Saturday, March 7, 2015

Gold Rush

I had an opportunity recently to speak with Larry Mathe who has been designing the Greg Norman Ladies line since fallof 2014. Larry was the founder and former CEO of EP Pro, the leading women's wear company in the green grass industry for over 15 years and his commitment to maintaining market share in the golf market is apparent not only in his conversation but in the look of the most recent line previewed in Orlando for fall of 2015.

Larry, it must be nice to being doing what you love, but being under the radar, so to speak. Why don’t you bring us up to date on recent histories and how your role with the Greg Norman team has evolved?

Craig I see myself as fortunate to be doing something that I have great a passion for and equally fortunate that I am working with a great team of people. The product side of the business is what I enjoy the most and when Mike Setola asked if I would partner with them on the women’s segment of their business it required very little thought on my part.
Shortly after teaming up GNC Robert LaFontant and Nikita Gandhi both from EP became part of the GNC womens team. Needless to say having spent many years working with Robert and Nikita we were able to influence the direction of the ladies product very quickly.

Your reputation in the industry as a leader in ladies apparel precedes you. What do you see as the future of this important part of the business and specifically how do you see the Greg Norman line creating differentiators in golf retail?

The Greg Norman Women’s  brand is a casual lifestyle collection that offers our customer traditional casual sportswear that embraces modern styling, fabrics and fit. While the collection is highly appropriate as golf apparel its greatest appeal is a versatility that allows the customer to feel very comfortable wearing the product in non-golf settings.
A great many of the product offerings in the women’s golf market share a sameness that we try to avoid. The Greg Norman collection is a result of a focus on tasteful and understandable fashion that allows the purchase decision to come without a great deal of effort.

The collections displayed in the booth in Orlando previewing Fall 2015 looked incredible. Have you seen anything lately at the shop level that excites you both in terms of merchandising and/or salesmanship?

While I do spend a fair amount of time on the road visiting shops- I tend to devote as much of my time to shopping retail stores as I find that in terms of design inspiration they have product assortments that offer a greater potential for having an influence on our product direction.
There are many very talented merchants in the golf industry who do a remarkable job-especially in view of the product assortments they have to choose from.

The ladies apparel business is one of the more difficult to manage in most parts of the country. What would be your advice to buyers as to how to maximize this part of their business?

Avoid duplication—how many color blocked polos do you really need to carry?

There are a number of different customer types that visit a shop on a daily basis- You need to find that balance where you can offer variety without spreading yourself too thin with too many vendors—4 to 5 womens vendors should be more than enough depending on the size and type of shop you have. I think a strong argument could be made that if you have a small to medium sized shop and have more than 4 women’s vendors you are over assorted.

The Gold Rush Collection in the fall 2015 Greg Norman Ladies line is black, white and gold and is probably the most sellable group of ladies apparel I have seen in a long time. Larry agreed that it is probaly the best he has produced in a career that has engendered many "bests".