Finding Time – interview with Foremost Golf

In challenging economic conditions, and with independent pro shops having to compete against off-course retail chains, club professionals are increasingly stretched to keep their offering current, dynamic and competitive, while also teaching and fulfilling a myriad of other responsibilities at a club. There simply are not enough hours in the day (or night).

Robin Barwick went to the Berkshire HQ of retail and marketing group, Foremost Golf, to ask Chief Executive Paul Hedges and Company Director Andy Martin how their operation is helping its 1,000 members save time

RB – One of the biggest headaches for a club professional is simply the day to day business administration. What can Foremost do to ease the load?

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Paul Hedges (PH):

The Foremost ‘Central Administration’ is a consolidated, fortnightly payment scheme that reduces the pro’s admin to 24 payments a year, across every brand the pro deals with through Foremost. Then if the pro needs to raise a dispute with a brand, our team takes on the job – it is a massive time saver.

When the pro needs to deliver accounts to book keepers, instead of having to produce hundreds of invoices, it is just 24 documents.

Andy Martin (AM):

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We estimate that Central Administration saves the professional half a day of admin work every week, and that is time that can be better spent on other parts of the business, whether it be coaching, in the shop, playing golf or simply to free up more family time.

PH: 280 of our members take advantage of Central Administration, for which we recommend they invest in an EPOS system, and with the EPOS data we are then in a position to offer pros personalised financial and retail advice.

For pros who have invested in EPOS, this not only simplifies their administrative workload, but shouldn’t it help them to make the right purchasing and retailing decisions too?

PH: Exactly. If a shop is selling 50% less footwear than other shops of a similar size, we will know through EPOS data, and can then figure out why this has happened, and help pros decide where they should be investing in stock, and where they shouldn’t.

AM: From the live data EPOS reports from pro shops, we can see it is the shops that are embracing digital communication such as our Elite Marketing Programme (EMP) that are succeeding, and the ones that are not are the ones struggling. It is a clear correlation.

PH: The other factor with product buying is that our pros don’t have to negotiate terms with any Foremost brands direct, because as Foremost pros they know they are receiving the best terms with all brands.

We also approve suppliers and vet them, so a pro does not have to worry about whether a supplier is going to be reliable. We rationalise the brands the pro has to deal with, as there are hundreds of brands out there, and some tough decisions have to be made about which ones to trust. There is a lot of time saving by simplifying that process, and organising the marketing, advertising and promotions that goes with stocking particular brands.

RB  You mention marketing. This is one of the key areas in which a retail group should be able to assist an independent retailer to save time.

PH:  In terms of marketing, our online signage solution is available to every Foremost pro. Our pros can produce any kind of signage they need within three or four minutes – everything from price tags to full-blown posters. With a decent printer pros can print their own signage, or order prints from us.

We also provide all 1,000 Foremost pros with a weekly e-newsletter and a personal website. The newsletter can be customised so that it only carries information on the brands stocked by an individual pro.

AM:  Every pro on our Elite Marketing Programme also gets a business coach who will guide the pro as to what local content to include in their newsletter. It is very important that general news on the golfing community is included, such as Mary’s hole-in-one. This is why read rates are so high. People expect them to be 5-10%, but they are over 35% on average. We have some pros who are excellent writers, and their read rates are over 50%. These newsletters provide fantastic exposure for the suppliers too.

Then comes the nitty-gritty: pro shop sales. How does Foremost help its membership run a more efficient sales operation?

AM:  To start off, if a supplier comes to us or our members with a trade sales offer, we can react very quickly, and in a matter of days we can turn it into a consumer promotion for our members, including signage and digital content for newsletters.

We make the process of promotions as simple as we can for our pros. To introduce a specific supplier promotion, the pro receives an example of the special promotional email that will be sent to their database, the newsletter banner, a cost mechanism for the promotion and a video explanation. Then all they need to do is click on the green button in the email if they choose to participate. As soon as the button is clicked, everything is done for the professional and all the assets are sent out, including the all-important store signage.

PH:  If a pro says to us that wedge sales are down, we can help organise a short-game clinic, free to club members, with a series of short-game articles going out in the newsletter in the build-up to the event, along with VIP invitations. One particular pro did this, and on one Saturday morning he sold more wedges than he had done in the entire previous year. No discounting was needed, but he educated his customers through the newsletter and offered them a wedge solution.

RB – Then there is the issue of e-commerce. Foremost Golf has developed a central online retail website, with profits shared between member professionals, so this is saving the club pro the headache of possibly setting up their own online operation. This saves the pro time in one respect, but is it also taking business away from the pro shop?

 

PH: No. We believe our e-commerce operation will produce incremental growth for our members.

It is important to understand that Foremost got involved with online retailing for a number of reasons: online is not going away; although it is hard to be accurate, we estimate that 20% of golf products are now being sold online, and that percentage will continue to grow.

Then consider the independent, individual pro: he does not have the capability to have a fully managed, relevant, content-driven e-commerce site. Neither does the pro have the back-end resources to manage the customer service calls, do the packaging, returns and administration.

Foremost had to decide whether we were prepared to tolerate that potentially, we were not going to sell products to a fifth of our customers any more – or even a quarter of them, because of online retailing. That is a massive chunk of custom to forego.

So we created an online model that is not prejudicial to Foremost pros. The result is a scheme with profit share and effectively, every single online sale we make in the UK is associated with one of our members. Either customers reach the e-commerce site via the pro’s own website, in which case the customer is clearly tagged to that professional, or if the customer is on the pro’s individual database a sale is associated to that pro. Failing that, every customer is invited to associate with a Foremost pro, and then finally, if there is still no association registered, the sale will be credited to the nearest Foremost professional by postcode.

The associated pro then receives the gross profit from the sale, which in many instances is 100% of the profit. This model has been created to support and increase profit in our member’s businesses.

RB – When did the e-commerce operation go live?

PH: Our e-commerce site has been running with that methodology for 12 months, but we have now introduced a ‘Click and Collect’ proposition. Payment for Click and Collect items are still always made online when the order is placed, and then the product is collected from the local pro shop.

The logic behind this is that it is often inconvenient for consumers to receive deliveries at home, so now the golfer has the choice of delivery or pro shop collection. As well as driving footfall into pro shops, we are giving customers a straightforward returns option through the pro shop too, and all deliveries for Click and Collect on mainland UK and Northern Ireland are free.

In the October issue of GOLF RETAILING, we will follow-up with an exclusive interview with Foremost Golf Chief Executive Paul Hedges to further investigate Foremost Golf’s e-commerce proposition, and the introduction of ‘Click and Collect’