Story and photos by SHELBY STANGER
Navigating today's tough economic climate at retail requires creative solutions. Thursday, SIMA hosted a Boot Camp called "Salesmanship: Navigating Today's Changing Market," featuring Tom Holbrook of Quiksilver, Jeff Moore of Vans, Greg Osthus of Atwater, and Mark Weber from Hurley.
"A lot of accounts are in survival mode, especially regionally," said Quiksilver Executive VP of Brand Development Tom Holbrook. "These are no longer the days of asking how they did last month, it's about how they did yesterday."
With quicker changes in the market, every panelist agreed that building better strategies up front, creating more meaningful product with simplified, integrated marketing campaigns, aligning with internal teams, and communicating with sales reps who are on the floor daily is the key to staying in business.
At Hurley, Weber said they had to walk away from categories to simplify their message.
"Consumers relate to products that are meaningful, direct and simple, so we are focusing on what we do well," he said.
(Above right: Bob Hurley and Rob Machado.)
At Quiksilver, Holbrook said they have come together to align on one vision. At Vans, Moore said product, marketing and sales agree on strategy first and then execute, and that there is a lot of pre-planning involved.
Aligning internally, building better, more focused product, segmenting the line, offering retailers fresh assortments, and rotating product monthly has worked for brands like Vans and Hurley. For smaller brands like Atwater, demands from retailers are as high as ever, causing them to strategize what products they sell where, prelining when possible and supporting accounts through gifts with purchase, windows and creative promos.
(Above right: Firewire's Mark Price, Brion Lange and Terence Vertongen.)
Every panelist agreed that communicating with sales reps who are on the frontline has been crucial. At Vans, Jeff Moore said he uses the bi-annual product launches to train reps, and rewards reps on how well they execute strategy rather than sheer volume. Quiksilver is also working hard to arm reps with better retail math and to get them closer to their top 10 accounts. Osthus also tries to go to every rep's top 10-account appointment, and Weber echoed the other panelists' sentiments.
"Being a sales rep is very isolating so you really need to communicate and work with them right now," he said.
(Above right: Lost International CEO Joel Cooper and SIMA Executive Director Sean Smith.)
Lastly, the panelists discussed that while they all need to start tracking their business better daily, they need to deliver on time, build more quality, focused product and monitor results on a daily basis.
Despite results of the SIMA study that showed only 60 percent of retailers had a computerized POS system in 2008, each panelist said every retailer is tracking results daily.
(Right: Jye and PT Townend.)
"Not everyone can preboook, but retailers want fresh product and reorders on what made them money," said Holbrook. " If you monitor progress on a weekly basis, and plan inventories tighter, you'll be more successful."