for a modest additional fee.

OTBW users are self-motivated "do-it-yourself" types who prioritize the management of the plan above the busy work of following the plan. Some PGA GMs own their own shops and have a direct stake in how much is "invested" in inventory and the return they receive from that investment. All PGA managers can add another "profit center" by simply using updated inventory management methods. 

Craig, in one of your recent articles you said:

"Successful apparel buying for any retail space, including the typical golf pro shop is about 80% science and 20% art. Everyone is an artist but very few buyers in golf fully understand the science."

That is insightful. OTBW has automated the "science" of inventory management, leaving shop managers to do what they do best with merchandise selection, displays, customer service, etc.

The service you provide is incredibly affordable. That being said, explain, if you will, how you see the proper use of it as offsetting the cost.

Offsetting the cost is too modest an expectation. Optimum inventory every month in every classification makes a surprising difference. For us it was $25,000 improved gross margins the first year, improving to $40,000 by the seventh year. We did this with $15,000 less average inventory! See the :15 video which explains in more detail how this was done. These kind of results dwarf the small monthly fees and the time spent!

In a nutshell, how does the software work?

OTBW is an online program which can be subscribed to for a low setup fee and monthly fee, has unlimited telephone and email support, is a simple fill-in-the-blanks format customized to your shop and classifications. Users log on and manage their own programs.

 I really appreciate what you do, the passion with which you do it and the education you have provided here. We have put up a banner with this entry that links to your website but how would you prefer that interested readers explore this further with you?

Clicking on the banner and visiting our website is the first step - The site answers most questions. When readers are satisfied, they can click on the "Order" menu and complete the registration for a 30 day free trial. We charge a one-time $100 setup fee, which is temporarily reduced to $25. They may also call me directly: 928-636-2105 or mobile: 928-821-3301.

Craig, thank you for your interest in this specialized subject and the opportunity to discuss it with you.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Primer and Pertinents

Successful apparel buying for any retail space, including the typical golf pro shop, is about 80% science and 20% art. Everyone is an “artist” but very few “buyers” in golf fully understand the science.

Lost Key Golf Club

The philosophy that makes the most sense for golf pro shop retailing and the areas that I work to improve both with the blog and hands-on as a retail consultant can be summed up in a few key phrases. A well planned shop, in order to be successful, needs to be attractively merchandised across all appropriate categories of goods that make it full service without being over-inventoried and it needs to provide service that is “above and beyond”.

Ask yourself a few pertinent questions:

Does your buy plan accomplish your sales goals?

Do you have the proper mix of apparel to make margin?

Is your retail space properly fixtured for maximum volume?

Would you be better off having a retail professional do this for you as well as train your sales staff to sell the goods?

Do you often find yourself over-inventoried and priced at a ‘no-margin’ level?

Los Altos Golf and Country Club

Whether you are attempting to manage your pro shop yourself or with the help of a professional retail consultant or buyer, the best way to institute a plan to address the scientific area of the formula is the ‘buy to space’ approach. Understanding the clientele and their wants and needs and tailoring this unique mix to the existing fixtures, traffic patterns and peak selling periods is part of the challenge. Having orders arrive that are expressly designed to fit a specific space, that are planned out according to the right turn ratio and that allow for a variety throughout the year of vendor, color and seasonally appropriate goods is also fundamental.

Desert Mountain

Another part of the equation involves establishing partnerships with key vendors both in hard goods and apparel. Titleist, Foot-joy, Zero Restriction, Fairway and Greene, Greg Norman, E.P. Pro, Imperial, Peter Millar, Pima-Direct and AHead are vendors that have partnered well for me and are willing to help key accounts with staff apparel, shop fixtures, visual display and product-knowledge seminars. Regional Golf Shows are the venue to be on the lookout for new and ‘next best’, but key vendors should be having their representatives visit the club often and with a purpose.

Staff appearance is critical for many reasons, not the least of which is that they are the first impression the Club gets to make. A staff that does not come to work well-groomed and properly attired will never be perceived as truly professional.

Prairie Falls Golf Club

 Perhaps the most important part of the job of a Head Professional and the staff they train is to provide a ‘cutting edge service’, attitude and atmosphere. This can only be accomplished when the bar is set high, expectations understood and the proper education provided. A knowledgeable staff of walking mannequins that enjoys conveying that knowledge to members and guests is imperative to having a profitable shop that members/regulars are proud to patronize. A pro-shop that provides this type of service is open until the last member leaves for the day, it is also usually one with turnover due to promotion.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Follow Up

A merchant who approaches business with the idea of serving the public well has nothing to fear from the competition.
- James Cash Penney

Independence Golf Club 

Pre-service skills as well as shop salesmanship savvy are both important opportunities to “wow” the customer and enhance the service reputation of the facility and staff but perhaps the sale follow-up is the most compelling. "Follow-Up" is perhaps my favorite service topic and probably the easiest to institute.

Once you have bought into pre-service, post-service becomes an automatic. The phone and email skills are the same. The industry wide problem is many facilities do neither. However, if you are reading this and realize that every day is an opportunity to enhance the experience your facility provides, you will find it easy to compete and your customer will tell the story for you.

Ballyhack Golf Course

Near the end of last October, I received a phone call from the General Manager at Martin Honda Dealership in Newark, Delaware which is where I purchased my last car. It is, by the way, a very busy dealership with an incredible service department. Here was the message.

“Mr. Kirchner, this is Ron Applegate from Martin Honda. I’m calling to ask you to do me a favor.”

“Sure Ron, what can I do for you?”
“Please tell your wife that everyone here at Martin wishes her a happy birthday and thanks to both of you for your business. Also, I notice you are on our maintenance schedule and I want to make sure you are happy with our service department.”

“Yes, they are great in fact.”

“Thanks again and anytime you need anything or just want to talk about cars call me – my personal number is 555-5555 and I’d love to hear from you. Thanks again.”

I hung up the phone thinking three things:

1. Why would I ever want to buy a car anywhere else?
2. Do the shops I work with make this type of call?
3. I’d better get my wife something for her birthday.

Bearpath Golf and CC

 At a golf shop consider the following two scenarios.

1. A club member at an east-coast high-end club has a guest in from Chicago. He buys a Peter Millar shirt in the shop. The assistant at the counter introduces himself as Jeff, thanks him and asks him for a business card. A week later the young man sends our Chicagoan an email.

We hoped you enjoyed your day with us last week and are happy with the Peter Millar shirt you purchased. If I can ever do anything for you including gift wrap and ship some similar logoed shirts to your friends please let me know. My number here at the shop is 555-5555.

All the best,

XYZ club.

Mr. Chicago immediately forwards the email to the member who invited him to the club with a note praising Jeff, “The golf staff at your club is the best in the country, no question.” He then tells the story every time the subject of service at golf clubs comes up.

2. A customer buys a new driver, a rain jacket, two new shirts and a hat, spends $1000. It is two weeks later and no one has even thought about calling him to see if he’s hitting the ball further. There is no Jeff at this Shop.

I don’t know if I have ever heard anyone in any shop make this type of personalized thank you and “anything I can do for you” call or email but it should be standard operating procedure and is almost guaranteed to create business. When the customer with the new driver is called with an inquiry as to his satisfaction and the comment is made to close the call “if there is anything I can ever do for you” the new-driver-guy is already thinking about what that could be.

Golf Shop at TPC Sawgrass

 In summary pre-service, retail salesmanship and follow-up ultimately increase sales by providing better service and taking advantage of the intimacy that we have with  our repeating customer base due to the mutual love of the game.

Some specific actions to take to accomplish this:

- Contact any scheduled group play to offer all available services.
- Prepare for arriving customers by making it Standard Operating Procedure for your staff to familiarize themselves with profiles when they exist.
- Challenge your staff to learn three things that aren’t apparent about every item in your shop.
- Role play approaching customers in the shop.
- Challenge your staff to pick one customer a day who they will totally wow to the point where they have to tell the story.
- Thank the customer before they leave the shop and when possible walk them to the door.
- Challenge each staff member to make three follow-up thank you calls per day.

The golf industry and your facility in particular should take heed. The successful, as we have been discussing, are those who are trying harder, much like the more I practice the luckier I get.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pre-service as a Strategy

Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota

Today, with increased competition, customers are much more discerning than they have ever been and only the retailers who understand this have been able to grow their business. Clubs as well as public courses that don’t provide commendable service, professional salesmanship and an incredibly friendly environment will not be attracting members who want to entertain guests or repeat customers who recommend the facility. Whether the customer has just paid a membership fee or waited in line all night for a tee-time at Beth Page, the days of tolerating dirty shops or rude clerks is history. Customers expect to be acknowledged and engaged in conversation by a friendly, smiling, upbeat staff that has been educated to point out value, features and benefits. They look to be professionally attended to, for product to be attractively displayed and they look to be sold.

The days of the self-service shop with the “hang it up and they will buy it” mentality has deteriorated to “hang it and hope” and the hope isn’t being fulfilled. The consumer, no matter what his station in life, knows how much harder he is working and how much more knowledgeable he has to be to make ends meet and expects similar effort before deciding to get out his wallet.

With this as mantra let’s take a look at some examples of “pre-servicing” in this posting and at one of our hypothetical staff meetings.

The introduction by this meeting’s team leader could be something like the following:

“Anytime we know ahead of time someone is going to play our golf course, whether they are driving around the corner, staying at the hotel, booked into a cottage, or part of a group or an outing they are a potential shop customer. Any potential customer can be pre-serviced, not pre-sold, we want to talk about offering services that can enhance their experience at our facility. Our staff needs to understand the effort as an important part of the Wow culture. What can we suggest to our “soon to arrive” customers?

The following contact possibilities are discussed:

“Colonel Mustard, this is Katie at the club. You have a group of seven and yourself booked into the cottage in a few weeks. Could we get your guests a shirt and a hat and have them on their bed when they arrive? We have your company logo and could put it on the sleeve of a club logoed shirt. I’d be more than happy to take care of this for you.”

Pestana Golf

 “Professor Plum, this is the shop at XYZ. You’ve booked an outing with us for the weekend of the Fourth of July. Can we help you with a favor for each of your players, perhaps one of the new performance shirts would be hit with your group? We typically can get you a better deal than you would get from other suppliers and we can see to it that they’re individually wrapped and handed out with a smile.”

“Mrs. White, good day. We just received a new delivery of Tail at the shop. Would you like me to put some outfits together in your size and hold them until you come in Friday?”

“Miss Scarlet, this is Cary at the club. I noticed you are on the tee sheet to play your first round this season. I checked your bag in storage and our records and your clubs have not been re -gripped in over a year. Would you like me to go ahead and take care of that for you?”

“Mrs. Grey, we want you to know how much we appreciate you bringing your ladies group to our course for this year’s outing and that we will be putting a sleeve of a new ball designed for ladies play in each cart for them to try. We were wondering if there is anything else we can do to make them feel welcome.”

The Greenbrier

 “Mr. Green, this is Jason at the club. We received the new Tech hats from Imperial your foursome was inquiring about last week. Would you like me to get them personalized for your friends and you can surprise them this weekend?”

“Mr. Blue, this is Jeff at the club. I noticed you are scheduled to play this Friday and noticed that it’s your anniversary. Would you like me to get you a bottle of that wine from the dining room your wife likes so much? I can have it here at the shop when you finish up your round.”

“Mr. Black, this is John at XYZ. I thought I would email you when I noticed that you are bringing some guests with you to Sunday’s tee time who have never played here before. We know you drink Bud-Lite but what about your friends?” If one of these guests drink Sam Adams Summer Lager and it’s waiting for him in a cooler on the cart on Sunday you will have wowed the group.”

Think about all the things in your life that are scheduled or regular in nature and now picture yourself being offered a ride to and from work when you drop your car off for service or you arrive early for an appointment to get your hair cut and they offer to get you a cup of coffee knowing you take cream and two sugars.

Belfair Plantation

There are a number of head pros with whom I have worked over the years who view any type of selling as hard-sell that could get someone upset with them. Customers who would be put off by the examples of service provided above must have been living under a rock the past year since the current economic climate has resulted in most businesses realizing that retaining existing customers is at least as important as advertising for new.
What is required is a sense of empowerment on the part of the creative employee and a commitment on the part of the Leader to training on the use of the phone as a business tool and email as a way to pre-service.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The $17,000 Shop Credit

This is a re-post that was requested by a number of shop managers who have been using some form of this competition to create member interest since its original posting in 2010.

 Depending on the facility, shop credits either won by or awarded to members/regulars can vary from zero to a significant percentage of the overall business. I’ve talked to many pros who say their members hold their credit until the end of the year and they manage their Christmas business and end of year inventory on the outstanding credit still to be redeemed. Because of cutbacks in trying times many tournament favors are now shop credits instead of especially bought favors. The point is shop credit is important at most facilities and like any other part of the business deserves to be looked at as a part of the business worth creatively attempting to increase.

The football season is almost here and its high profile marketability provides an opportunity to create some shop excitement. The following example can obviously be tweaked according to facility and clientele but let’s call our hypothetical approach “The Big Game”.

Place a clipboard on the shop counter with the appropriate sign –up sheet where you list the ten NFL games that are going to be involved in this week’s random drawing. Anyone interested in participating signs up next to one of the ten slots on the sign –up sheet and owes $25 to the pot. Our signee can play as often as he wants but only once per sheet. When the sheet is full we move on to the next sheet hoping to fill as many sheets as possible.

On Sunday morning before the games each sheet will have the ten games involved drawn and posted next to the name on the list corresponding to the number of the draw. Ritualistically every Sunday morning this drawing is performed in the shop in front of any crowd that might form and until each name on each sheet is paired with a game. Each sheet is its own pool and has a winner. The winner per sheet is the guy or gal with the highest total points per game on the sheet. The winner wins $250 worth of shop credit.

The interest in wagering on football needs not be documented here, it is incredible. Even members or regulars who aren’t fans of the game or trying to pick winners may find this a fun $25 endeavor. It’s difficult however to find ten to one odds on football wagers without betting multiple games so you have some appeal to die-hard gamblers as well.

The staff could be incentivized to talk up the clipboard and sign people up and the interest in the Sunday morning ritual of drawing games to names could have people stopping in who may otherwise not be in the shop.

 Four sheets per week is $1000 worth of shop credit. The real beauty of the concept is that it is a seventeen week season. Multiply 8 sheets per week times 17 weeks and you could be talking about generating 10% of this year’s revenue in some shops.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Imperial Powered by Coolcore

I recently spent time in Bourbon, Missouri with the management team at Imperial Headwear. I was invited by David Shaffer who is the Director of Marketing to tour their facilities and discuss their move from Denver to Missouri. After the purchase in October of 2012 by Paramount Apparel International the subsequent conversion of internal systems, etc. culminated with this move, and like all such moves, requires patience and dedicated expertise to accomplish. The team at Imperial were rightfully proud as they explained to me that “not only is the transition complete but we are better poised now than we have ever been to service the golf market.”

The other partnership that we were getting together to discuss was described to me by Mike Wrightson (General Manager of Imperial Headwear) as “a game changer in golf headwear” is the proprietary relationship with CoolcoreÒ to launch a line of caps that can lower surface temperatures up to 30% without chemicals.

I was impressed with the tour, the team, the partnerships and the potential of a “game changer” and so I am excited to have an opportunity to publish some of that conversation.

David, Mike – sitting in this showroom, having toured the facility and heard the details of the transition and the breadth of the Paramount umbrella is frankly a lot to take in. Go over the more important points of what this new latitude means to Imperial’s green-grass distribution.

Mike –Imperial is now owned and operated by a very healthy corporation.  Imperial’s customers can really benefit from the capabilities of this larger parent company.  Inventory levels are great, production has industry-leading turnaround times, and returns are at record lows.  Our customers are just now starting to see the muscle behind the new Imperial.

It seems that as big and difficult a move and transition as this was that Imperial has not lost its market share with high-end golf shops.

David – I like to say the higher a golf course is ranked the more likely they are to do business with Imperial.  Imperial is THE classic golf brand; we turn 100-years old next year.  Of course there was some attrition during the transition – that was to be expected – but a lot of those customers have started coming back to Imperial.

Coolcore as a “game-changer” is a strong declaration and yet after seeing the fabrication and the demonstration and video I’m inclined to agree with you.

David – Wicking has been the performance story for a long time now in golf apparel. Cooling is the next generation of performance fabrics though, and Coolcore is the best cooling technology out there right now. Coolcore fabrics test so well against other fabrics claiming to do similar things.  And to perform that well without the use of chemicals is amazing -- it’s all in the fiber construction.

Mike – It’s an exciting time for our Company.  There aren’t too many technological breakthroughs in headwear, but this is one of them.  I’m thrilled to be the first company offering this cooling technology to golf customers.

Mike, you mentioned that the fabrication alone won’t make the new line launch a success. You will need a handsome hat design with shelf appeal and perhaps some “outside the box” merchandising ideas in order to create the sell through you feel the product deserves.

Mike – Yes, when we first evaluated the opportunity to develop a line of cooling headwear we decided to design great looking headwear with comfortable technical fabrics.  Otherwise nobody would care about its function.  So we set out to make better performance hats with superior technology.

David, assuming this cool-down benefit takes the headwear category out of the commodity mode and makes it much more brand driven- what are the marketing plans to drive this home?

David – From a marketing point of view this is also a game changer.  We think our cooling hats will have strong consumer appeal.  In addition to designing some great styles with Coolcore fabrication, we’ve set premium price points and increased advertising as well as PR efforts to help drive consumer awareness.

When we put this Coolcore conversation on the blog I’m going to want to put up the video that explains the fabrication. Is there anything else that either of you would like to add to for the reader’s benefit?

David – Coolcore technology is activated by moisture.  So when your body sweats or you dip the hat in water, it triggers the cooling effect through evaporation.  Which is great because the cap only works when you’re hot or want to cool down.  Otherwise it’s just a great hat!

David, Mike – I want to thank you for your time and effort telling this story to the blog's readership and for having me out to Missouri.

Thank you, Craig!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Green Grass E-Commerce

A note from Craig Kirchner:  Vanguard Pro Shop, a team headed up by the principals behind PGA Magazine and Bandon Dunes Resort launched in 2014 an e-commerce solution for private clubs and upscale golf resorts.   More than 50 leading clubs and resorts and more than 30 leading vendors have already committed to move forward on this effort.  Many of these resort and private club solutions are already producing impressive early results. I am part of the Vanguard team and proud to be involved with a solution and platform that I feel is such an important part of the future of our industry.  This article describes why we are passionate about what we have learned to date and what the future might hold.

Derek Thompson the senior editor at The Atlantic wrote an article titled "Death of the Salesman" discussing the decline of big box retail and department stores such as Sears and JCPenney as well as the decline in the retail job market in general. The article byline is "More Americans work in retail sales than in any other occupation, but these jobs are threatened by technology." He makes the point that - "Twenty years ago the shoppers went to the stores. Today the stores go to the shopper. Increasingly there seem to be two kind of stores - those in a race to the price bottom and those closely guarding the patina of a shopping experience."

The article only alludes to Arthur Miller's award winning play by its use of title. It never mentions Willy Loman and the death of the American Dream as seen through Willy's dysfunctional existence. It does however leave us with this thought "Cheap prices and cheap workers - that is our vicious cycle and the ultimate American shopping bargain. We are getting exactly what we pay for."

Golf shop retail is typically the first and last chapter of an amazing experience - a round of golf. As such we are already "those guarding the patina of an experience." While many of the brick and mortar stores discount their way into oblivion there is obviously an opportunity to vanguard a new shopping environment playing on the strength of the relationship to the game as well as the club or facility while incorporating technology into the equation as an extension of the shop and its image. We speak often in this space about upgrading retail salesmanship through training and enhancing the ambiance of the experience with smart buying and smarter merchandising. The time has come to extend the shopping experience beyond the walls of the shop and endear members/regulars to shop a myriad of goods that are not typically available. The only way to provide this opportunity to your customers is to customize e-commerce to your facility.

At this moment, 98% of green grass retail is brick and mortar and is being cannibalized to some extent by e-commerce. This is a general statement and certainly isn’t true of all categories of goods or all shops, but is by definition true of the industry as a whole. What is more significant to me than the lost revenue represented by this is the loss of interest on the part of the consumer. I’m not talking about the consumer who is giving up on their favorite stores and enjoyable shopping experiences with retail staff that have become respected friends. I’m talking about consumers who are becoming used to being able to support these same stores from their laptop at home or computer at the office or from their phone for that matter. I’m talking about consumers who are also interested in more selection of brands, sizes, and product categories than would normally be carried in the shop. This is more the mind-set of today’s consumer and certainly the member at high-end clubs. The industry needs to realize that encroachment is coming at it from every quarter on the internet and provide the customer the avenue to frequent what has become one of their preferred modes of shopping.

The shop at a progressive facility should be looking to take advantage of the opportunity that e-commerce provides by giving their customer the following on-line service to utilize:

1.      Any e-commerce solution must be able to take advantage of the affinity that the members of the club already have for their club, for their PGA Professional, for their favorite buyer and for their club logo. It has to be a customized shopping experience that reflects an extension of the ambience and quality of the brand and product that has been established by the existing shop.

2.      An expansion of the product and vendor availability, especially to include more ladies and lifestyle goods than most shops are able to provide. This selection changes and updates itself so as to stay interesting but doesn’t need to be owned because of a drop ship partnership per vendor. Women are the shoppers of America, we must make them a bigger part of the golf club shop customer base.

3.      Both logoed an un-logoed options that aren’t available in the shop. This can include color and placement of logo obviously but also the availability of multiple logos including, for example, tournament, historic or member-only logos.

4.      The ability to send gifts drop-shipped to friends and family without calling the shop, using  staff time to hunt down what is needed, possibly special order it into inventory and then ship the order where it needs to go.

5.      A shopping spree as a tournament favor and customized to the tournament or outing budget so as to give the member, guest or corporate player an opportunity to pick their own gift, have it shipped to an address provided and patronize the club.

6.      The access to this service 24/7 – 365 regardless of season or weather.

7.      The site must be easy to use, professional in appearance, secure, and private (for members-only if for private clubs) and it must be able to offer custom pricing options that allow for special Mill River or similar member pricing.

Most internet research on e-commerce will immediately take you to articles that want to match traditional brick and mortar against new up and coming online shopping. I’ve never seen it as a contest or as an either/or, but always as how the aspiring golf shop can incorporate e-commerce as part of its service to its members, guests, resort guests, etc. If you throw out all the antagonist editorials and the accompanying statistics, you are left with an understanding that online shopping is important to people as a convenience, as a mode of shopping that isn’t limited to time of day or “is it snowing?” and that should continue to evolve and grow.

Expand your ladies selection

The ability to provide this enhanced service to members/regulars can only be accomplished with the cooperation of quality vendors who are interested in helping both their green grass partners and prospective green grass partners expand their retail horizons by providing a supplemental and changing product selection that can be customized and drop-shipped. One of the biggest benefits of this type of arrangement for the vendor is the exposure their product gets to the right demographic along with the ability to tell their brand’s story the way they want it told and with the imagery they provide.

Why would any retailer not want to offer more convenient store hours during the holiday shopping experience … but too many golf clubs have relatively little foot traffic at this critical time of year? We simply must deliver better member services or someone else will.  Member and customer convenience and broader selection are only the first two reasons to charge forward and find solutions – there are so many more.