There’s no shortage of merchandise out there for club retail managers that want to get their feet wet and monetize their swim facilities. The trick is figuring out which gear will make the biggest splash.
When Nancy Jones took the helm at the upscale swim and beach shop at Seabrook Island Club in Seabrook Island, S.C., she didn’t realize just how much merchandise it would take to fill the space.
“That first year, I (initially) bought about 50 percent of what we needed,” recalls Jones, Club Merchandise Manager at the private island community’s club (“Great Expectations,” C&RB, February 2010). Luckily, she was able to call in additional orders to beef up the stock, but she admits she was “clueless” when she assumed the role.
Jones is responsible for sourcing and buying merchandise for the approximately 1,200-square-foot shop, which sits next to the beach and two of the club’s swimming pools. In addition to swim necessities such as bathing suits and goggles, the shop also sells swim- and beach-related gift items, such as housewares – but not chintzy items that would be found along any beach’s boardwalk, Jones says.
Now in her fourth year as shop manager, she’s starting to get a feel for the ideal styles and quantities of gear to woo customers, but acknowledges that some element of the unknown will probably never disappear.
No Crystal Ball
Jones tries to plan for what she predicts will be big sellers in any given season, but she has learned that you can’t always see what’s coming. For example, she was surprised by the popularity of one-piece bathing suits last season.
|SUMMING IT UP
“Some of the tiny bikinis you think are going to fly out the door don’t,” Jones observes. “It’s an interesting thing to watch what sells and what doesn’t sell. Swimwear is a tough category to buy for.”
Jones goes by the guideline that if something sold well last year, it probably won’t repeat this year because everyone already has it. So every year, she’s on the hunt for the new “it” item.
Kevin Williams, Swim Director at Phoenix (Ariz.) Country Club, on the other hand, plays it safe instead of messing with new lines or items.
“We really only carry mainstream items that we know will sell on a regular basis,” says Williams. “We have a strong adult base of fitness swimmers who just purchase basic suits with a solid color scheme.”
Williams adds he stocks up on the basics in his shop that coincides with the club’s three pools: a main pool, a game pool and a toddler pool and splash pad with a number of fun water features. His list of items to keep in stock includes goggles, fins, caps, suits and small miscellaneous items.
Seabrook Island’s shop also stocks some perennial best-sellers that always do well, Jones says. Aside from goggles, the big draw for young swimmers is the “Dive Dude,” a toy shaped like a little man that sinks to the bottom of the pool so swimmers can retrieve it.
Jones has found that swim wear and sandals are difficult to buy—particularly for women—because of the multitude of body types and style preferences. She tries to appeal to the masses by carrying merchandise at several different price points.
“Our most expensive lines are Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren,” she explains, “then we have some mid-priced lines and some really inexpensive lines—those are more junior-style bathing suits.”
Jones notes that it’s really important to stock reasonably priced suits.
“Some of our members will be in a bathing suit once in a year because the whole family’s going to be visiting and they want to be a part of the fun,” Jones says. “She doesn’t want pay $100 for her suit, but she does want it to fit and be flattering.”
Phoenix Country Club’s swimwear sales benefit from its integration with the club’s swim team, a group of 30-100 kids that is active in the fall, spring and summer.
“We use a solid navy suit with the club logo printed on it so it can be used for a few years and my supplier always has it in stock,” Williams explains. “The same goes for goggles and swim team caps.”
The club requires the purchase of team suits, but makes them affordable, Williams adds.
Sourcing Swim Merchandise
Nancy Jones, Merchandise Manager at Seabrook Island Club in Seabrook Island, S.C., learns about the latest swimwear and finds ideas for other sellable items at annual merchandise and gift shows. Here are a couple of the events that she finds essential to help fill her beach- and poolside shop.