Servicing the club’s exercise-minded set with fitness-specific clothing and gear can breathe new life into club merchandising efforts.
Kyle Flinton takes to heart one of his favorite architect ‘s recipe for a successful country club.
“He always preaches the three Fs: family, female and fitness,” says Flinton, who owns and runs the pro shop at Quail Creek Golf & Country Club in Oklahoma City.
Heeding that formula, Flinton recently decided to add a line of female fitness wear to the shop’s offerings, realizing there was an opportunity to branch out from just golf merchandise when the club’s fitness facility was relocated closer to his shop.
SUMMING IT UP
Proximity also aids fitness retail operations at The Peninsula, a private club and gated community in Millsboro, Del., which includes a 10,000-square-foot athletic club with amenities including a pool, an aerobics room, 14 cardio machines, massage rooms, locker rooms, saunas for men and women and a children’s playroom. The building’s open floor plan allows for easy access from one amenity to the next, including the fitness shop, which is just beyond the lobby.
The Peninsula staff seeks out merchandise that will be a hit with members. In addition to an assortment of tennis and swim clothing and accessories, the club carries an array of gear for aerobics and other workouts, such as Zumba. Besides listening to the members for inspiration about which brands to carry, the staff chooses by avoiding brands that members can easily obtain elsewhere.
“We have a big Nike outlet close to us, so it doesn’t do well [at the Peninsula shop],” says Keriann Martin, Athletic Club Manager at The Peninsula.
On the other hand, she finds it worthwhile to stock a brand called “lucy” because of its limited availability anywhere in the region. Not only is the lucy brand elusive, but it has the double-duty qualities that Martin finds a lot of the women crave.
“People are wearing workout wear to work out, but they also want it to look nice to possibly go out in,” Martin explains. “That’s what’s been so great about lucy and a couple of the other lines. It’s multipurpose wear.”
Flinton agrees. His foray into fitness wear began with women’s athletic wear from Skirt Sports that not only provides an ideal fit for multiple sports, but also is appropriate attire for running errands.
Club merchandisers also find that customers are becoming more fabric-conscious. As a result, the options have expanded and improved substantially from the days of just cotton or spandex. Some of the hottest new pieces include fitness fabrics that can handle moisture or are antimicrobial. An increase in eco-conscious consumers has led to the rise in popularity of products such as eco-organic fabric with bamboo sewn in, Martin says.
Flinton is working on expanding his fitness gear selection by getting input from the club’s aerobics instructor. He also peruses the latest offerings at the PGA Merchandise Show each year.
Positioned for Profits
Martin finds it beneficial to help customers envision the possibilities that the shop’s merchandise offers.
“I try to put the big sellers on the wall to display how well the outfits go together,” she says.
She tries to redo one section’s display each week, making sure to change up the entire store’s display before holiday weekends to pique customers’ interest. Martin also attempts to lure customers by introducing a different “item of the week” each week and attaching a special deal or discount.
Martin and Flinton find ways to incorporate holidays or big events into store specials. For example, The Peninsula fitness shop hosted a March Madness contest and doled out discounts for participants who were able to shoot a basket from certain distances.
Sometimes featured items are placed at The Peninsula shop’s checkout counter, but because the area is small, the staff finds other ways to get members’ attention.
“The way the floor plan is laid out, the merchandise is immediately surrounding the athletic club front desk,” explains The Peninsula General Manager Donald DeMasters. “If members are checking in, they’re within arms-length of the ladies’ fixture or the Gatorade fridge.”
The human factor is another key to healthy sales. Martin doesn’t have a formal training program for employees, but she looks for candidates with a retail background when she’s hiring and then educates each employee about each product.
“One of the trends in the past couple years is to really find activewear, gymwear or aerobicwear that is functional for everyday life,” says DeMasters. “I think that Keriann does a great job of working with the team on going over the attributes of each piece. For example, ‘this piece has a pocket for your iPod, this piece has fabric that prevents moisture and helps you stay cool.’”
Fitness shops aren’t just bumping up sales based on what’s in their inventories. Flinton facilitates special orders for members, but prefers to find other ways to furnish members—especially females—with unique items.
“When we (place special orders) in groups for men, we can buy two mediums, three larges, three extra larges, and so on. You can’t do that with women because they don’t want to have the same shirt as Mrs. Jones or Mrs. Smith,” he explains. “I’ve tried trunk shows. That gives them a chance to see the merchandise there and make special orders that day. I host a wine and cheese type evening where women can try items on and purchase them before they’re even out. It saves me some dollars for later on.”
Martin says she enjoys being able to fulfill special orders, adding most vendors are easy to work with.
“It is a little bit more work,” she admits, “but being able to provide that service for our members is what puts us above and beyond any retail shop out there.”
Flourishing Beyond Fitness
Looking for an easy way to diversify the inventory while boosting sales? BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., sells a line of jewelry at the spa, rotating the display often enough to interest the women in a different earring-necklace combination each time they’re back for a manicure, pedicure or massage.
Husbands of the regular spa customers say their wives’ spa trips are becoming more expensive because of the jewelry, reports Mary Henderson of BallenIsles. That’s good news for the club.