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April 2007

adidas prepare for 2010

Roland Auschel, adidas senior vice-president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, is smiling broadly. He is considerably more relaxed than during a previous interview when the global footwear market was going through a tough time and he was concerned that adidas’ investment in the World Cup in Germany might not pay off

Strange as it may seem now, the months before the 2006 World Cup in Germany was a nerve-racking time for everyone concerned. The German press was scathing: the stadiums are not going to be ready in time, Germany is going to be knocked out in the first round, the World Cup is going to be a huge loss. The German economy was in a negative growth phase. There were concerns about security. The negativity and pessimism was infectious.

Which all transformed into mass optimism after Germany won the opening game, the weather cleared and it became obvious that the Fanfest were turning into a month-long party. The media developed mass amnesia and proclaimed it the most successful World Cup ever. And when all the visiting, eating, drinking and partying was over, the German GDP showed 2% growth, from negative growth before the World Cup.

"The benefits of the World Cup in Germany will have a lasting effect – investments grew and the whole society was unified behind the sporting event," says Auschel.

Adidas, FIFA’s technical sportswear and ball supplier for more than 30 years, could utter a huge sigh of relief: their €40-m investment had paid off handsomely.

Sold 4 times more than expected

When planning their stock for the World Cup, adidas estimated that they would sell about double the 300 000 of German team shirts sold in an average per year. "Just to be on the safe side, we made 800 000 German team shirts. But, even before the event kicked off, we had to replenish stock. Luckily we had a fast-replenishment option and could produce another 400 000 shirts in four to five weeks. In the end we sold 1.2-m German team shirts."

All in all they sold about six times as many football replica shirts during 2006 than in a normal year, he says.

Football played an important role in the 52% net sales growth 2006 that saw adidas AG sales pass €10-bn for the first time, with sales in Europe growing 31%, in Asia 33% and more than doubling in the US.

"Of all the market categories that showed growth, the one that stood out was football," says Auschel. "This growth in football sales already started the year before with the first wave of innovations when the new Predator was launched, and the introduction of the new match ball."

While all markets adidas operate in showed strong growth in sales, World Cup host Germany benefited the most.

And now its South Africa’s turn.

"Due to our prominent relationships with FIFA we are expecting 2010 to be a great year for us," says Auschel.

"We also have a strong relationship with SAFA, who are open to sharing the experience that adidas have," adds adidas SA MD Brian Kerby.

Strong relationships

adidas will not only (again) supply the match ball and clothing for all officials, but also the Bafana Bafana shirt, which Auschel believes will also become a unifying symbol for the country, as in Germany.

"We expect that the volume of replica sales will be through chains," says Kerby, "although sales through independents are important as they give the countrywide distribution."

The World Cup build-up will already gain momentum in 2009 when the Confederations Cup is played — the host country, past World Cup Winner plus the top teams in all the FIFA Confederations.

"The big build-up will start with the final draw in November-December, once it is known which teams will be in the World Cup," says Auschel.

As in Germany, FIFA expects to make the Fanfests the focus of the 2010 World Cup. With enormous screens erected in public places, those who could not get, or afford, stadium tickets congregated in these fanparks to watch the game, buy food, drink and souvenirs and party, party, party. When the final was played in Berlin, more than 8-m people came together to watch the game in the Fanpark next to the Reichstag.

Bringing football to the people

FIFA’s involvement with the Fanfests actually started with the 2004 UEFA Cup, when fanfests held in Lisbon by sponsors developed into parties that went on every night until 2-3 o’clock," says Auschel. "When FIFA saw the parties, they said Fantastic! Let’s do it in all cities and make football accessible to more people."

In Germany they had 250 people working in the World Cup office during peak times. The core of this World Cup team move from World Cup to major tournament, sharing their expertise with the local offices — they are currently putting the structures in place for the 2008 European Championship before moving to SA to focus on the World Cup.

"The World Cup is a brand driver and there will be very positive spin-offs across all product categories," says Kerby.

For, despite adidas’ strong showing in football, running remains the strongest sales category worldwide. The worldwide quest for a healthier lifestyle will keep the running category in the forefront for many years, believes Auschel.

They are also making inroads into the US market — apart from acquiring Reebok, they have signed a sponsorship agreement with one of the major American sports, basketball, which includes naming rights of players. Worldwide, basketball will be a major growth category, Auschel believes. "In China there are 300-m basketball players — it is the second highest number of participants after table tennis."

But, while running, basketball and football generate the most sales, the biggest growth categories will most likely be in lifestyle, predicts Auschel, who is looking forward to another booming business year.

June 2005

A friendship that makes business sense

Over the past two years, Stan Kotkin and Laurence Slotsky of Footwear Trading have showed that it pays to mix business and friendship

Stanley Kotkin and Laurence Slotsky have proven Jane Austen very wrong. She wrote in Emma: Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does.

The two friends became partners two years ago. Since then their fortunes have doubled.

Both with a drive and passion to succeed in business, none from privileged backgrounds, Kotkin and Slotsky both started in the footwear trade in 1984. For nearly twenty years, they worked for opposing companies, but two years ago they decided to combine resources.

It is a well-known industry story how a young Kotkin had imported a consignment Gypsy shoes from Israel in the early eighties, took a stand at the SASGAM Show, sold the consignment, imported more — and proceeded to build the Footwear Trading company that now distributes from the best-known lifestyle shoe brands in the country … think Skechers, Diesel and Pony.

The fact that they won the International Distributor of the Year award from Diesel and Skechers on numerous occasions, is testimony to the success with which he marketed these brands in SA.

In 1992, Kotkin became the SA licensee for Fila, and in 1996 a joint venture was set up with Italy to create Fila SA with Kotkin as MD. This was closed in 2000, when the brand ran into difficulties worldwide — but after Fila got new owners keen to build the brand in June 2003, he again became the SA licensee.

While Kotkin was busy carving Footwear Trading’s niche as one of the biggest distributors of active wear in SA, Slotsky was climbing the corporate ladder and building the lifestyle footwear brands distributed by Skye … like Converse, Millé and (at that stage) Saucony.

Early in 2003, Laurence Slotsky became restless and contacted his friend Stan. "It was time for a change," he says. "After eighteen years in the same company I was becoming stale and tired of corporate politics. I wanted to use my energy, passion and entrepreneurial skills in a new company."

The partnership deal was struck after a single meeting – after all, they were friends and had the same objectives and strategies.

They decided they would continue to run the business as a "family business", with staff, suppliers and customers forming part of the extended family. Kotkin would remain MD and Slotsky would be Marketing/Sourcing Director. Within a week Slotsky was back in China – his second home – to meet with their manufacturers and designers.

Fila, Soviet and Levis were added to the stable of brands. Within a year of becoming partners, the business doubled. In the second year, it grew a further 35% on the previous year. This year, the prospect for growth looks even better, in the light of the current buoyant retail trade environment and the recent introduction of Levis footwear.

The key to their success

"Foremost, we have a wonderfully loyal staff compliment at all levels, who are all committed to reaching the company’s objectives and following our long-term strategic plan," says Slotsky.

  • They have a professional, but friendly, atmosphere in the workplace. They have an open door policy to all their staff and customers — relationships are very important to them.

  • As they grow, they are investing in top quality people at all levels of the company. Each of their 7 brands has its own professional brand manager that understands the brand, and lives the lifestyle.

  • The company does not rely on one style or on one brand. "We have hedged our risks with a spread of great international brands that will take us into the future, and ensure sustainable long-term growth for the company," says Slotsky.

  • They have invested in user-friendly showrooms, where their customers are made to feel at home. Care and special service to their customers are of utmost importance to them — at all times.

  • They strive to be innovative in their marketing and brand support programmes.

  • They are flexible. Decisions are made quickly, without the burden of red tape that chokes most large corporates.

  • They have invested a lot of resources in controls, financial planning, infrastructure and IT.

  • They have excess office and warehouse space to accommodate their projected growth.

  • And last, but not least: "Irrespective of our growth and success, we will always strive to remain humble," says Slotsky.

  • April 2007

    A gentleman retires

    After more than 50 years in the SA sporting goods industry, Alan Ross is laying the groundwork for his retirement. In March this year, AJF Agencies cc became the property of Andy King. Ross will continue working with him as long as necessary to ensure a smooth take over of the agency, which was recently re-appointed an agent for Mustad

    During a career of more than half a century selling many of the top fishing and sporting goods brands to the KwaZulu-Natal retail trade, Alan Ross has made an indelible impression as a true gentleman with impeccable manners and a self-depreciating sense of humour. His values defined by concepts like honour, decency and your word being your bond typify him as a true English gentleman – yet his background is more Spanish than English and he has lived in South Africa for 53 years.

    Born in Argentina in 1931, where his father was the agent and distributor for Slazenger, Ross’ teenage years were marked by the country’s change from landed class authoritarianism to the working class backed army coups that eventually saw Gen. Juan Peron and Evita come to power. After school, they young Alan went to work for the Slazenger company in England for two years, but he returned to do his compulsory year of military service in Argentina. Peron gained favour with the worker unions by restricting the profits that foreign-owned companies could take out of the country, which convinced the young Ross that a foreigner could only do business in Argentina by manufacturing a product for the local market. He therefore decided set out to learn about manufacturing tennis balls.

    Jock Ellis had opened a tennis ball factory for Slazenger in Durban in 1951, where Ross joined him in 1954, after a stint at the factory in England convinced him that his South American sunshine-nurtured bones were not suited to endure the wet and cold climate.

    Dunlop took over the Slazenger ball factory in 1960. "Dunlop Sport was a small company and a very good training ground," says Ross, who was put in charge of the sport division in 1967. Some of the well-known names in the SA sports industry came from this Dunlop training school – including a former SASGAM chairman Colin van Jaarsveld, current Hi-Tec SA MD Mickey Mallet, Dunslaz Distributorship co-owner Steve Gallienne, and many more.

    Ross’ next promotion was to be appointed General Manager of Dunlop’s flooring division, which necessitated a move to Johannesburg. He not only felt out of place in Johannesburg, but flooring just did not have the same appeal as sport. It was with great relief that he accepted a transfer back to Durban and the sport division.

    In 1977 John King, a good friend, suggested that he become the agent and distributor for King’s Sports wholesale division. Ross subsequently formed Alan Ross Agencies.

    "As a salesman-rep you knew that at the end of the day what counted was the service you provided. It was quite straight forward: if you did not give them good service, they will not sign orders from you and you would not stay in business."

    In those days, he recalls, the sports industry was a friendly environment where you competed hard, but also socialised with and talked to your competitors. Business depended on the relationships you built with independent retailers and there were no big chain stores.

    "We were an old school type of company, where your word is your bond. We worked with a nice bunch of people," says Ross.

    John King initially appointed him as agent and distributor for Daiwa fishing products. When Kings Sports closed twenty years later, Alan Ross Agencies were distributing many top international brands for them – while Daiwa was their biggest, they were also responsible for several other leading fishing brands, including the top class fly fishing brand Hardy (which later included Greys) and from the late 1980s, Mustad hooks. Sports brands like Hunts County (cricket), Harrows darts and Stiga table tennis were the responsibility of Doug Jackson, who had joined Alan Ross’ agency in 1988. They also handled a few firearms agencies, including Aya sporting guns.

    When King’s closed in 1996, Ross was 65, an age when most other men retire. They closed the Alan Ross Agency and found work for all the staff members — Doug Jackson, for instance, formed his own agency to continue with the sports brands.

    But being fit, healthy and still very much interested in the world of sport, especially fishing, Ross decided to continue with a few of his favourite brands under a new agency: AJF … the initials of his birth names Alexander James Frederico. He kept the license for the top class fly fishing brand Hardy and Greys, as well as Mustad hooks and Aya sporting guns. They also took on the beautifully crafted Wheatley fly boxes.

    Since last year, Ross has been introducing Andy King, son of his old friend, to his business and clients with the view of King taking over the agency … thereby completing a business cycle. In March, King officially took over the AJF Agency, but Ross will stay on to smooth the transition. They have also been re-appointed agent for Mustad, which might make the transition a bit longer than anticipated, says Ross.

    "The physical move is easy because our offices are about a kilometre apart," he says. "This means that Andy is able to continue using the same postbox number and e-mail address and the only details that will change are the physical address and the telephone and fax numbers." They are: 031 202 4571 (tel) and 031 202 4267 (fax).

    Feb/ Mar 2009

    A tale of three companies

    The voluntary liquidation of Fifth Element, O’Neill and Canterbury International SA by their holding company Brimstone Investment Corporation at the end of January, sent shockwaves through the industry

    “Brimstone has understood for a long time that the company (Canterbury) has been battling with cash flow problems, but because we believed in the Canterbury brand, we were prepared to support them,” says HoM CEO Iqbal Khan.

    “But when suspicions and allegations of financial and criminal irregularities surfaced, we backed away. Brimstone is built on good corporate governance principles and the moment evidence of suspected foul play surfaced, we walked away. We have now requested a full forensic investigation.”

    All three the companies brought into Brimstone by Linder will be investigated and according to Khan the investigation will cover the past five years — which will include the period prior to Brimstone’s shareholding and ownership.

    Brimstone’s fully owned subsidiary HoM bought a 51% stake in the Fifth Element Group, founded and owned by Dave Linder, in November 2005. The company then had an annual turnover of R100-m and manufactured for large retail groups like Woolworths. According to Khan, under HoM Fifth Element’s annual turnover grew to R200-300-m, before dropping to about R150-m last year.

    HoM also bought 51% of O’Neill South Africa and the licensing rights to its brands O’Neill, RipTear and Barbie from Linder. When the O’Neill contract came up for renewal at the end of last year, O’Neill International chose to sign an exclusive long-term licensing and distribution agreement with Durban-based Pure Sport Apparel, with Dale Bamford as MD and surfer Paul Canning as marketing manager.

    According to Khan, HoM was happy to relinquish the contract as O’Neill, with an annual turnover of R20-30-m, was not profitable for them.

    In March 2007 HoM and Fifth Element Marketing also became the owners of Canterbury International SA, the local distributor and licensee of the international company, headed by Paul Zacks after a local buyout in the beginning of 2004. At that stage Canterbury had a relatively small local profile, which changed dramatically after they signed a sponsorship contract reportedly worth R140-m for five years with SA Rugby to supply the Springbok jersey, as well as licensed supporters’ apparel. This agreement expires at the end of this year.

    After initial trading difficulties, for example when all the replica shirts had to be recalled when the official Springbok rugby sponsor was changed from Castle to Sasol soon after their first shirts were sold into retail, the Canterbury company began growing in SA at a reported rate of 300% per year. Cash flow problems, however, prompted the owners to sell to HoM and Fifth Element in 2007.

    The exceptional demand for Springbok supporters’ wear when the SA team won the 2007 IRB World Cup and the subsequent goodwill towards the Springbok brand, helped grow annual turnover to R150-180-m. Worldwide, the Springbok shirt became a valued item.

    A few months after Canterbury became part of HoM, Zacks allegedly had a disagreement with Linder over corporate governance, and he was suspended. He was subsequently appointed general manager of Global Brands SA, the international brand management, retail and licensing company, who is also FIFA’s licensing partner.

    After Zacks’ departure, Linder took over the day-to-day running of Canterbury, but appointed Robert Chapman, who had worked in the sporting goods industry as a sports brand distributor until 2001, as general manager in January 2008. Chapman died of a bullet wound in September last year.

    In July 2008 HoM bought Linder’s 49% shareholding in the three companies to become 100% owner. Iqbal Khan, HoM CEO, took charge of the day-to-day running of these companies. As part of the agreement, Linder continued to manufacture a certain line for Woolworths through a separate company.

    When approached, Linder and Zacks declined to comment for publication.

    February 2004

    Canterbury SA gets new owner

    Paul Zacks surprised the industry by starting the year with a local buyout of Canterbury and by signing the Springboks. He has big plans for this rugby company

    "Canterbury manufactures top quality products — with the right marketing and customer service, there is no reason why we can not become Africa’s #1 sport apparel company." Paul Zacks new MD of Canterbury SA, talks with the kind of passion one would expect from someone who waged his livelihood and reputation on the performance of a company.

    Rugby is his passion, Zacks explains. Since convincing Canterbury’s international owners and local investors to let him run this rugby company, he enjoys talking, living and marketing the sport 24 hours, 7 days a week, for as long as his energy holds.

    Especially since the local buyout coincided with Canterbury winning one of the most prestigious sponsorship contracts when they signed the Springboks – opening all kinds of exciting possibilities, shadowed by the daunting prospect of recouping the R140- m sponsorship cost in spin-off sales over the next five years. The fact that this will to a large degree be determined by a factor totally beyond his control — namely, the Springbok’s performance — does not dampen his optimism and enthusiasm.

    Zacks’ career started with Canterbury of New Zealand in 1996, when they entered the SA market more than ninety years after they started manufacturing jerseys in rural New Zealand. After Canterbury bought the rugby jersey division of Maxmore manufacturers and moved to the factory’s Epping premises — where the company is still situated.

    Zacks, who has Business Science Hons. and B.Compt. degrees as well as postgraduate diploma in financial planning, left after six months to join a financial services company. The lure of rugby — which he played at first league level for UCT and Hamiltons and SA Maccabi — proved to be too strong and in 2001 he returned to Canterbury SA as finance manager.

    Always keen to run his own company, Zacks was in the ideal position to see the potential of expanding Canterbury’s interests in the local market. His vision of growing the company tenfold, possibly listing, not only convinced local investors, but also persuaded Canterbury New Zealand that it would be in their best interest to have a SA owned and managed company. On January 1, 2004, Zacks became MD, reporting to a local Board of Directors on the manufacturing, distributing and marketing of Canterbury under license for the whole of Africa and Middle East.

    High on the agenda are plans to recoup the 80-90% market share in team wear that Canterbury had in the late nineties. "It is very different when you use your own money to when the owners are 20 000 miles away," he says. When market share, sales and profit affect your wallet, "good enough" takes on a whole different meaning.

    "I do not believe in a price war — but on offering the market the best product that will once again become the natural choice for all." And Zacks believes so strongly that they do have "the best product" that he has asked the CSIR to test their top of the range Techtex jersey against competitor’s jerseys. He hopes to present the results to the trade later this year.

    "Our main focus will be on customer service and we will also be marketing our products aggressively."

    With the Springboks added to Canterbury’s impressive stable of high profile teams like Australia, Scotland, Ireland, Fiji and Japan, Super 12 teams like the Sharks, Bulls, ACT Brumbies, NSW Warratahs, Queensland Reds, and the Lions, Natal Sharks and Falcons in the Currie Cup, to name but a few, sponsorship forms a very visible part of their marketing campaign.

    "But, we do not sponsor if we do not anticipate to get a return on our investments. All sponsorship contracts are measured on their potential return — with the Springboks, Sharks and Bulls we have worldwide distribution rights, which will enable us to reach the thousands of fans in other parts of world. With the Falcons we also get their club business."

    Knowing full well that the world loves a winner, Zacks now has a more than academic interest in the Springboks becoming a winning brand again. "Before the semi-final between Australia and New Zealand, Canterbury had 25 000 Australia World Cup jerseys left in its warehouse — in the week between the semifinal and final they sold all 25 000!"

    The new Springbok jersey — with the latest in the best technology available, he promises — will be launched on July 1st.

    Although Canterbury is known throughout the rugby-playing world for their jerseys, they supply a full range of rugby products — for the whole family. They were the first in SA to launch a ladies supporters’ jersey (for the Bulls and Sharks) and also cater for kids in all shapes and sizes.

    "During the World Cup, the Australian ladies replica sold more than the men’s," says Zacks.

    Canterbury balls are growing in popularity and boots, gloves, contact shields, tackle bags, corner flags, pole protectors, shorts and socks round off the rugby range.

    Rugby will remain their core business– especially team wear which he believes Canterbury SA can manufacture for the world because they are set up to manufacture sets of 15-20 much more competitively than the Asian mass factories geared to make thousands of replica jerseys. But, in order to meet his selfset target of growing the company tenfold, they will have to grow beyond rugby, says Zacks.

    In New Zealand Canterbury is already heavily involved in netball sponsorship and this is also a potential growth area locally.

    "We also have a great lifestyle and training range — for both men and women." Lifestyle and corporate sport/fashion wear is also an untapped market with huge potential. Because their chinos, fleece tops and woven shirts will not necessarily appeal to sport retailers, he is planning to open concept retail stores specializing in this corporate/lifestyle apparel. "We are aiming to become the number one sports wear brand in Africa!" he predicts.

    And if enthusiasm were to translate into success, that wish can become true.

    October 2006

    Canterbury woed by HoM

    In the previous issue we reported that Sports Net Holdings was looking at buying Canterbury SA — but we had hardly gone to print, when the deal was called off and Canterbury signed another agreement with House of Monatic

    Canterbury International has accepted a proposal from clothing manufacturer House of Monatic (HoM) and Fifth Element Marketing (distributor of O’Neill), both subsidiaries of listed empowerment investment group Brimstone Investment Cor-poration, to buy Canterbury SA, plus the long term rights to the Canterbury label in Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.

    Fifth Element currently owns and markets the popular O’Neill, RipTear and Barbie brands, while Canterbury, founded in New Zealand, has been one of the dominant rugby brands for over a century. In terms of the deal, HoM will take control of the manufacturing arm of Canterbury, while Fifth Element assumes control of the licence.

    Fit into wardrobe

    Fred Robertson, chairman of both HoM and Fifth Element, says there were clear synergies for both companies to the acquisition, which furthered the group’s intention to unlock HoM’s manufacturing capabilities through the acquisition of consumer brands with strong growth potential.

    "Canterbury fits into our wardrobe beautifully. Not only does it complement our international brands, but it also fits well with our thrust into the youth market through locally marketed brands such as Csquared and Carducci."

    Dave Linder, MD of Fifth Element, says the Canterbury brand held tremendous potential for growth across its teamwear, leisure and off-field business into retail clothing stores.

    "In addition to its sponsorship of the Springboks and Super 14 franchises, Canterbury’s niche positioning worldwide makes it difficult to emulate, and therefore an ideal investment from a brand building and licensing perspective.

    "There is certainly scope to enhance its overall offering through the manufacturing capability of Monatic and the design and marketing capabilities of Fifth Element, as well as a more focused and enhanced service offering to retailers."

    Robertson explains that in terms of the sales agreement, HoM will take over the manufacturing plant in Epping, from where it will continue to manufacture rugby teamwear for the local and European markets.

    Canterbury currently operates out of three factories in Parow, Epping and Somerset West, where it employs 150 people.

    Denim and Rex Trueform

    "The Canterbury acquisition fits in well with our strategy to broaden our lifestyle, fashion and active sportswear interests. It obviously also offers us the opportunity to retain and grow employment levels in the Cape, complementing our recent acquisition of the Novell denim factory in Atlantis and takeover of Rex Trueform’s operations in Salt River," says Robertson.

    Robertson is enthusiastic about the acquisition and adds: "With Canterbury, we are buying into a vibrant and exciting brand, diversifying into a product line that appeals to a wider and demanding and fashion conscious market.

    "For Brimstone, it not only bolsters sustainable employment levels in the clothing sector, but it makes good business sense and represents good news for our all our stakeholders."

    Robertson noted that the transaction was subject to approval by the Competition authorities, but he is very confident that this would be at hand soon.

    April 2006

    Challenges faced by suppliers

    A few strong chains that dominate the market with a reduced number of brands and product ranges in stock, is the main challenge that suppliers foresee for the future*. Currently, finding good agents and competing with retailers’ own brands, are the biggest concerns of companies who supply products to the sport, outdoor and activewear industries

    The fear that in future they will be at the mercy of buyers from a few strong chains who predominantly stock their own brands and a few products from other distributors, haunts more than ¾ of the suppliers who responded to a Sports Trader survey on the challenges that suppliers to the sport, outdoor and activewear retail market face*.

    Especially suppliers to the outdoor market (82%) and to a lesser extent sport equipment suppliers (76%) fear that the buying power of chain stores will in future become much stronger, and that retailers will reduce the brands and ranges they stock (73% of all respondents).

    This goes hand in hand with the perception that there are no more (41%) or at least far fewer (69%) independent retailers left ... even though the number of independent stores on the Sports Trader database remain fairly constant, their geographics and demographics have just changed.

    The perception that there are no more retailers left, probably explains why more than two-thirds of the sport (65%) and outdoor (64%) suppliers mainly market their ranges to key accounts.

    Interestingly, the 42% respondents who say that they supply more outlets than a few years ago and the 31% who say that they still supply the same number of outlets, are less likely to rely on brand strength and their agent network to get their products stocked by retailers, than those who believe there are fewer independents left.

    Most (91%) of the suppliers who supply more outlets than before, are contacted by retailers who want to stock their products.

    This highlights a major shift in the way retailers and suppliers nowadays interact.

    Long distance trading

    There was a time, we’ve been told, when distributors knew most of their retail clients, their spouses and their children, because they regularly visited them. The Sports Traders of 15-20 years ago are filled with photos of independent retailers and suppliers playing golf or bowls and imbibing beverages together.

    It would be interesting to investigate what role the internet and reliance on email correspondence have played in the more long distance method of doing business of today. After all, referring clients to your website, where all your products are displayed, or emailing a catalogue, is far cheaper and faster than driving across the country.

    There are, of course, still many suppliers who do get in their cars and drive across the country to visit their retail clients (38%), or at least employ representatives who do (68%), but according to the majority (84%) of the suppliers who responded to our survey, it is nowadays the retailer who contacts the supplier to stock his products. This is especially prevalent in the sport market, where 100% of the respondents said that retailers contact them to obtain stock.

    This, incidentally, correspond with the response we got from retailers in a previous survey (Sports Trader February 2006) where 64% said that they have to contact suppliers to order products, instead of being visited by suppliers or their agents.

    You call me

    Contrary to the belief that suppliers have to negotiate with retailers in order to obtain shelf space for their products, nearly ¾ of the respondents said that they select which retailers may stock their brand/products. This is especially prevalent in the outdoor market (82%), but less so for sport retailers (62%).

    Although most respondents (70%) say that finding good agents/representatives is a big challenge nowadays, 62% respondents say that they have a good agent network that regularly visit stores. Especially clothing and footwear (72%) and outdoor (68%) suppliers rely on a good agent network to market their products to retailers ... although 91% of the outdoor and 85% of the sports equipment suppliers say that it is very difficult to get good agents to market their specific products to retail. This could be due to the specialist knowledge required to market these products efficiently.

    A high number (79%) of sport suppliers rely on advertising and brand strength to market their products and ranges to retailers.

    Copies and counterfeits

    It is cause for concern that 68% of the respondents report that their products has been copied by unknown manufacturers, 62% say that it had been copied by competitors (71% sport products) and 57% say that their retail clients have copied products (69% suppliers of clothing and footwear).

    Yet, only 30% respondents have taken legal action against counterfeiters, even though SA have very tough laws to protect intellectual property and patent rights, with stiff fines, even imprisonment, as possible consequences for perpretators. One can only assume that the copiers are not aware of the consequences, or that they are breaking the law.

    The organisers of local trade shows will be heartened by the view expressed by 73% of all respondents that local trade shows are good to market products. Especially outdoor goods suppliers (82%) believe in trade shows — and a high (91%) number of them visit international shows for ideas. In comparison, only 47% suppliers of footwear and clothing and 62% of sports equipment suppliers visit international shows to see what is happening in the rest of the world.

    Import problems

    Suppliers across the board report problems with custom (78%) and shipping delays (76%) when importing stock.

    They seem to experience far fewer problems when placing orders with local manufacturers, as only 50% report problems with late deliveries from local manufacturers — although the percentage of clothing and footwear suppliers who experience delays from local manufacturers is much higher (66%) than the other category suppliers, which could be because more clothing or footwear is produced locally than sport and outdoor equipment.

    But, local manufacturers are less likely to cause delays in getting footwear and clothing to suppliers than the customs officials (75%) and delays caused by shipping companies (81%).

    House brands

    It is interesting that most suppliers (76%) do not feel threatened by the house brands that retailers have developed, or the brands that retailers import themselves.

    Only 32% suppliers report that there are no retail brands that compete with their products. Yet, 81% of the clothing and footwear respondents, 76% sport and 82% outdoor suppliers say that retailers still stock their products or brands, even if they themselves have similar products.

    But, 27% of the suppliers have come off second best in a competition with retailer brands, as retailers dropped them in favour of their own brands. This seems to be more prevalent in the outdoor industry, where 36% suppliers report that retailers dropped their products in favour of their own brands.

    Biggest challenge

    It is also interesting that most of the clothing and footwear suppliers (75%) consider retailers’ own brands as the biggest challenge they currently face in getting their products into the market — although only 19% clothing and footwear suppliers report that their products had been dropped due to retailers’ own brands.

    The second most common challenge faced by clothing and footwear suppliers (69%) is finding good agents, followed by the problem of local manufacturers being unable to deliver (66%).

    For suppliers of sports equipment, finding good agents is the biggest challenge (75%), followed by the threat of retailers’ own brands (65%) and slow custom clearance (59%).

    By far the most outdoor suppliers (73%) report that finding good agents is a major challenge. The next biggest challenge for suppliers in this category is retailers’ own brands — identified by only 55% of respondents, followed by slow custom clearance and counterfeit products (45%).

    It is interesting that only half the clothing and footwear suppliers, whom one might expect to be especially vulnerable to their products being copied, consider counterfeits to be one of the major current challenges they face.

    Only 53% of all respondents believe that cheaper copies could one day spell the end for their brands.

    And while street traders is seen as a threat by only 24% of all respondents, half of the suppliers of clothing and footwear are concerned about street traders affecting sales ... yet only 9% of the suppliers of outdoor product believe that street traders could affect them.

    The suppliers of outdoor products are the most (82%) concerned about the power of chain store buyers becoming stronger in future, and this is coupled with the fear that retailers will reduce the brands they stock (a future challenge identified by 73%).

    These two challenges are of equal concern (76%) to suppliers of sports equipment, but suppliers of clothing and footwear are more concerned about retailers cutting down on the brands they stock (81%) than the buying power of chain stores increasing (69%).

    Online buying — by retailers and consumers — is of least concern to suppliers of footwear and clothing (6%), although half of the sport and outdoor gear suppliers consider internet sales as a area of concern for the future.

    The possibility that retailers would in future buy mainly from companies with high BEE ratings, is of little concern to suppliers, as only 31% consider this to be something to be concerned about in future.

    The prophets of doom who say there are no retailers left? Well, only 35% say it is a problem.

    Percentage responses from all the respondents (All), from suppliers of clothing and footwear (C&F), suppliers of sport equipment (Sport) and suppliers of outdoor equipment (Outd)

    Marketing products to retail All C&F Sport Outd
    Select which retailers may stock brands/ product 72 75 62 82
    Good agent network regularly visit stores 68 75 59 73
    Advertising/ brand strength get product in store 61 63 79 45
    Agents/ brand manager visit mainly key accounts 59 56 65 64
    Brand manager visits clients in all areas 38 44 29 45
    Rely on sponsorship to create brand demand 26 19 38 27
    products in store
    All C&F Sport Outd
    Retailers contact you to get your product 84 78 100 77
    Retailers are keen to order when agents call 61 56 62 82
    It is hard work to get retailers to stock product 50 53 53 55
    Prefer to concentrate on supplying key accounts 38 44 41 36
    Retail market All C&F Sport Outd
    Far fewer retailers left than ten years ago 69 72 76 64
    Supply more outlets than a few years ago 42 41 35 45
    Hardly any independent retailers left to sell too 41 44 41 36
    Supply as many outlets as years before 31 22 24 45
    Supply as many outlets as years before 19 28 9 9
    Agents/ representatives All C&F Sport Outd
    Difficult to get good agents suitable for product 74 56 85 91
    Good agents have regular contact with retailers 62 72 53 68
    Don’t need agents, prefer to contact retailers self 18 0 24 23
    Good agents already work for the opposition 15 31 9 0
    Don’t need agents, no retailers left 11 6 18 9
    Copying and counterfeit All C&F Sport Outd
    Product(s) had been copied by manufacturers 68 75 71 73
    Product(s) had been copied by competitors 62 56 71 64
    Product(s) had been copied by retail clients 57 69 65 45
    Have taken legal action against counterfeiters 30 25 41 27

    Percentage responses from all the respondents (All), from suppliers of clothing and footwear (C&F), suppliers of sport equipment (Sport) and suppliers of outdoor equipment (Outd)

    Own store brands All C&F Sport Outd
    Products stocked despite retailers own brands 76 81 76 82
    No retail store brands compete with product(s) 32 31 47 27
    Retailers with own brands stopped stocking 27 19 29 36
    Role of trade shows All C&F Sport Outd
    A local trade show is good to market products 73 75 76 82
    Visit international trade shows for ideas 59 47 62 91
    Local trade show is a waste of time 24 38 12 18
    International trade shows no longer relevant 19 28 21 0
    Receiving products All C&F Sport Outd
    Custom delays create problems 78 75 82 73
    Shipping delays cause delivery problems 76 81 76 64
    Local manufacturer delivers late 50 66 53 27
    Increased demand create despatch problems 49 56 47 55
    Transport delays cause delivery problems 43 56 47 36
    International supplier late delivery 41 44 53 45
    Current challenges All C&F Sport Outd
    Finding good agents 70 69 76 73
    Retailers own brands 62 75 65 55
    Slow custom clearance 46 38 59 45
    Counterfeit products 43 50 53 45
    Local manufacturers cannot deliver 39 66 29 18
    "If you are not in the chains, you are dead" 38 50 29 27
    Too few retailers left to stock products 35 44 35 27
    Street traders 24 50 18 9
    Future challenges All C&F Sport Outd
    Chain store buying power getting stronger 76 69 76 82
    Retailers reduce brands they stock 73 81 76 73
    Cheaper copies kill brands 53 50 56 55
    Retailers/ consumers buy direct over internet 34 6 50 55
    Retailers only buy from BEE companies 31 38 32 27

    August 2002

    Company Profile: CDC

    Motivating staff to keep customers happy, is one of the main reasons why CDC Services has grown into a major countrywide courier service in just five short years

    Innovative thinking and adding value to service gave Greg Kruger the break he needed to start his own courier company five years ago. And since then, this mindset ensured that CDC Services grew from strength to strength.

    Mild-mannered and modest, Greg is fast to point out that this success is not due to his efforts, but to the fact that every CDC employee believes in the importance of customer care. And to prove his point, he refers to their zero pilferage and over 98% on-time delivery rates. Achievements that are only possible when the whole team is committed to delivering service. “All of us are involved with our clients and are dedicated to looking after their needs,” says Greg. “That is why we have been able to consistently deliver on time.”

    Greg started CDC with one client in 1997 after the courier company of which he was a director merged with another company. The one client, however, required the regular movement of 140 tons of stock and he won this huge tender by suggesting a clever way of packaging that reduced costs considerably. Since then, CDC has grown to 50 trucks of varying sizes that deliver a wide spectrum of services countrywide.

    Road Freight — a cost effective way of linking all South African cities and towns — is the most popular service offered.

    Express Road Freight — only available between major centres, delivers freight the following working day. This service is often faster and more cost effective than Normal Airfreight — offered between centres with international airports. Freight is delivered during the course of the following working day.

    Overnight Express — freight delivered the following working day before 10 am between major centres with international airports — can be combined with a Saturday service.

    Sameday Service gets freight delivered on the same day between major South African centres.

    They also provide services for international documentation, international shipping, cross border road transport and containerised transport.

    Most of their clients are manufacturers or importers who need to distribute stock to retailers.

    Some of the items they transport are popular branded sports footwear and apparel, high value camping items and expensive clothing.

    With the head office situated conveniently close to Cape Town International Airport, CDC now have branches in Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth — each with a sales team dedicated to looking after customer needs — and agents in George, East London, Bloemfontein, Polonkwani, Nelspruit and Kimberley.

    This rapid growth was a result of team effort, Greg insists. “We have a fantastic team. They are all self-motivators and they take pride in the performance of their branches.”

    This pride in a job well done is even evident in the spruce, clean appearance of the trucks and uniformed staff. “It is important that our customers should feel happy to have their freight loaded on to our trucks.”

    Greg also stresses the importance of well-trained, professional staff to represent the client on the delivery side. And he realises the importance of holding on to good employees. “We make it impossible for other companies to headhunt the valuable members of our team,” he says cryptically.

    Keeping employees happy and strict security measures, are some of the reasons why they hold a zero pilferage record in an industry plagued by “goods falling off trucks”. CDC staff members will also assist clients with the packaging of freight to minimise the possibility of losses.

    All vehicles are fitted with tracking systems and in the two instanced that vehicles were hijacked, all freight was recovered.

    August 2003

    Company profile: Gimtrac

    Some of the world’s top gymnasts insist on using only Gimtrac equipment — a testimony to the quality produced by this South African manufacturer of a wide variety of sports equipment

    Gimtrac (Pty.) Ltd. has been supplying sporting equipment to the South African market, as well as some of the world’s top performers, for nearly a quarter of a century. The company started manufacturing gymnastic apparatus and trampolines in 1979 — initially as the major supplier to the education departments when gymnastics was still a part of the physical education syllabus.

    The Gimtrac name became such a symbol of quality that some of the top gymnasts in the world today insist on using only Gimtrac springboards and dynotables. No mean feat for a small South African company!

    Due to the changes in the local education system, the company adjusted its range of products, to supply a wide variety of sporting codes. The company now also specialises in equipment for athletics, basketball, hockey, soccer, netball, volleyball, and all indoor and outdoor sports equipment.

    These products have the same reputation for quality as the Gimtrac gymnastic equipment and when the 7th All Africa Games was held in Johannesburg in 1999, Gimtrac was selected as the major supplier of equipment. They supplied equipment for 16 of the 20 sporting codes.

    “With our partners and foreign contacts, we are able to manufacture or supply equipment for sports from the highest international level through to the home and recreational level, where the focus is on fitness and functionality rather than competition,” says CEO Gerhard Ferreira. The company will also design and manufacture customised items on request.

    Highly skilled craftsmen and -women manufacture the sports equipment in the Sunderland Ridge factory near Centurion, from where they export worldwide. Their client base stretches as far afield as Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Algeria, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, the US and UK.

    “All our equipment is handcrafted and fully tested before leaving the factory,” says Ferreira. “Only the finest and best available materials are used during the production process, where quality is never compromised.”

    August 2003

    Company profile: Glow Gear

    When Blanche de Wet and Johlette de Jager registered the Glow Gear cc shortly before the 1994 election, it was with the knowledge that there was a dire need for the product they were going to provide. A need exposed by scientific research. Research that also showed that there were limited products that could successfully fulfill this need

    The need was for reflective products that would make pedestrians visible at night. This was highlighted by a road death study done by De Wet, then senior trauma researcher at the Medical Research Council (MRC). She found that pedestrians were involved in approximately 40% of all road deaths and injuries — and that other countries had reduced these statistics dramatically when pedestrians displayed some kind of reflective in low visibility conditions. In one country the pedestrian death toll dropped by 26.3% over a 3-year period when the wearing of reflective after dark became compulsory — even reindeer are reflectorised in some areas. The danger of animals straying into traffic in the dark was recently tragically illustrated in the Western Cape when several accidents — one in which a teenager was killed — were caused by cows straying onto the N1 and N2 highways.

    De Wet found that most of the pedestrians who died on the roads were in the 18-40 year old age group. Apart from the personal tragedies caused by these accidents, the cost to the country in treating the victims and losing economically active workers, are astronomical.

    Back in 1993 the solution seemed simple: work with a company supplying reflective to make the wearing of reflective just as much of a safety issue as the wearing of seatbelts.

    Problem was, that while most South African roadside signboards displayed reflective, there were hardly any products available that would convince pedestrians to wear reflective in the dark. At that stage, they could choose between a wide silver or plastic strip that could be worn in the form of a sash or belt. The chances were high that the few pedestrians that could be convinced to wear these after dark, would regularly forget — or lose — them.

    Some industrial and mining companies did supply workers with reflective wear while at work, but these had to be returned as they left the premises. This left the shift workers, who often leave the premises in the dark, as vulnerable as other pedestrians. Athletes and cyclists training in the dark, are equally high-risk groups.

    The answer, international research showed, was to incorporate reflective into the clothes, shoes, logos, bags and other products worn and carried by pedestrians. This way, they become visible, without having to remember to apply the reflective. Manufacturers therefore assume the responsibility of ensuring the wearer’s safety.

    But, in order to do that, local manufacturers had to have access to reflective products that could be incorporated into the clothes or shoes they make.

    De Jager, head of the MRC Conference Secretariat, became involved in the reflective campaign when she organised workshops and conferences to bring this problem to the attention of the authorities and to demonstrate the effectiveness of reflective. She joined the year-long search for a company willing or able to manufacture, import and distribute the type of reflective that could become part of everyday wear.

    This campaign was partly driven by Doug Kohn of 3M Western Cape. 3M is an international manufacturer of world-renowned Scotsclite reflective products, who told them: “Get out from behind your desks and put your money where your mouths are.”

    Eventually they realised that if they want it done, they had to do it themselves… and registered the Glow Gear closed corporation three days before the 1994 elections.

    The initial plan was to import a few kinds of 3M reflective trim and distribute it locally, but they soon realised that they could manufacture a much more user-friendly and cost effective product if they converted the existing products for local conditions.

    They found an engineer to build them a converter machine and then realised that they had to buy a house to accommodate the machine. Coming from an academic background (they both spent part of their working careers in the social work department of the University of Stellenbosch) they were used to working within the strict confines of a budget. Being in debt was a discomforting experience for both.

    While repaying the loans, they tried to economise in all possible ways: luxuries like a calculator with paper printout or a weedeater were not bought without agonising about the cost. De Jager lived in the house they worked from to economise.

    They also learnt the hard way that experience is a tough — but the only — school. Although many people gave them valuable help and advice about textiles, nobody could advise them about converting reflective to trims, because they were busy with groundbreaking work in SA. What looked workable on paper, did not always appear that way on fabric.

    A careful analysis of flops gave them a better understanding of the converter process and De Jager requested several adaptations to the machine, which became machines. Among the many valuable lessons trial and error taught them was: never go into production when over-tired … and they scaled down on the late night sessions. Eventually they developed the most specialised range of quality trims under one South African roof.

    This includes reflective for sport, school and fashion clothing, for shoes, bags, bibs, belts, caps, logos and any other garment you can think of. There are salt water resistant trims, reflective for industrial use — and, of course, for road safety. Glow Gear also stocks the only Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) approved reflective and a conspicuity tape approved for vehicles over 10 000kg.

    “With so many choices available, it is very important to choose the trim that is most appropriate for your requirements,” says De Wet. They therefore consider the sharing of information and guidance as a very important aspect of their re-lationship with clients.

    Their attention to quality manufacturing paid off when a visiting 3M official from the US declared that Glow Gear had the best equipment in sub-Saharan Africa and accredited them as official converters of Scotchlite reflective.

    Because they convert the Scotchlite locally, Glow Gear can supply any quantity — even very small strips — as their clients require it. “Because we are small enough, we are also able to work with people to develop new products,” says De Jager. “It is exciting when people approach us with new ideas.”

    They are, for instance, currently developing four new products that will be launched before the end of the year.

    Although consumer demand resulted in them developing completed products featuring reflective — running vests, belts, lanyards, etc. — they prefer to supply reflective trims to other manufacturers to make up the garments, backpacks, shoes etc.

    De Wet and De Jager can now reflect on those early years with wry smiles: Glow Gear now operates from a spacious new factory in Stellenbosch — the second move in two years necessitated by expansion driven by their belief in the lifesaving, value added aspects that each little piece of reflective offers.

    One of the advantages of this new factory is that they now have the space to display some of their clients’ products in the foyer so that everybody can see what attractive and exciting things can be done with reflective.

    The move was also necessitated by the growing number of factory workers, assisted by an administrator, overseen by Elna Norris as financial manager.

    Glow Gear has certainly come a long way from the first few years when only De Wet and De Jager developed, converted and marketed the reflective trims, while trying to convince manufacturers of the necessity and value of incorporating reflective in their products. But, perhaps the memory of the lean years will ensure lasting success. That did teach them: don’t spend money you do not have.

    August 2003

    Company profile: Opal Sports

    Family-run companies are rare today. Yet, one of the most prominent companies in the SA sporting industry only have family members in key positions. NICOL DU TOIT takes a look at what contributed to the success of Opal Sportswear

    When the history of the South African sporting goods industry is written one day, the Prout/Vilas family name will feature prominently. The two generations have made an indelible mark — and in their own way personify the old and the new in the industry.

    Herbie and Natalie Prout represent a bygone era. Anne and Doug Vilas, and Nigel and Robert Prout, are firmly planted in today’s Internet-driven chainstore-negotiating business environment — although their family-owned and managed business is rare today.

    The Prout family’s relationship with the sports industry stretches back to 1946 when Herbie Prout left school to work in the sports department of Katz & Lurie in Johannesburg. To earn extra money, he also drove the lift at lunch times, and can still recall how embarrassed he felt when his richer mates from school saw him.

    He was obviously a very dedicated and successful employee, because within two years he was offered the position of manager of the sports department.

    Join father

    Five years later Bill Knight of A & J offered him a job as representative for Slazenger. For the next ten years he traveled throughout sub-Saharan Africa on stints often lasting as long as six to eight weeks away from office and home.

    In 1961 he joined Golfex, who then manufactured golf bags, and also had the agencies for Arnold Palmer, John Letters and Citation. In 1968 they also got the agency for Ping putters. Herbie can still recall the first consignment of 50, which he had autographed by Gary Player. They bought the putters R 13.30 and sold them to retailers for R 19.95. Recently Roger Manning sent one for auction at Southeby’s and it was sold for £ 3 200.

    Anne Prout attended a private high school while her brothers, Nigel and Robert, were in public schools. This meant that the children’s holidays did not coincide and because she was alone at home, Anne used to accompany her dad on his trips through the country, visiting retailers, during her school holidays.

    This is probably where she got hooked on the industry, because she was barely out of shool when she and her mother, Natalie, bought Opal Canvas and Webbing in 1978. The main product that Opal Canvas and Webbing manufactured was Mitsuko karate suits — a product still made by Opal Sports today.

    Natalie Prout was an experienced member of the industry as she had worked for A & J for many years — but in the Durban office, while Herbie had been based in Johannesburg.

    New beginnings

    Opal — renamed Opal Sportswear — soon got their first sports agency: Durus soccer balls. Herbie was then still working at Golfex, but he also joined Opal Sportswear shortly after they bought the company in 1979. He managed to get the Munsingwear golf shirt agency as well as the distributorship of Taylor Made golf. In 1980 they got the prestigious Gunn & Moore agency, and since Unicorn darts was part of the same group, they got both agencies. Sportcraft, a family-owned business, had close links to the family who owned Unicorn and also became part of the deal.

    Nigel joined the company in 1981 after completing his national service in the army and Robert joined a year later.

    Gunn & Moore Success

    In 1984 Herby’s restraint of trade with Golfex expired and he obtained the Ping Agency for Opal. In 1987 the Prout family sold Opal Sports to Interleisure, but stayed on to work for the company. Six years later they repurchased the company from Interleisure and Anne’s husband, Doug, a qualified engineer, also joined the family business.

    That was also the year that Herbie Prout indicated that he wanted to take things easier after nearly fifty years in the industry and appointed Anne as managing director.

    The Prout/Vilas marketing skills has made Gunn & Moore one of the most successful brands in South Africa. It has become an aspirational brand because of its close association with the national cricket team — and the successful identifying of the talents of stars like Jonty Rhodes, Herschelle Gibbs and captain Graeme Smith. The latter had been nurtured by Gunn & Moore long before he made batting and captaincy history … although Nigel Prout admits that he did not quite share the confidence of the ten year old Graeme’s mother when she first approached them for a sponsorhip with the promise that her son was going to make it big. He did, however, follow Janet’s advice and kept an eye on young Graeme who became a Gunn & Moore sponsored player in his matric year.

    As official Gunn & Moore licensees, Nigel has also contributed to the range by designing soccer and netball balls suitable for South African conditions.

    Unicorn is now also recognised locally as a top darts brand — it recently became the official dartboard of Darts SA.

    Golf remains an important part of the company’s business and they are actively involved in developing the sport through the Golf4All organisation.

    The family has also contributed to the industry through a long association with SASGAM and its predecessors. From January 1998 to January 2002 Anne served as vice-chair and then chairperson of the organisation.

    What made the Prouts so successful?

    They do things themselves and look after their customers themselves. There are virtually no non-family members in key positions in Opal Sports. They actually do not want to grow bigger, because then they will be forced to appoint extra non-family people. They are so passionate about what they do, that they believe that it will be difficult to instill this kind of passion in non-family members.

    This passion is partly driven by their love for sport — Anne, for instance, swam for Transvaal until the age of 21 — and the family members are regular spectators at sporting events at all levels, especially where sponsored athletes are involved.

    But, although a family business is more reminiscent of a bygone era than today’s unionised corporate world, they are very much rooted in the modern web-based business world where business trips often entail transatlantic travel.

    August 2003

    Company profile: Umbro

    Think UMBRO, and you think soccer. Soccer boots, soccer balls, soccer strip, soccer acces-sories. Think back a few years... and the blue UMBRO logo becomes blurred by the red and gold crest of the Manchester United strip

    UMBRO is currently enjoying an unprecedented wave of success. Sales are better than ever before, every season brings a wider variety and new innovations in product ranges and local soccer fans have grown to love the brand associated with some of the best performing PSL teams.

    This scenario was unimaginable two years ago.

    Internationally, NIKE had replaced UMBRO as Manchester United’s technical sponsor. Locally, the UMBRO manufacturing arm, Judron Clothing, had closed their doors. Not the ideal circumstances for a brand to take-off big time. But ironically, the two set-backs were largely responsible for the current success of the brand.

    “The big difference between then and now is that UMBRO SA’s focus had shifted from strip manufacturing to sales and marketing of a wide range,” says enthusiastic marketing director Darryl Kroll. “Now we can pay attention to the brand and the game — and do not have to cope with the problems associated with manufacturing.”

    What’s more, the end of the Man United sponsorship agreement was probably one of the best things that could have happened to UMBRO, adds Kroll. As manufacturer of the Man United strip, the UMBRO logo became secondary to the club colours … “now we can focus on football and not just on Man United.” Since the end of the sponsorship agreement, UMBRO’s international sales have grown by 20-25%.

    Local sales are further driven by UMBRO’s dynamic sales team of passionate soccer fans. There is a new hunger to drive sales and market product — to such an extent that retailers often comment on how fast UMBRO products move.

    An UMBRO agent for 11 years, Kroll vigorously embraced the opportunity to become national sales and marketing director in March 2002. “I’ve been having a great time,” he says — and jokes that he sends his wife a picture to remind her what he looks like.

    With UMBRO MD Ray Wienburg a respected doyen of the sports industry, Kroll is the young bull that balances the scale with aggressive marketing. “Our mission is to inspire and excite, to make converts for the wonderful world of soccer,” says Kroll.

    And excite he certainly does — especially when he talks about their products. Comments like: “Our boot range has no opposition as far as quality and price points are concerned” and “All our equipment, clothes, shoes make the statement: Here’s UMBRO’ — great product, great quality, at a great price,” leaves no doubt about where his enthusiasm lies.

    A close relationship with retailers and an ear attuned to market needs further help them to deliver products that sell well, maintains Kroll. Retailers are considered part of the UMBRO family, who can phone home 24 hours a day. “They are friends that are also concerned about our product,” says Kroll. “It is important for us that the retailers also do well, because our success depends on their success.”

    Another factor contributing to UMBRO’s success is the fact that they cover all price points. The boot range, for instance, sells from an affordable R200 to R2000 for the top of the range Xai.

    “Although the demand for the Xai is relatively small, we believe in the principle that ‘the best sells the rest’ and that the customer that aspires to the Xai, will settle for something more affordable,” says Kroll.

    Soccer is a lifestyle, believes Kroll, and in order to offer soccer fans a full range of products, UMBRO has now launched a local fashion range that was well received by their traditional independent stockists. Selling from September, the reception from soccer fans will determine future marketing.

    Involvement — more than mere sponsorship of — with popular soccer teams has further helped to establish UMBRO as an aspirational soccer brand. Supersport United, Black Leopards and Golden Arrows are treated as family members with whom Kroll keeps in close telephonic contact. He is kept up to date about the team’s fitness and performance peaks and will always wish them luck before a match and enquire about results if he was unable to attend a game. In turn, they loyally support and promote the brand.

    Further into Africa, sponsorship of the Kenyan and Zambian national teams and kit supplies to the Malawian team, help to establish the brand on the continent where soccer is a religion.

    UMBRO also contributes to com-munity upliftment through technical sponsorship of the MTN Cup — with 5000 schools competing in the biggest schools soccer tournament in the world. The recent visit by former England captain Alan Shearer highlighted the launch of the Robben Island annual tournament for disadvantaged children. The tournament, in the colours of the original prison soccer teams, is a fundraising event for The Island.

    Kroll has many ideas for future marketing projects. “We have barely scratched the surface — watch us grow!”

    February 2003

    Company profile: WET Sports

    During the past two decades, W E T Sports has proved that a distributorship CAN succeed by only supplying independent stores

    Since it opened its doors in 1984 to wholesale local fishing tackle products, WET Sports has grown from strength to strength. It now supplies a wide array of quality sporting goods and brands to independent retailers from Namibia to Newcastle and Nelspruit down to Cape Town.

    Not that it has always been easy.

    Andrew Wentzel — the “W” of W E T — will be the first to acknowledge that this was made possible by hard work, tenacity and a good dose of independent spirit.

    It is no coincidence that the company name is derived from the initials of the founding members: their individual strengths and talents contributed to the success of the company.

    Wentzel and Jaap Engelbrecht (the “E”) met in 1979 when Engelbrecht, fresh from university, applied for a job at Logans Wholesale in Cape Town. In those days, Logans Sports, owned by Dave Stewart and Eric Logan — remember, the forerunner of Sportsmans Warehouse—was THE sporting goods company. In addition to a sport retail chain, they had a separate wholesale company to import and distribute their own brands, where Wentzel was a manager. He appointed Engelbrecht as a representative.

    A strong friendship developed between the two straight talking guys. They had another good friend, Niel du Toit, who owns a retail department store in Hermanus — the “T” in WET.

    After four-and-a half years working for a big company, Engelbrecht convinced his friends that they should strike out on their own. Wentzel had 12 ½ years of good experience of sourcing products as importer and distributor. Engelbrecht had proven that he could sell to retailers. Du Toit would help with finances.

    They started by wholesaling some local fishing tackle products to retailers. Engelbrecht and Wentzel were both on the road. In between selling, Wentzel was also sourcing and looking for brands to import.

    It was hard work with initially not much reward and plenty of problems. Their previous bosses not exactly welcomed the move and made it known to their clients. Another distributorship tried to challenge the use of the W E T name. At one very low point, their warehouse was so empty that they played cricket in the aisles.

    But gradually things improved.

    The signing of a contract with the Taiwanese racket company RoxPro — the long string pioneer — in 1989 was a major turning point. During the following fifteen years, RoxPro became an excellent seller for independent retailers and Wentzel’s relationship with his principals grew to one of mutual loyalty and respect. Several Boland players and clubs have also reaped the benefits of RoxPro sponsorships.

    More Brands

    Gradually W E T added international brands like Saekodive diving products, Datadart darts, Lion table tennis and diving, Baojye exercise equipment, Mustad, Pro Hunter and Consul fishing products and from this year, the well-known LP supports.

    Many of these manufacturers, with whom Wentzel have cultivated strong relationships, have also made products for him under the W E T label. The latest, a WET dartboard and darts and W E T studs. The W E T international standard rugby ball, soccer, netball and volleyball balls have already been well received.

    Their customer base also expanded over the years so that it became necessary to appoint agents. Mike Farrer in the Eastern Cape was the first, followed by Leon Lotter in the Free State, Darryl Parkins in KwaZulu/Natal and Gary Baker in Gauteng. Wentzel still prefers to visit his customers in Namibia and the Northern Cape personally.

    The company policy has always been — and will remain, says Wentzel — to only supply independent retailers. He believes that a supplier will lose the loyalty of independent retailers when they supply chains … and in many cases find that independents are more inclined to promote a product that is not available in chains.

    Engelbrecht comes from a family of retailers — brother Henry runs Boland Sports — and in 1995 Jaap agreed to join the family business when they bought Strand Sport and needed a manager. Jaap eventually changed the name and the store became the highly successful Somerset Sport. Wentzel continued to run what had become a robust distributorship, with Du Toit as silent partner.

    In 1997 Wentzel’s son, Andrew jnr., joined the company and he has gradually become more involved on the administrative side.

    With a warehouse overflowing with products, order books being filled rapidly and a countrywide network of clients that have become friends, Wentzel can look back with satisfaction. It paid off to do it his way. But, never missing a trick and always interested in new trends and developments, he does not allow himself the luxury of taking things easy.

    A first league rugby (centre) and squash player in his younger days, Wentzel still enjoys a good game of squash for relaxation. His sons are also keen sportsmen and the youngest, Darren, is gaining experience at W E T while recovering from a rugby injury sustained while playing for Northern Technical College. He also trained at Naas Botha’s Icon rugby school.

    August 2005

    Copy cat tactics

    At the outset I wish to emphasise that obtaining ideas and inspiration is one thing; "passing off" is something altogether different. By ANDY BAXTER. Allow me to justify:

    As innovative manufacturers, we don’t have any issue with drawing inspiration from other brands, other designs, or indeed from customer input.

    Of course, we do this all the time. We look, we learn, we listen, we improvise and we improve.

    BUT, we make a fundamental point of striving to be unique in each case — whether this is through the use of styling, fit, fabrics etc. With every style we deliberately aim to put our own hand-writing on each and every product and I am proud to say that as far as SA outdoor companies are concerned, few can claim to have a better record of authenticity and originality than CAPESTORM.

    I can also say with conviction that we don’t draw much inspiration from other SA brands in terms of design input — not because we don’t respect their designs, but because we feel that this is simply counter productive in a small insular market where copycat tactics will soon come home to roost. And also, because we relish the challenge of being creative.

    "Passing off" is something we view quite differently. This is when a style is intentionally made to look as close to the original as possible, in the hope that consumers will think it IS the original product.

    Even I was flummoxed when I saw the replica (made in China version) of our iconic, benchmark "A3" short in a local sports and outdoor chain.

    Frankly it is a complete facsimile of the original: the pattern had been traced off, every single stitching line was there, every embellishment and the same type and colour of fabric had been used.

    Even the external labels had been positioned as if to look like the original.

    In fact, the only dividing line separating the CAPESTORM original product from the imitation was the fact that each of them displayed different brand labels — otherwise one of them would be a counterfeit.

    Drawing on our own experiences as an example, I would like to pose the question: Is this form of direct imitation good or bad for the industry, and who really cares?

    Well, in this case, the copycat company doesn’t appear to give a toss while others argue that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery — but I’m not convinced by such rhetoric, and frankly neither should the industry be.

    Take the independent retailer, for example. Do they wish to see their exclusivity and competitive advantage eroded? Certainly not — the livelihood of independent retailers in every sector across the country is intrinsically linked to them offering differentiation and exclusivity.

    Now, let’s ask the consumer if they wish to see less choice, and a general slide into generic consumerism. Certainly, I know I don’t — and I’m a model consumer. No sir, I want choice and diversity and exclusivity and every person I have spoken with agrees on this fundamental point.

    And now, let’s ask the workers in SA if they wish to lose their precious jobs because the small design houses and manufacturers that they work for are at the mercy of those big league operators who choose to clone their designs in China and sell them into the domestic market as if their own.

    It’s not even a question I need bother to answer.

    So, in the final analysis I can’t see any worthy winners in this equation — except perhaps a few short-sighted bean-counters with questionable morals and no sense of creativity, biding their time for their share options to mature before emigrating to Australia and going fishing.

    In conclusion, our perspective is not to rue the fact that Capestorm is being copied (frankly we have survived this indignity since our inception and we are not going to go away because of it), but rather to highlight the pitfalls for the industry as a whole and especially for the consumer at the end of the value chain.

    We believe that passing off and direct copying is an incestuous practice in SA and one that does little to stimulate creativity or innovation.

    This perspective is about business integrity, respect for intellectual property and creating an environment conducive to innovation and design excellence. That’s all.

    Feb/ Mar 2009

    Dunslaz gets new owner

    In these tough economic times, any brand will welcome some extra clout. Well-known brands Dunlop, Slazenger and Karrimor not only got an injection of capital towards the end of last year when Super-Brands bought Dunslaz Distributorship, but also got access to extended warehouse space, an efficient national distribution network and marketing department.

    But, assures Super-Brands CEO, Cuan Chelin, this will not result in a marked change in strategy. “Steve Gallienne, previously part-owner of Dunslaz, will be leading brand equity for the group, retaining his influence and using his 15 years of experience to guide the brands into new, exciting spheres.”

    Super-Brands is the holding company for My Appliances, which distributes a range of consumer and home appliance brands like Sonic (LCD Screens and electronics), Swiss Diamond (upmarket kitchen range) and Pedrini (kitchen accessories). Investment funding is provided by Mike McGrath, retired chairman of MB Technologies, the prominent IT group of companies his friend and partner Leo Baxter founded more than 20 years ago.

    CEO Chelin’s youthful Jude Law good looks are misleading — he says he has been earning his keep for ten years. “My pocket money stopped when I turned sixteen, from then on I had to earn my own money from holiday jobs.”

    After matriculating, he joined chartered accountant firm BDO Spencer Stewart in Durban, where he did his articles while he studied for his BCompt and BCom Hons degrees through UNISA and the University of Natal — which he passed cum laude. In 2005 he passed the qualifying exam to become a chartered accountant. He also studied for an MBA degree through a correspondence course offered by the Edinburgh Business School.

    Soon after he qualified as CA in 2005, Chelin swopped the world of auditing for hands-on business experience with the international paint company Chemspec. Following a management buyout, he became CEO of their chain of 25 House of Paints stores at the tender age of 23-24.

    But, in the beginning of 2007 Chelin eagerly accepted an opportunity that appealed to his entrepreneurial nature: Mike McGrath offered him the position of chief executive of Sonic, distributor of televisions and related electronics. Chelin enthusiastically tackled the brief to expand the distribution of this relatively new SA electronics brand by growing shelf space in independent stores.

    In order to make optimum use of their distribution resources like warehouse space, transport vehicles and a supply chain system, they were soon on the lookout for more brands to distribute and launched My Appliances (Pty) Ltd. He secured the SA distribution rights for Swiss Diamond and since January this year they have also been distributing the eco-friendly Pedrini range of kitchen accessories.

    “Our strength as a distributor is our fast response times,” he says. “We also have a strong marketing department and excellent graphic design section that helps us to build brands, we thus launched Super-Brands and began looking for complementary luxury goods.”

    They will now be applying these abilities and strengths to marketing and distributing the Dunslaz brands in the SA sporting goods market. Chelin says that Super-brands started talking to Dunslaz Distributorship owners Gallienne, Alex McAlery and Richard Agar towards the middle of 2008 about the possibility of adding their high-profile brands to their portfolio. The deal, whereby Gallienne, McAlery and Agar sold all their shares to Super-Brands, was signed in September last year.

    Gallienne stays on as sales manager, as will the rest of the Dunslaz sales team. Craig White has joined the Durban sales office as general manager.

    “We are trying to keep the changes to the minimum in order to ensure a smooth transition,” says Chelin. “But we shall be adding value through our marketing focus and financial resources.” This will, for example, enable them to look at new sponsorship opportunities.

    He started visiting clients with Gallienne after the deal was finalised towards the end of last year and says the news of the sale had been very well received. He is also optimistic that the strong heritage of the Dunslaz brands — Slazenger (cricket), Dunlop (squash and tennis) and Karrimor (outdoor) — will pay-off during the tougher economic times, especially as the prices compare well with other premium brands.”These brands offer very good value,” he says.

    April 2007

    Establishing a new brand: Life is Good in SA

    Introducing a new clothing brand to a brand-saturated market is a daunting task. The strategy employed by the SA distributor of Life is Good is regarded as a model for launches in other fledgling markets in the world

    When he acquired the license to distribute the Life is Good brand in South Africa, Pat Devine faced a conundrum: how to introduce this unique brand with its optimistic feel good footrpint to the local market without its message disappearing amongst all the other brands?

    The happy-go-lucky Jake figure that became the icon for this brand established by two brothers Bert and John Jacobs in 1994, has become a phenomenon in the US. Jake is not specifically male or female, not old or young, nor does he come from a specific demographic background — but he’s obviously a jolly good friend. He also has a dog called Rocket, with its own range of merchandise.

    The brand had been so successful because its foundation is optimism, not a fashion trend that comes and goes, Bert Jacobs explained in an interview with Outdoor Business Update (; 17 January 2006). "Optimism is timeless. It always has a place in every demographic and in every economy, and it’s always something that’s in need," Jacobs said." It’s refreshingly different to what people are hearing all the time, and people are attracted to that."

    This philosophy of enjoying the simple things in life, and saying to yourself: Life is Good! was a welcome antidote to the fear and suspicion that predominated in post-9/11 America. The brand developed a loyal following amongst those who share this philosophy that simple things like spending time with your family, having a braai with friends, relaxing with music, soaking in a bath or riding the waves define quality of life. Which had been reflected in massive annual sales growth of 36% (to $80-m in the US) last year and 60% the year before.

    This philosophy has been introduced in several clothing categories: the outdoors, running, skating, surf, golf, soccer, yoga, cycling and even horse riding… anything that makes one feel good. "We like to say Jake is an athlete, an optimist and a cultural hero. He can do anything and everything as long as it’s tied to a positive lifestyle," said Jacobs.

    Devine was positive that this optimism would also be a welcome antidote to the growing crime-fear in South Africa. But how to get the message across in the most effective way?

    For most of the year Stellenbosch is populated by a student community that would most likely embrace a new concept and also return home during holidays to introduce Jake to new markets.

    He therefore decided that a concept store would be the best way to introduce Jake to South Africa. The happy-looking Life is Good store in Stellenbosch opened its doors at the end of June 2006.

    The students liked the concept, but during the first six months it transpired that about 60% of the sales were to tourists. "The tourist industry is seasonal and we therefore needed to develop a local market," says Devine.

    He therefore devised an unique retail strategy: to open stores within stores in other retail outlets where he could display the Life is Good woven shirts, shorts, tees, hats, jewellery and other merchandise on their unique stoep stand that makes a distinguishing statement.

    He also created awareness with sponsorship of Die Wingerd Cycle Race in the Paarl and a stand at The Argus expo.

    The SA website,, has recently been launched – with a similar feel to the US website that generates about 15% of brand sales.

    The strategy of establishing the brand philosophy through concept stores before moving gradually into broader retail is regarded as ideal in new Life is good markets. Life is good is currently distributed in 26 countries outside the US with new territory being opened every month. Gary Peck of LIfe is Good International said Life is Good SA is "doing all the right things with grass roots marketing and sponsorships and its commitment to Girls and Boys Town."

    But the brand is not all about feeling good — it is also about doing good. Part of the brand strategy in the US is to organise free-entry outdoor festivals with wacky themes — like the Watermelon Festival where strong men throw watermelons — to raise awareness for families of kids with life-threatening diseases.

    Based on these enduring, universal values — having fun, enjoying life, doing good — it comes at no surprise when Bert Jacobs says that they have the potential to become a billion-dollar brand worldwide. After all, not everybody wants to — or can — be the best. But everybody wants to feel good.

    October / November 2008

    Excecutives on Track:

    Chris Bryant, GM of JRT Crampton

    When not running JRT Crampton, Chris Bryant is in his element in water — whether fishing, diving, canoeing or playing water polo

    While it may be a slight exaggeration to say that Chris Bryant could dive and fish before he could walk, it would be pretty close to the truth. Ever since he was a few bricks high, he has been diving for crayfish and casting from his dad’s fishing boat, or the rocks, during family holidays in Port St. John’s and Stilbay. Later, he added fly fishing in the ‘Berg resorts to his repertoire.

    Water — especially the things you can do in it — always had a special attraction for him.

    While playing the usual cricket, hockey (he was captain of the U16-team) and rugby as a boarder at St Andrews in Grahamstown, it was in water polo that he excelled. “I always loved watersport,” confirms Chris. “As a youngster I could out-dive and catch more crayfish than most of my mates.”

    After doing his compulsory army training (in the late 1960s) Chris, as the middle one of three sons, was expected to join his father on their wheat farm in Riversdale. But having just been released from a lifetime in boarding school, he yearned for the parties and bright lights beckoning beyond the small Overberg town. After being groomed as a farmer for two to three years, he convinced his dad to grant him leave to go to Cape Town for a few months between the sowing and harvesting seasons.

    He loved Cape Town, and after securing a job with Rex Trueform, there was no going back to the Overberg. Especially once he qualified as a scuba instructor and expert spear fisherman and bought his own ski boat to go fishing.

    He took a gap year in London and travelled Europe extensively.

    Back in SA, he found employment as a buyer in the men’s department of D&DH Fraser in Durban, but when Windsor Park Clothing offered him a position as their sales agent in Cape Town, he jumped at the opportunity.

    Cape Town was also close to the family holiday home in Stilbay where the five Bryant siblings enjoyed wonderful holidays fishing from their father’s, and later their own, boats. He was still so keen on diving that he joined the False Bay Underwater Club where he later became vice-chairman.

    During a sales meeting in Durban, mutual friends introduced him to Patsy Taylor, daughter of Vivian Taylor, owner of sporting goods distributor JRT Crampton, founded by him.

    Although they were friends initially, it took an invitation from Chris to Patsy to visit him in Cape Town following her broken engagement, for their romance to blossom.

    They got married in 1980, and Patsy relocated to Cape Town, where their two daughters were born.

    During the mid-eighties they joined her sister in New York for a couple of years when Chris was offered a position with an international company. When the company closed it’s doors after a major stock market crash “we were very glad to come back to SA,” he says.

    They returned to Durban in 1988, where Chris joined his father-in-law in his business, which in those days mainly sold Kookaburra cricket balls. JRT Crampton and Kookaburra has maintained their strong relationship throughout the years while both companies expanded.

    “In those days I covered the whole of the old Transvaal, including Tzaneen, Nelspruit, White River, Klerksdorp, Rustenburg, Pietersburg and Potgietersrus for JRT Crampton... in Johannesburg there were so many stores that I used to spend a week doing the south of Johannesburg, a week doing the north, and a week covering the east,” he recalls. “Then I would fly to Cape Town and Bloemfontein. In those days the independents made up about 80% of our business — now it is just the opposite.”

    Chris and Patsy took over the running of the business from Viv Taylor in 2002, and he says they strive to maintain the business morals and ethics that he lived and worked by.

    Chris does, however, try to make time to go rock and surf fishing at Umngazi River Mouth, to take fly fishing trips to the Drakensberg.

    Since they built their home on a golf estate, he has also taken up this game, and although he poses no threat to Ernie Els, he really enjoys playing.

    And then there are the family holidays at his mom’s house, idyllically situated on the banks of the river cutting through Stilbay…

    April/ May 2009

    Executives on Track:

    Mickey Mallett, GM of Hi-Tec SA

    In this series Sports Trader keeps track of the sporting feats of executives in the industry, and what they do to keep fit

    To say that Mickey Mallett excels at sport, would be an understatement. He was awarded provincial age colours in five sports (by two provinces), national age colours in one (hockey) and have proved his mettle in eight sporting codes — from solo to team to extreme.

    In addition, he became the SA CEO of one of the major international brands, Hi-Tec, while he was only in his early forties. Where he gets plenty of opportunity to compete in the adventure races sponsored by the company.

    Sport is obviously in his genes: His father played Nuffield cricket and 1st team rugby for Selborne Collage, as well as rugby and cricket for the Transkei in the old days. He was also active in golf, tennis and squash, while his mother played provincial hockey.

    Mallett’s sporting prowess became evident while he was still at Stirling Primary School in East London, where he was head boy in his final year — he was awarded Border schools colours in gymnastics, cricket and tennis.

    He continued to excel in sport at Selborne College High School: he got provincial colours for hockey and cricket, and national colours for hockey, while studying there. During his final two years at school, in 1981 and 1982, he was selected to play for the Border Schools Nuffield team. He was also selected for the Border schools hockey side for three years and for the SA schools hockey team in 1981 and 1982, following in the footsteps of his brother, who was selected to the SA schools team in 1980.

    No wonder his school awarded him honours for both cricket and hockey in his matric year, as well as the trophy as Sportsman of the Year!

    While still at school, Mallett was also selected for the senior Border men’s hockey team and played in the men’s inter-provincial tournaments.

    After school he played hockey for the SA Defence team during his two years compulsory military service, which he served in the navy — for three months on the SAS President Pretorius in the TAS (torpedo and anti-submarine section) mess in Simons Town, and then in Durban where he completed a six-month weapons course to become a surface to surface missile operator. He then served a year on SAS Hendrik Mentz, a strike craft with a crew of 50, mainly permanent force members.

    After the navy he travelled overseas with the Flamingos hockey team, a team selected from all over SA, which included eight Springboks. “We played against teams in Belgium, Spain and the UK over a three-week period, and I stayed an extra few months after the tour to play for a London team,” says Mallett. He spent a further three months backpacking and hitch-hiking through the UK and Europe.

    Back in SA, Mallett completed a marketing and sales diploma at the Port Elizabeth Technikon, where he was selected to play for the Eastern Province men’s hockey team during the three years he was studying. “I was also selected for the SA Technikon team, which ended up beating the SA Universities team — with seven Springboks in their team — in the final.”

    During the summer he played premier league cricket for Grey PE and was selected for the SA technikon cricket team.

    Since Port Elizabeth is known as the windy city, he added windsurfing to his repertoire of watersports, which includes surfing and waterskiing.

    After completing his studies, Mallett moved to Cape Town to join Old Mutual’s marketing research department. There he decided to take up paddling with a few friends. “My partner and I won the novices race from Fish Hoek to the lighthouse and back, as part of our training for the 244 km Port Elizabeth to East London paddle race we competed in,” he says.

    He also played hockey for WPCC (WP Cricket Club) and for the WP men’s side, and premier league cricket for WPCC.

    A year later he joined Dunlop/Slazenger as a salesman in Cape Town and was promoted and transferred to Durban seven months later to take up the position of marketing services manager.

    Two years later he was back in Cape Town to join the Hi-Tec Sports sales division, where Brad Lemkus was MD and Colin Shaw was GM. He worked in Cape Town for three years before he was promoted to marketing manager in 1996, and transferred to Johannesburg. There he soon took on the role of product development and sourcing, which required extensive travelling in Asia (Taiwan and Korea, as well as China).

    In the beginning of 2006, Mallett was appointed CEO of Hi-Tec in SA.

    He still finds time to play masters hockey, tennis and golf off a 12 handicap, with a lowest handicap achieved of 6. He incidentally won the club championships, B division in 2007.

    Oh, and in between, he had completed three Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Races and one 94.7 cycle race in Johannesburg.

    Not wonder his daughters Erin (11) and Amy (13) are keen hockey, tennis and netball players.

    February 2002

    How Frank van Wezel found out:

    "What's in the HI-TEC name"

    Frank van Wezel exudes the confidence that comes with founding, building and owning a footwear brand that became synonymous with hiking and court sports. As one would expect from a top international businessman, he speaks with ease and purpose, but also with humour. Energetic and trim, his enjoyment of soccer (he is a director of the Southend United soccer club), tennis, golf, skiing and running, makes him a good ambassador for the HI-TEC brand that he owns

    Although born, bred and educated (a business degree) in the Netherlands, Van Wezel has a longstanding relationship with Southern Africa. “The region is close to my heart,” he says and explains that he worked for an agricultural-chemical (fertilizer) company in Kenya for 10 years and one year in Zimbabwe during the 60’s and early 70’s. But he had too much of an entrepreneurial spirit for the corporate world. By 1974 he knew that he simply HAD to get out.

    He toyed with several ideas for a business of his own. Then it dawned on him that the people in his London squash club were forever complaining about their shoes. Here was clearly a need — and he met it by manufacturing light and comfortable squash shoes.

    During the following eight years he established the INTER squash brand in the UK and on the Continent. In 1978 Wilfrey Lemkus became his first importer into Southern Africa — his grandson, Brad, is currently a HI-TEC director.

    By 1982, Van Wezel had sufficient funds to embark on an aggressive marketing campaign to grow the brand internationally. One of London’s biggest ad agencies, J. Walter Thompson, was keen to take on a sport shoe account. But a name like INTER was a no-no, they declared. INTER suggests something in-between — you need a name fitting for a market leader, that suggests a more exclusive, upmarket product … and the resultant price increase will pay for the marketing campaign, they bluntly told him. It made sense, but Van Wezel was concerned about changing a brand name that squash players and hikers had learnt to trust.

    The solution was ingenious: by changing only two letters of the INTER name, a brand name was created that suggested state of the art technology and innovation … in short, HI-TEC. But at the same time, the change was so innocuous that many existing customers did not notice it.

    The effect on the rest of the buying public, however, was dramatic enough to result in HI-TEC listing on the London Stock Exchange 6 years later. Now HI-TEC is one of the 15 biggest selling footwear brands in the world … and soon it will be amongst the top ten, he promises.

    Name change

    “The impact of the name change on brand image has become a Harvard case study,” says Van Wezel. Although many other sports brands launched court shoe ranges, consumers identify HI-TEC as a tennis or squash brand — an image reinforced by being the official Wimbledon sponsor and sponsorship of top squash and badminton players. “I have always said that the squash world champion should play in HI-TEC — and so far that has been so,” says Van Wezel.

    In the meantime, across the Atlantic, a name on a label had resulted in another change of direction. In 1978 Van Wezel made a deal with an acquaintance from the West Coast to test a containerload of indoor court shoes in the US market. In those days, the shoe names (squash, badminton etc) were labelled on the outside. But, in the US, squash meant vegetable — and the Americans did not play badminton.

    Clearly there was no market for the shoes — until a retailer suggested that the market was in dire need of a lightweight hiking shoe. Surely, if this UK manufacturer could supply a lightweight sport shoe, he could also make a lightweight hiking boot?

    Van Wezel had no doubt that he could meet this challenge … and thus started the relationship between INTER/HI-TEC and outdoor enthusiasts that culminated in the court shoe brand becoming known as a hiking and adventure sport brand.

    Not only did hikers from Kilimanjaro to European ski slopes enjoy the introduction of a lightweight boot, the fashion for “brown” shoes also made the brand popular with non-hikers.

    In 1988 HI-TEC helped to launch a new concept in ultra-marathon racing in the US, when they sponsored the Badwater Race, a gruelling 135-mile trail run through Death Valley. Since then, the brand has had a close relationship with the development of adventure trail sports — not only in sponsoring the international Adventure Race Series (also locally), but also by launching corresponding footwear ranges.

    Locally and in the US, HI-TEC has become known as a supporter of environmental issues, for instance, involvement in local training programmes for rangers, anti-poaching units and youths and sponsorship of the KwaZulu Natal Conservation Trust and Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildcare Project.

    The company added a third dimension in the mid-eighties when the Magnum brand of footwear for industrial workers and security forces was launched. Worn by police forces in major US cities for the past 14 years, Magnum became a supplier to the SA security forces three years ago when HI-TEC opened a local factory to manufacture the range.

    Golf shoes

    “For the past ten years, we have also worked hard to establish our golf shoe range — the consumers who got to know HI-TEC as a squash brand had grown older and became golf players,” says Van Wezel. “Because they knew HI-TEC, they stayed with the brand.”

    News about a thrust into the local golf market can be expected soon.

    When HI-TEC was floated in 1988, it was worth £15m. By 1992 the company had grown to £150m. But towards the second half of the 1990’s, a recession hit the UK, and shareholders’ love affair with Internet companies started blossoming. At the same time, NIKE, Reebok and adidas began showing their muscle on the international markets … and with so many other options, HI-TEC shares came under pressure.

    As a doer who was never very comfortable with the bureaucratic constraints of boards of directors and corporate governance lawyers, Van Wezel last year decided to delist the company. By going private, he not only saved money, he says, it also gave him the freedom to steer the company on a course that he believes will result in growth.

    This he aims to do by restructuring — which he translates as meaning expansion through improving efficiency and cutting costs. “I want people to work more efficiently by improving their work methods,” he says.

    He expects South Africa to act as a spearpoint into the rest of Africa, which he regards as a major growth target. And if other international business leaders share Van Wezel’s faith in the African Renaissance, the SA market has much to be optimistic about.

    October 2004

    Factory no sweatshop, say Puma

    STEFAN SEIDEL, Audit Manager Europe for PUMA, responds to allegations in a recent report by the National Labor Committee about worker conditions in a Chinese factory manufacturing for PUMA. His detailed response (shortened here) shows that workers at the factory are actually better off than most other Chinese workers

    PUMA realises that our brand’s image is directly connected with how we conduct ourselves and has therefore taken steps to ensure that worker’s rights and environmental safety are always placed at the forefront of our corporate activities.

    These include regular audits of all suppliers and where necessary, the implementation of corrective action plans and appropriate follow-ups. Joint training with the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee has been conducted to ensure that worker health and safety issues are observed and there are always technical staff, trained by PUMA’s Social and Environmental team, present to ensure that infractions are acted upon.

    In the National Labor Committee’s report Facing an Olympian Struggle to Survive – PUMA’s workers in China, several false statements are made. For instance:

  • Forced overtime: Although overtime was noted, it ranged between ½ and 2 hours per day. On rare occasions overtime reached 3 hours.

  • Work on rest days: On occasions work was conducted on official rest days, but mostly rest days were respected.

  • Legal holidays: The Pou Yuen factory provide the mandatory 10 Chinese holidays per year, as well as an extra 5 days of annual leave.

  • Below subsistence wages: The factory provides the local minimum wage as well as attendance incentives, seniority bonuses and food and medical allowances. The average monthly wage at Pou Yuen is substantially higher than the average wage for residents of the Dongguan area.

  • Improper accounting for overtime: Based on unannounced checks, overtime was paid in accordance to policy and units produced matched the hours worked.

  • Withheld wages for unmet production goals: This accusation is completely unfounded.

  • Grueling hours and exhausting work: The Code of Conduct states that a maximum of 60 hours can be worked in any 7-day period. A maximum of 11 hours may be worked per day.

  • Militaristic management: The claims are untrue. Communal exercise sessions were discontinued about a year ago. The only required gatherings are aimed at communicating quality and safety standards to employees. The factory has initiated training sessions for supervisors to ensure that they are skilled in responsible management and employee communications.

  • Employee dormitories: Rooms constructed to accommodate 12 workers, are actually occupied by 8-10 people. The space and facilities at Pou Yuen are above industry norms.

  • Personal hygiene facilities: Each floor of the dormitories have 15 showers and cabinets for the employees. Only on rare occasions was hot water not available, due to China’s poor infrastructure.

  • Unpalatable food: Employees are served 4 diverse and balanced dishes. Efforts are made to reflect the culinary dishes of the diverse home regions of the workers.

  • Verbal abuse of employees: Historically supervisors did yell at employees but as a result of supervisor training and reminders not to do so, instances have reduced dramatically.

  • Ban of talking and communications: Open communication is allowed and encouraged. Communications about concerns from employees are welcomed and the factory is dotted with anonymous suggestion boxes.

  • Free entry and exit: Employees are always allowed to exit the factory in the event of illness or emergency.

  • Feb/ Mar 2009

    Puma: winning in, and with, Africa?

    “Puma has a history of supporting football on the African continent,” says CEO Jochen Zeitz. “Perhaps no other region of the world is more synonymous with Puma football than Africa.”

    The African connection

  • Puma signed the first sponsor partnerships with African teams (Cameroon and Morocco) twelve years ago, the year before both teams qualified for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, where Morocco came within an inch of qualifying for the Round of 16.

  • Before the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan, they signed Africa’s most celebrated national team — Cameroon, shortly after they had won the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. The eye-catching shirt kit Puma supplied to the Indomitable Lions soon grabbed headlines worldwide and after Cameroon won the African Cup of Nations in Ghana, FIFA reacted by banning the shirt.

  • In January 2004 Puma again irked FIFA when they introduced the world’s first one-piece kit solution — the Cameroon UniQT. While FIFA considered penalties, Puma’s 2002 and 2004 Cameroon kit launches enjoyed unparalleled successes.

  • In 2006 they consolidated their position as African football supplier when all five African teams that qualified for the World Cup (Ghana, Angola, Ivory Coast and Togo as well as the 2004 African Cup of Nations champions Tunisia) wore Puma.

  • Last year Egypt became the fifth Puma-sponsored winner of the African Cup of Nations and 9 out of the 16 teams, including all the semifinalists, played in Puma. A third of all Cup of Nations goals scored where done so by players wearing Puma boots.

  • Ten Puma players featured in a recent African Confederation poll of the Top 30 African Players of all time, (including Lucas Radebe) and they also sponsor rising stars Samuel Eto’o, Emmanuel Eboué, Mohamed Zidan.

  • Puma is now the official supplier of 11 African national teams, including Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Senegal. The contract with Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ghana has been extended beyond 2014.

  • For more than a decade Puma has been engaging in a marketing initiative that will, most probably, culminate in the brand enjoying the support of most of the African continent in the year when the world’s focus will be on this continent. With the exception of host country SA, Puma should be enjoying the support of the rest of Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

    Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz visited SA at the end of last year to welcome Puma’s Il Mostro boat in Cape Town harbour after the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race — and to give an update about African football and Puma’s road to the World Cup.

    If FIFA’s pay-off line Winning in Africa with Africa bears fruit, the next few years should be interesting for the brand that will, no doubt, use SA as a springboard into the rest of Africa.

    After all, as Zeitz points out: “We were in there when nobody else looked at Africa.” (see box).

    The 2010 FIFA World Cup will be one of the biggest initiatives PUMA will undertake from a marketing and product perspective, Zeitz said. “The great tradition of African football has become Puma’s tradition. We are linked by an indomitable spirit, a passion for play and the desire to connect communities.”

    Apart from having a strong presence on the field, they are also planning activities for fans and spectators off the field. “Just as we did at Euro 2008 and World Cup 2006, we want to introduce an element of fun and enjoyment for fans,” says Zeitz.

    Despite FIFAs strict rules on ambush marketing (read more in It may be legal... but is it right?) Puma says there are many ways of celebrating a memorable world cup outside the official events. ”Expect music, expect art, expect surprises. The activities will not just be based on sport, but will have an African focus. It will represent the values that Puma strives for — including sustainability.”

    Puma contributes to the local economy by sourcing products for the national team kits and replica apparel in SA — their local suppliers are Impahla in Cape Town, which was awarded in 2007 for its sustainability practices, Vimal in Durban and Suzi Products, also in Cape Town. All three companies meet the standards of Puma’s S.A.F.E specifications and have received “A” ratings (Read more in Sustainability: What brands are doing to make the world a better place).

    Apart from their involvement in the Peace One Day campaign to promote world peace, Puma also supports the Grootbosch Foundation and has donated football product to the Grootbosch and Gansbaai community sports programmes, ensuring that underprivileged youth have the proper equipment on the field.

    Their distinctive shoe shaped Il Mostro boat is often a frontrunner in the gruelling Volvo Ocean race that started towards the end of last year and is due to end in St. Petersburg, Russia, in June this year. The high media profile enjoyed by the boat skippered by Ken Read, has lent credibility to their yachting range in boating circles, which also translated into retail sales. Making it clear: Puma is about much more than football. “It is our largest commitment to sport yet,” says SA marketing manager Brett Bellinger, ”and it has paved the way for a new technical yachting product category for us.”

    It is Zeitz, tired of being introduced as the youngest CEO of a successful international brand, who can grasp the marketing potential of special moments that will indelibly remain in consumer minds. Think about that wonderful moment when Usain Bolt crossed the winning line with his golden Puma shoes held high in triumph… surely a dream moment dreamt up by expert marketers? Zeitz laughs. “No, he did it all on his own. He told me afterwards that it was his special thank you to me for all the support we had given him.”

    While the rest of the world has been experiencing a slump, Puma continued with their growth curve… global sales, profit and shares keep on looking good. Why? “Globally we offer a combination of sport performance and style,” says Zeitz. “We do everything in a stylish way, as we mix sport lifestyle and fashion. We are consumer friendly.”

    Feb/ Mar 2009

    Gear to dream of

    Imagine a world where adventure athletes could draw up a wish list of products that would help them in the field… and it materializes. That is the kind of world that the people of Penguin Brands and Nathan performance gear created: as endurance athletes they can specify what they would REALLY like to see in a product… and then go forth and create it

    Company president and scientist Jon Reichlin is a hardcore US endurance athlete and triathlete, who counts the tough Escape from Alcatraz triathlon as one of his accomplishments.

    Bryce Thatcher, responsible for product design and development, is an adventure racer, speed-climbing record holder and twice a second-team All American cross-country skier, who has a background in exercise physiology and biomechanics. Adventure racers are still thanking him for developing a waist pack for water bottles — a vast improvement on the bottle holder he improvised from an old pair of jeans when he was attempting to set the world record for the fastest ascent/descent of the Grand Teton.

    After 30 years’ experience in top level competitions — ultra marathons, triathlons and adventures races — their product tester, 5-times winner of the Wasatch 100 mile endurance run, Dana Miller, knows how to spot a design flaw or recognise a winner.

    Product tester and developer Magda Lewy-Boulet not only represented the US in the 2008 Beijing Olympics women’s marathon, but also has a master’s degree in exercise physiology and has been studying how fluids and fuel can maximize an athlete’s performance.

    “We’re athletes who solve athletes’ problems, we are not product developers who sit in an industrial design office,” says Reichlin during a recent visit to their SA distributor, Eiger Equipment, in Cape Town. “We create the products that we would like to use ourselves.”

    Penguin Brands first became known in the US as a supplier of one of the widest ranges of shoe care products, but is now known for a wide variety of technically innovative products used by active people like runners, triathletes, cyclists, adventure racers etc. Their Nathan range includes items like running vests, racing packs, accessories, hydration systems, safety products etc. with the emphasis on technical innovations… for example, in the dual-bladder pack with electrolytes and water that can be combined by turning a dial. An environmentally friendly alternative to the 38-bn disposable water bottles discarded by US athletes per year.

    One of the recent additions to their product range is the Penguin sport-wash, designed to meet the demand created by the growing use of technical fibres, says Reichlin. “In the US everyone wears fabrics engineered to move moisture every day.”

    But, if you wash these in regular detergents, a residue accumulates on the fabric that traps moisture, breeds bacteria that creates bad scents and blocks the effectiveness of the fabric’s performance features like breathability, moisture-wicking and factory applied waterproofing.

    “Our sport-wash leaves no residue,” he says. It actually removes the residue left by other detergents and also removes trapped odours, restores moisture-wicking, factory applied waterproofing and prevents colour fading. “It is vegetable based and completely biodegradable. In addition, you can use one bottle for twenty wash loads, which means that it takes up less space.”

    They have always been concerned about the effect of their products and packaging on the environment, says Reichlin — they are not merely following the current sustainability trend in the US.

    For example, in the Penguin foot-care range only top quality, high-performing, long-lasting materials are used in the products that preserve shoes longer and help make them look new longer, thereby reducing wastage.

    For more than 20 years, their aerosol products have contained no harmful CFC propellants, nor do their current aerosols contain toxic chemicals such as Freon or Trichlor III.

    Everything they produce and distribute is also 100% free of PVC (see p60), including their blister and clamshell packaging. PVC is no longer acceptable in the US, says Reichlin, and there is a strong drive to minimize packaging — even retail chain Walmart asked suppliers to cut down on packaging. “In order to eliminate packaging as much as possible, we have put hangtags on all our products.”

    The Sorbothane athletic insole products are made of PVC alternatives Poron foam and polyurethane foam, an easily recyclable, chlorine-free foam that produces a durable, flexible insole.

    These environmental concerns are clearly appreciated by customers, as Penguin experienced the best sales in the history of the company in the month when the worst economic downturn in more than seventy years hit the US. “The demand for environmentally friendly products is to a large extent driven by our children,” says Reichlin. ‘They are asking questions and serving as our conscience.”

    Reichlin also attributes the good sales to the fact that when money is tight consumers can still afford smaller accessories, like a waistpack — for which the demand increases as people are more likely to go running or hiking when stress increases. In addition, a retailer will try and maximize sales by encouraging customers to accessorize when the number of feet per store drops.

    February 2007

    NEW era for Jordan

    For the past 108 years, Jordan & Co have been able to adapt to changing market demands to remain one of the major suppliers to the SA footwear industry. Now, the company is preparing to adapt to a new MD that does not carry the Jordan family name

    Jordan & Co may be 108 years old, but it has the look of the most modern company, because it has been able to adapt to market and industry changes.

    The latest adaptation coincides with a gradual phasing in of a new MD, as Rob Jordan prepares for retirement at the end of the year.

    He will be handing over a company who successfully made the transition from manufacturer to international brand distributor.

    This focus on the marketing and showcasing of brands completes the latest phase for the company that was initiated about two years ago when a range of international brands were added to their portfolio.

    It also completes a cycle put in motion by MD Rob Jordan to cope with the changing industry.

    Prior to the mid-1990s, when the return of the international brands and growth in cheaper imports created new retail demands, Jordan was one of the major forces in local footwear manufacturing, supplying much of the local footwear pairage.

    From school kids to ex-president Nelson Mandela wore shoes made by Conshu/Jordan & Co. The pair of size 7 shoes the ex-president wore when he walked out of jail is still a prize company possession.

    "The local manufacturing industry had been reduced dramatically," says Jordan. Nowadays, only about 15-m (less than 10%) of the 165-m pairs of shoes sold annually in SA, are locally made."

    The availability of mass-manufactured cheaper imports and international ranges also impacted on the Jordan factory — production dropped from 8 000 to 3 000 pairs per day. "In the early 1980s we employed 1800 people, we now have only about 650 staff members," says Jordan.

    But, while other footwear factories closed, they can still employ more than 600 people because they nowadays invoice about 5 times more pairs per day than they manufacture, which resulted in annual turnover growth of 20%. While factory jobs were lost, distributing jobs were created.

    With more than 80% of the world’s footwear coming from China — they export 5-bn pairs per year — it is impossible for manufacturers in a small market like SA to compete against the massive factory capacities, relatively low wages and 14-hour workdays. Although Chinese wages have been rising over the past few years, it is impossible to compete with their production costs and capabilities.

    "It would take us much longer to set up moulds to start manufacturing a new style … because of their massive capacity the Chinese factories can do it within a few weeks," explains future MD Brian Pollock. "We now manufacture mostly bulk replenishment lines where we can guarantee a quick response time. We have taken up this challenge and have a dedicated team working solely on the development of local manufacture.

    "Nowadays you have to be able to move fast — your supply chain has to be up to speed, as the chains charge a penalty for every week you are late with deliveries."

    The factory is ISO 9001-2000 quality accredited and was recently also accredited with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) stamp of approval.

    The new look of the Jordan head office, completed towards the end of last year, outwardly reflects the company’s transition from manufacturing to brand marketing. An overhaul resulted in a modern look with several well-lit, ultra-modern showrooms where full ranges can be shown to best advantage.

    With years of experience in the footwear industry, Pollock is only too aware that brand distribution carries its own challenges.

    In future the footwear market is going to come under even more pressure as more and more chains are growing their in-house brands, he says. But, they have already adapted to this development and now also source styles suitable for house brands.

    The Jordan footwear factory was founded in 1899 by Rob Jordan’s grandfather in Wellington. In 1959 his family formed a partnership and moved production to the Jaggers factory site in Elsies River, where they are still situated.

    After completing his B.Comm at UCT and Diploma in Management in London, Rob Jordan went to work in footwear factories in Germany for two years and a year in the Clarks’ factory in the UK, before joining the family business in 1966.

    His brother became MD after his father’s sudden death in 1961, Peter Kew became MD from 1981 to 1989, and Rob took over from him in 1989.

    The early 1990s was a period characterised by many changes. Until then, they had one large manufacturing section for all styles and sales, which were then divisionalized into different sections.

    "This specialisation enabled us to achieve more regular production and to raise our capacity to 7-8000 pairs per day," says Jordan. If one unit was running a bit behind schedule, another division could make up with increased production.

    When Conshu bought Jordans in 1989, they had a separate company, Sportshoe, in Maitland, manufacturing for adidas under license. This factory was moved and merged with the Jordan plant in Elsies River. Over the years they made more than 12,5-m pairs of boots and footwear for adidas.

    Rob Jordan realised that manufacturing for other brands presented a new lucrative opportunity. In their manufacturing heyday, they had different factories for adidas, Nike, Puma and their own brands Olympic, Bronx and Jordan.

    Conshu bought the license to distribute and make Asics in SA from Rohan Summers and Janine Stokes, who had been the brand manager, moved across with the brand, which she still manages.

    About two years ago, when they became part of investment group Kap International, they changed strategy to also distribute international brands like Onitsuka Tiger, Sperry, Phat Farm, Keds and Steve Madden, aimed at niche markets.

    They also introduced a women’s division to get a slice of the 90-m pairs sold to SA women annually. In order to further utilise the production facilities, they also introduced a corporate and security footwear division that manufactures, imports and distributes for the security, hospitality and entertainment industries, as well as government.

    February 2007

    NEW frontiers for Ross Smith

    The new year started with changes for several brands — among them, for Nike SA, where MD Ross Smith is now moving into Africa

    Ross Smith, former CEO of Nike SA, has a new business plan. A challenging, outward-looking one. But, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, he sees this is an opportunity, rather than a challenge.

    At the end of last year Smith swopped his swooshy office and the corporate support system he enjoyed as head of Nike SA to set up a new company and office structure in Woodmead from where he and his BEE partners will branch out into Africa.

    He is calling it Ukusa —Zulu for the dawn of a new day, a better tomorrow.

    With Nike as calling card, he plans to distribute well-known fashion and sport clothing and footwear brands into new markets in sub-Saharan Africa. "We shall look at brands that are represented in SA, but not in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as new brands that are currently not represented in South Africa," he says.

    "The brands that we are looking at are all winners and our investment will be in brand building. We have quite ambitious goals… but the funders are in place and we have the working capital. We shall be looking at a portfolio approach and adapt according to how well the brands perform."

    Their first aim is to open markets in countries like Kenya and its neighbours Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Uganda and later also Zambia, Malawi, Sudan and Congo. "After that we shall move into West Africa," says Smith.

    While the role of pioneer is not usually associated with a chartered accountant that progressed to MD in corporate life, there are many indications that Smith is more of an adventurer than bean counter.

    For him, Africa is no strange unexplored continent as he was born in Zambia and educated in Zimbabwe, before he came to SA for his tertiary studies.

    The role of leader also comes naturally to Smith: as school prefect, soccer and rugby team captains, chairman of the Anti-Counterfeit Coalition, Chairman of SASGAM and MD of Nike.

    He is also willing to learn and has been sharing ideas with several South African brand builders.

    Besides, while Nike was considered one of the Top 300 Companies in SA (SA Top Companies) when he left at the end of 2006, it was just one brand amongst many when he joined the company in 1995 as financial director, shortly after Nike returned to SA.

    "When I started Nike SA was nothing like the size it is now. Not in my wildest dreams did I think the company would grow to this size. I am also proud of the accolades we earned — the coolest clothing and footwear brand in the Markinor Survey and one of the Top 50 companies in SA to work for. It is never easy to achieve those things in the tough retail environment we operate in."

    Retail changes

    During this time there had been tremendous changes in the branded retail environment, with sports brands taking an ever bigger slice of the market. He quotes the example of a fashion chain growing their sport style section from 3% to 15% of total stock. "The supply chain has grown more cyclical … when I started in the industry, the focus was on local suppliers, now the power has shifted off-shore."

    A low period was when the Rand suddenly took a dive and companies who had to import from international ranges had to take dramatic measures to compensate for the volatility. "But, when the import price decreased, our volumes doubled."

    Smith chaired the industry body, SASGAM, from 2002 to 2005, even though a chairman is only elected for two years. Because no one was willing to step forward and take over from him when his term expired at the end of 2003, he agreed to stay on, but stepped down finally at the end of 2005. During this time the SASGAM Show was resurrected and the Sports Awards, now claimed by SASCOC and SABC2, was also his idea.

    Smith was also the driving force behind the Anti-Counterfeit Coalition, an organization representing all the major footwear and clothing brands, with the aim of working together to combat counterfeits. That collapsed after a year or two.

    Over the past few years the power shift in the industry from sporting goods to clothing and footwear brands also manifested in SASGAM and several members representing sporting brands left the organisation. "As the brands became bigger, the corporate work demanded more time and the members were all competing against each other," he explains the lack of interest. "But, when issues arose that threatened the industry, like the China quota, all the competitors worked together."

    He also tried to involve retailers in an industry body similar to SASGAM, but "that fell by the wayside."

    The problem, he says, in retrospect, is that people who are involved with running a company on a full time basis do not have enough time to set up and run an organisation — which is a full-time job in itself. For that, he says, a professional organisation should be employed.

    But, having proven himself to be undaunted by challenges, it is perhaps not strange that Ross Smith will again be conquering new territories.

    February 2007

    Olympic support for our own Man United

    While the 2010 Soccer World Cup will place the spotlight on African football as never before, grassroots soccer development have for a few years now been receiving support from companies and brands who want to see the sport flourish, irrespective of World Cup hype. Olympic is one these brands who took a township team under their wings, purely for the love of the game

    Unlike their famous UK counterparts, the Grassy Park Man United soccer team members are poor. Most of them come from Lavender Hill, a disadvantaged coloured area, and their playing field reflects the lack of resources in the community.

    But, when it comes to a passion for sport, they are a good match for their English namesake — and especially their manager, Ronnie Samuals, is a hard working guy with a big heart, says Olympic brand manager Miles O’Brien.

    He was so impressed with the excellent work that Samuals had been doing by raising the spirits and playing conditions of the youngsters in the club, that he entered into an arrangement to sponsor them with Olympic equipment as well as provide support for their local tournaments.

    Earlier this year Olympic also sponsored Samuals’ Easter Weekend Soccer Tournament" at Wynberg which included 12 teams from surrounding townships.

    "The Man united Club consists of a competent first team that plays in the SAFA National league 1st division," says O’Brien. "The club also has five other teams in various age groups with players from 7 to 17 years old.

    These other teams are very unstructured and mainly play against other local disadvantaged teams. Organising this lot of youngsters is a major task, and Ronnie, the Club manager, does it out of community spirit, not for gain."

    Olympic sponsored the team with various items, ranging from team shirts and pants to essentials like balls and boots. At the Easter tournament that they arranged, Olympic’s holding company Jordan & Co sponsored the medals for the winning team, as well as monetary prizes for the winners in different categories.

    "The reason why we got involved with Man United, and still continue with the sponsorship arrangements, was to assist with the development of the disadvantaged team members and to do something to help the poor community," says O’Brien. "Our support gets them involved in a healthy activity like soccer, which gives them entertainment and great exercise. At the same time, they are kept off the streets, and out of the influence of gangs.

    "In brief, the Olympic brand now has a strong connection with this group, and also with the community members, using our sport sponsorship as the medium."

    April 2007

    Reebok SA management deal continues

    The Reebok SA management buyout deal, conducted shortly before Reebok International was bought by adidas, will remain in place for the time being, says Osman Ayaz, MD for adidas Emerging Markets

    "They have a lot of good contacts with the chains and a positive approach — it will be best to keep the same structure," says Ayaz. "There is a synergy and we are confident that they are committed to the brand and that they will continue to invest in the brand.

    "Our role will be to keep contact and link them with the other distributors in the EMEA."

    South Africa is one of the strongest markets for Reebok, he adds.

    The brand has also grown in Asia, but in North America and Europe Reebok has not performed well in the first year after it was bought by adidas for €3.2-bn in January 2006. The acquisition added €2.47-bn in sales to the adidas Group, but because average gross margins are lower in North America, where Reebok has such a strong presence, Reebok carries a significantly lower gross margin than the Group average and this attributed to the 3.6% drop in the Group’s gross margin.

    Reebok’s futures orders, especially in Europe and North America, are also 18% down. Footwear futures are 21% down, mainly due to decreases in Reebok’s lifestyle offering in North America. The 14% drop in apparel backlogs is attributed to a decline in both Reebok’s licensed and branded apparel business, particularly in North America. The transfer of the NBA and Liverpool licensed businesses from Reebok to adidas also negatively affected apparel backlogs.

    Adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer says it will take time to get Reebok back onto a growth track, "but we’re moving in the right direction." Adidas plan to invest 10% of their marketing budget on Reebok in order to try and draw US customers back to the brand.

    August 2003

    Speeding ahead after 75 years

    Speedo celebrates their 75th Anniversary this year

    The Speedo story began in the early 1900s, in Sydney Australia, when a Scottish immigrant called Alexander MacRae extended his hosiery company to include underwear and swimwear. Until the 1920s, women’s “swimwear” consisted of shapeless, heavy woolen garments, which all changed with the design of the ‘Racerback’.

    With the new swimwear image a new company name had to be found. A staff competition was held and won by a Captain Parsonson who coined the slogan: “Speed on in your Speedos”. And so the legend of the great Aussie Cossie began. The brand was an immediate success, especially after the Swedish world champion swimmer, Arne Borg, wore the Racerback and set a world swimming record.

    Since then, domination by swimmers at all international events has confirmed Speedo’s status as the number one swimwear brand in the world.

    Speedo has also celebrated many other firsts: in the 1970’s, Speedo was the first company to produce nylon/lycra swimwear in its new UK factory, which is still the most popular swimming fabric today.

    In 1996, Speedo launched a new fast fabric called Aquablade and introduced a range of new styles of racing swimsuits. This resulted in the competitive swimsuits that cover more of the body — the legsuit for men and the hydrashort for woman.

    Four years later, Speedo revolutionized the swimming world with their Fastskin — the ultimate performance swimsuit based on sharkskin, which won them the Best Designed Sport Kit award in London in 2002.

    2003 sees the continuation of Speedo’s sponsorship of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, which will also be the qualification phase for the Olympic Games in Athens 2004.

    The brand also recently made its way into the extreme sport world by adding an up and coming young European wakeboarder, Louise Moore, to their stable of elite athletes.

    Today, Speedo is sold in 173 countries worldwide and is worn by world class athletes like the legendary Australian swimmer Grant Hackett, Olympic Champion and current world record holder in the men’s 1500m freestyle Thomas Rupprath, and triple Olympic champion, Inge de Bruijn.

    In SA, they are the technical sponsor for the national swimming team, as well as many of our top swimmers — including Natalie du Toit, who is celebrated around the world for her courageous return to international swimming after her leg was amputated.

    They also have a wide range of stylish fashion, beachwear and swim equipment.

    October 2004

    St Moritz: Excellent Quality and Outstanding Service

    A modern clean factory and outstanding staff facilities contribute to staff motivation and produces high levels of customer satisfaction

    St Moritz aim to supply the best quality garments while establishing long-term relationships with customers. They believe in providing the highest level of service with regards to professionalism, innovativeness and service excellence. The needs of their clients are their top-most priority at all times.

    St Moritz manufactures all types of corporate wear which includes golf shirts, corporate shirts and blouses, trousers, wind shirts, windbreakers, sweatshirts, promotional clothing, tracksuits, padded and lined jackets, bush shirts and jackets, body warmers, sleeveless jackets, casual and lounge shirts and T-shirts. All these are manufactured in assorted colours and sizes to suit clients’ exclusive corporate needs.

    They source products directly, wherever possible, as it reduces costs, thus making it possible for their own clients to save money. Preference is also given to local suppliers of fabric and trim, as opposed to imported goods. All garments are manufactured on site at the factory.

    The company consists of several departments which include design and development, pattern and sample-making, as well as embroidery on the premises. Their designer is able to offer advice and suggestions where needed on design and continually develops new and exciting styles for clients on demand.

    St Moritz is a member of the Proudly South African campaign and complies with all that the campaign entails. As this is a relatively new company, this is a real achievement. It is also an equal opportunities company, with the majority of the staff being made up of previously disadvantaged groups.

    St Moritz opened in September 2002 as a division of Camargue Transport Services, which was established in 1969. In May 2003 they re-located to their newly constructed factory and offices in the Linbro Business Park. The factory floor is spacious, airy and well designed with new, modern equipment for optimal working conditions.

    June/ July 2009

    Trading in difficult times: LGB shows the way

    Passion, good customer service, strong support from principals and maintaining a close relationship with the many independent retailers, are some of the reasons why LGB Distributors have been growing in such tough financial times, says TRUDI DU TOIT.

    In a time when even some of the biggest companies are contracting, LGB Distributorship is expanding. For close to half of their short lifespan, they had been trading in some of the toughest conditions experienced by the country in two decades… and grew.

    Why had they been growing, while others floundered?

    For us, the customer is the most important, says MD Gary Baker as well as sales director Colin Farrer.

    True — that is what everybody says. But, born into retailing families and bred in the tough sales rep environment, they both know what it takes to put this ideal into practice.

    “Although we deal with chains, we mainly focus on independents — and there are still a lot around,” says Baker.

    “Our agents go to the smallest outlying areas, where the retailers give us their business because they appreciate that we take the trouble of visiting them. Gary and I also try to visit them whenever we can, “ says Farrer.

    They also concur that one of their main strengths is that they work as a small, close-knit team. There are no closed doors or strict hierarchy, everybody is on first-name terms and all staff are kept in the loop, explains Baker.

    ”We treat everybody with respect,” adds Farrer. “There is a lot of cross-pollination of ideas and we look after each other’s needs.”

    Add to that an absolute passion for sport and what you do, and you have the basics of a success recipe. “Although we’re actually still working on becoming successful,” jokes Baker. (Those who know them would also add that they are jolly nice people with a self-depreciating sense of humour and therefore fun to work with).

    Of course, it helps that they come from solid sport retailing stock and both excelled at sport.

    Baker’s father, Bruce, and his uncle, Neville Mallett, owned Brian Bands Sports in Port Elizabeth, where Gary gained valuable experience during school and varsity breaks. Although he plays down his own sporting talent, he was a keen athlete at school (Grey College in Port Elizabeth), participating in all sports. “I did all sports, but wasn’t a star, but I have a passion for sport, because I believe team sport teaches you a lot about life.” After school, he played hockey for the PE Technikon (as a team mate of Colin) and also played a mean game of tennis.

    After completing his compulsory army training, Baker joined the wholesale part of his father’s business and worked as a sales rep. During this time, he also called on the Farrer family’s store in King William’s Town. Buster (William) Farrer, Colin’s dad, is considered by many to be one of SA’s best all-round sportsmen with SA colours in three and provincial colours in six sports.

    Both Colin and his brother Mike (featured as an agent in Sports Trader of June/July 2008) cut their trading teeth working in the store during vacations. Colin, who inherited some of his father’s talent for sport, played Nuffield cricket and hockey for Border while at school at Dale College, and was chosen to play for the SA country cricket X1 in 1989. After completing his compulsory army training in 1988, he played cricket in The Cheshire County league in England before injuries sustained in a tragic car crash put an end to his active sporting career.

    On returning to SA, he joined his father’s store, which he ran after his father retired in the early 1990’s. When I get the chance I play a round of golf, or otherwise a round of Amstel tends to do the trick, he jokes.

    Join Admiral

    Baker had already taken on several independent Eastern Cape agencies early in the 1990’s — he became the Eastern Cape agent for Kookaburra (JRT Crampton), Pat Wiltshire Sport’s Mikasa, Rand Sport’s Trojan, Mizuno, and most important for his future career: Admiral, distributed by Clockwork Clothing under license by Bidvest.

    In the mid-90’s the MD of Clockwork asked him to join them full-time and relocate to Johannesburg to become national sales manager under Rob Sparks as GM. After a while, Baker decided to go independent again and became the agent for Admiral, Kookaburra, Wilson clothing and W.E.T. in Gauteng.

    When he heard that Bidvest was not going to renew the Admiral license, he immediately started negotiating with the principals to take on the license. At the same time he negotiated with his mate Colin, who was also representing Admiral, Harrows and a few other lines in the Eastern Cape to join him in the business. “I knew that we shared the same passion for the brand and that he was someone I trusted and could rely on.”

    Other brands

    In mid-2004 they started their distributorship with a bang — Admiral was the technical supplier of clothing to Cricket SA and the Highveld Lions. They also got the license to distribute Harrows darts, a brand they got to know well as agents.

    With their SA cricket connection, it became a natural move to take on MRF cricket, when the brand expanded internationally with Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara and Steve Waugh as ambassadors.

    Both Baker and Farrer had been agents for top Australian swimming brand, Zoggs, and about two years after they started the distributorship, the principal asked them to become their SA distributors.

    “We just felt that these were such great brands and believed that with the right kind of passion and effort, they would take their rightful place in SA,” says Baker.

    “We’ve made mistakes with the off brand we’ve taken on, but we’ve learnt from these and moved on...” says Baker. “With our current brands, we’ve received a lot of support from the principals to expand the ranges and really do justice to them.”

    Building on this success recipe, they have now taken on a new brand. From July, they will also be the SA distributors of watch brand Bad Boy/ Bad Girl, which will be headed by a specialist in the watch industry, Patrick Benade.

    Aug/ Sept 2009

    Why do brands succeed?

    Tips from successful brand builders

    The first challenge to building a brand is getting it into retail stores — not so easy if it has been in and out of the market like a yoyo and retail buyers don’t want to be caught again. Then you have to prove your capacity to promote and distribute the product and service your customers. A daunting task? GARY VAN ROOYEN of New Balance SA explains how it CAN be done

    Ten years ago New Balance was one of the Other brands when running shoe statistics were published and it hardly featured in other sports footwear categories. Today, it is the third biggest brand among distance runners and one of the top brands in adventure running. The SA distributorship is one of the best performers in the New Balance EMEA region ... in a nutshell, within less than ten years, New Balance has been built into one of the big three in the categories they supply.

    Yet, worldwide the brand has a policy of never endorsing celebrity sport stars — they will, however, promote a sport by sponsoring events. Other than that, they believe that their products, not sport heroes, should do the talking.

    Most people will agree that New Balance SA’s success can be attributed to Gary van Rooyen (he’ll say it is the whole New Balance team, but appointing the right people is obviously part of their success). We therefore asked him for tips for building a successful brand. His recipe is:

  • Passion: Stephen Covey once said, If I had the choice of investing my money in a business full of MBA business-minded individuals, or in one that had passionate grafters, I’d choose the latter every time. If you are passionate about the brand or products that you wish to establish, you emit a certain aura of believability about you that makes retailers and consumers want to be a part of it.

  • Market research: One swallow does not a summer make — don’t base your decisions on three or four points of view. Really go out there and spend time in the trade, connect with store owners, buyers and salespeople and establish what gaps there are in the other product lines. Are there pricing-related or product-related opportunities?

    Don’t stop your investigation there! We often forget about the consumer — they will be buying your products and can make or break you, so spend as much time with them recruiting information.

    Nowadays we also have the ease of Google and Yahoo websites that are rich with information.

  • International assistance: International brand owners want you to succeed with their brands in SA. We are an emerging country and the stepping stone into Africa. Demand (diplomatically) assistance in all areas — from extended terms, use of advertising materials, POP, marketing funds etc. In a consumer magazine a full page advert costs R15 000–40 000 (much less in Sports Trader — ed), so having some international assistance goes a long way.

  • Advertising and promotions: You will always face two major challenges when advertising and promoting a new brand. Decide whether it is a brand building exercise you wish to do, or if you are wanting direct results from that activity. Brand building entails on-going reminders and consistant messaging, whereas a call to action advert does not necessary build your brand but normally results in a public response that converts to sales.

  • Shelf space is very limited and in order to gain space for your brand, you will have to convince retailers to limit their stock of the big three brands that cover all price points and already have a following amongst customers. You also have to convince them why they need a 4th brand, cautions Darryl Kroll, who had helped build Umbro to the #3 football brand in retail when he was marketing and sales director. His advice: “Building relationships with retail buyers and convincing them that you are doing the things that will ultimately deliver sales, are of paramount importance.”

    In order for a brand to have longevity, you have to understand the market where your brand is most likely to succeed. Forget about the chains, you first need to build your brand through the independents and create a demand before approaching chains.

    You have to sell your brand based on the quality of the product. The product quality ensures the stamp of approval for the brand — the cherry on top is the brand name, says Gideon Abrahams of Kulca Klub, distributor of homegrown brand Loxion Kulca, and Everlast and Fila apparel.

  • Capital: Too often people go into a new venture under-capitalised. It is critical that you do the sums beforehand, and while it’s always exciting at the outset, rather have someone with a non-creative or bean counter personality sit with you and throw spanners in the works. Marketing and sales personalities tend to always avoid the pitfalls or any possible negatives that could douse their burning creative flame.

  • If you are spending your own capital, you will quickly realise that your return on investment in a new business is anything from 3-9 months (especially imports with six month lead times).

    A critical issue too is the Rand/dollar exchange rate. Consider the implications if the rand does what it did in 2002 and goes to R13.50/$ and you have sold in at R7/$ without any future cover (or hedging).

    Unless your products are absolutely exclusive, chances are your customers will not accept the price increase and you would have to absorb the loss. This situation has crippled hundreds of businesses.

  • Time Lines: It could take a long time before you can actually start selling your product.

  • Samples: In the footwear and apparel industry, you have to purchase your samples 6-8 months before the actual goods arrive in your warehouse.

  • Stock: You have to pay for the stock when it leaves from overseas and pay duties, taxes etc. on arrival here.

  • Warehousing: Some stock may sit in your warehouse for 1–6 months. You have to pay for security systems (and there could still be thefts) and cover all overheads like rent, staff, transport, etc. during this period.

  • Credit worthy accounts: there are many ways in which to check the credit worthiness of your accounts, but be thorough. Payments will be stretched out from 30–150 days, depending on the settlement discount that you offer, or how important you are for replenishment stock. This full cash to cash cycle ranges from a minimum of 90 –180 days and sometimes longer, and that does not include your sample purchases.

  • Consignment stock: Selling goods on consignment is the easy-sell method, but I am yet to witness a successful partnership. Unfortunately, there is no real urgency by the retailer to get rid of your goods ahead of what he has outlaid money on.
  • The reconciliations never tie up and when the stock is eventually returned (notice I said when not if) to you, it will be damaged or shop-soiled with price markings all over the boxes. It’s a nightmare! Don’t do it!

    Remember: If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, nobody will stop you!

    Success recipe in a nutshell

    Don’t forget your OGSP:

    Or do it unconventionally:
  • Do what the big brands aren’t doing

  • Focus on service, service, service

  • Build relationships

  • Don’t forget about the little guys

  • Be aware of cyclical ideas – old ideas always come back again under a different guise.

  • February 2007

    A view from abroad:

    Why SA is important to global company Thule

    The last couple of years Thule roofrack carriers and boxes have become essential stock items in many local cycling and outdoor stores. Thule AB president and CEO Anders Pettersson explained to TRUDI DU TOIT why the products have become so popular

    Ten years ago New Balance was one of the Other brands when running shoe statistics were published and it hardly featured in other sports footwear categories. Today, it is the third biggest brand among distance runners and one of the top brands in adventure running. The SA distributorship is one of the best performers in the New Balance EMEA region ... in a nutshell, within less than ten years, New Balance has been built into one of the big three in the categories they supply.

    Yet, worldwide the brand has a policy of never endorsing celebrity sport stars — they will, however, promote a sport by sponsoring events. Other than that, they believe that their products, not sport heroes, should do the talking.

    Most people will agree that New Balance SA’s success can be attributed to Gary van Rooyen (he’ll say it is the whole New Balance team, but appointing the right people is obviously part of their success). We therefore asked him for tips for building a successful brand. His recipe is:

    • Passion: Stephen Covey once said, If I had the choice of investing my money in a business full of MBA business-minded individuals, or in one that had passionate grafters, I’d choose the latter every time. If you are passionate about the brand or products that you wish to establish, you emit a certain aura of believability about you that makes retailers and consumers want to be a part of it.

    • Market research: One swallow does not a summer make — don’t base your decisions on three or four points of view. Really go out there and spend time in the trade, connect with store owners, buyers and salespeople and establish what gaps there are in the other product lines. Are there pricing-related or product-related opportunities?

    • Don’t stop your investigation there! We often forget about the consumer — they will be buying your products and can make or break you, so spend as much time with them recruiting information.

      Nowadays we also have the ease of Google and Yahoo websites that are rich with information.

    • International assistance: International brand owners want you to succeed with their brands in SA. We are an emerging country and the stepping stone into Africa. Demand (diplomatically) assistance in all areas — from extended terms, use of advertising materials, POP, marketing funds etc. In a consumer magazine a full page advert costs R15 000–40 000 (much less in Sports Trader — ed), so having some international assistance goes a long way.

    • Advertising and promotions: You will always face two major challenges when advertising and promoting a new brand. Decide whether it is a brand building exercise you wish to do, or if you are wanting direct results from that activity. Brand building entails on-going reminders and consistant messaging, whereas a call to action advert does not necessary build your brand but normally results in a public response that converts to sales.

    • Shelf space is very limited and in order to gain space for your brand, you will have to convince retailers to limit their stock of the big three brands that cover all price points and already have a following amongst customers. You also have to convince them why they need a 4th brand, cautions Darryl Kroll, who had helped build Umbro to the #3 football brand in retail when he was marketing and sales director. His advice: “Building relationships with retail buyers and convincing them that you are doing the things that will ultimately deliver sales, are of paramount importance.”

      In order for a brand to have longevity, you have to understand the market where your brand is most likely to succeed. Forget about the chains, you first need to build your brand through the independents and create a demand before approaching chains.

      You have to sell your brand based on the quality of the product. The product quality ensures the stamp of approval for the brand — the cherry on top is the brand name, says Gideon Abrahams of Kulca Klub, distributor of homegrown brand Loxion Kulca, and Everlast and Fila apparel.

    • Capital: Too often people go into a new venture under-capitalised. It is critical that you do the sums beforehand, and while it’s always exciting at the outset, rather have someone with a non-creative or bean counter personality sit with you and throw spanners in the works. Marketing and sales personalities tend to always avoid the pitfalls or any possible negatives that could douse their burning creative flame.

    • If you are spending your own capital, you will quickly realise that your return on investment in a new business is anything from 3-9 months (especially imports with six month lead times).

      A critical issue too is the Rand/dollar exchange rate. Consider the implications if the rand does what it did in 2002 and goes to R13.50/$ and you have sold in at R7/$ without any future cover (or hedging).

      Unless your products are absolutely exclusive, chances are your customers will not accept the price increase and you would have to absorb the loss. This situation has crippled hundreds of businesses.

    • Time Lines: It could take a long time before you can actually start selling your product.

    • Samples: In the footwear and apparel industry, you have to purchase your samples 6-8 months before the actual goods arrive in your warehouse.

    • Stock: You have to pay for the stock when it leaves from overseas and pay duties, taxes etc. on arrival here.

    • Warehousing: Some stock may sit in your warehouse for 1–6 months. You have to pay for security systems (and there could still be thefts) and cover all overheads like rent, staff, transport, etc. during this period.

    • Credit worthy accounts: there are many ways in which to check the credit worthiness of your accounts, but be thorough. Payments will be stretched out from 30–150 days, depending on the settlement discount that you offer, or how important you are for replenishment stock. This full cash to cash cycle ranges from a minimum of 90 –180 days and sometimes longer, and that does not include your sample purchases.

    • Consignment stock: Selling goods on consignment is the easy-sell method, but I am yet to witness a successful partnership. Unfortunately, there is no real urgency by the retailer to get rid of your goods ahead of what he has outlaid money on.

    • The reconciliations never tie up and when the stock is eventually returned (notice I said when not if) to you, it will be damaged or shop-soiled with price markings all over the boxes. It’s a nightmare! Don’t do it!

      Remember: If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, nobody will stop you!

      February 2004

      Why the Grays win where others fail

      It is a special kind of family that can keep a company afloat for close to 150 years. It is an exceptional family that ensures that all their brands stay leaders in their fields for all these years. The Grays of Cambridge is such a family

      While the concept of a family business just about died out with the previous generation, the Grays show how it should be run. The fifth generation of five Gray cousins are ensuring that their sports brands — Grays, Gray-Nicolls and Gilbert — stay frontrunners in their market sectors.

      And they enjoy doing it.

      The reason why the Gray’s managed to prosper where others failed, muses current sales director Richard Gray, is because the family is relatively small and the shareholders have also been responsible for the running of the company. Management decisions had always been tempered by the fact that their own money was at stake and there were no non-executive shareholders who could be tempted to make a quick profit at the expense of sensible business practices.

      Coming from a family that made rackets for royalty and has a World Champion in the lineage, one would expect Richard Gray to be somewhat … posh. His easy-going demeanour and self-depreciating smile therefore comes as a pleasant surprise. In SA for a brief visit to local distributors Leisure Holdings (Grays hockey and Gray-Nicolls cricket) and Gilbert SA (James Gilbert rugby), his schedule is tight, but he makes time for a discussion about the Gray family over a pint in a pub.

      Richard, his brother Paul, three cousins Neil, Nick and Jason, are the current shareholders. The five cousins who are currently responsible for running the company get along fine because they respect each other’s areas of expertise and do not interfere, he explains. Richard, Paul and Neil look after sales, product development and services in England, while Nick and Jason are responsible for sales, marketing and sourcing (Nick) and finance and admin (Jason) in Australia.

      Interestingly, all of them except Nick who came directly from school, first joined other companies after university before returning to the family fold. Richard, for instance, honed his sales and marketing skills as brand manager for household product and pharmaceutical multi-national Proctor & Gamble after he completed a business science degree.

      But, his love of sport and the realisation that "the company is not ours to sell," compelled him to shoulder his share of the responsibility for the family concern. And it has been fun.

      There was no pressure on any of the present generation to join the family business, he stresses. This is probably because their fathers were given no choice but to join the company and had to take over when their mother, Alison Rhone Gray, died in 1950. She, in turn, was catapulted into the hot seat when her husband and their father, Harold Douglas Gray, suddenly died in 1938.

      A formidable lady, Alison Gray not only steered the company through the difficult World War ll years when they supported the war effort by manufacturing equipment like tent poles and aircraft parts, but laid the foundation for the current diverse sporting goods company through strategic mergers.

      Rackets World Champion and Cambridge University Pro, Henry John Gray, founded the Grays rackets company in 1885. He and his four brothers — also champions at this early version of squash — started by stringing and later manufacturing wooden rackets for the Cambridge students, among them King Edward VII and King George VI. Over the next 80 years, Grays grew into one of England’s foremost racket manufacturers.

      In 1941 Alison Gray merged the company with hockey stick manufacturer J. Hazells to form Grays hockey, which manufactured the now famous sticks in their Cambridge plant. In the same year Grays also merged with the Robertsbridge, Sussex, company of the bat manufacturing carpenter L.J. Nicolls. The result was Gray-Nicolls. Although the top quality English willow Gray-Nicolls bats are still made in Robertsbridge, it is at bigger premises than this factory founded in 1876.

      During this period, well-known brands Shaw and Shrewsbury and Wainwrights also became part of Grays.

      After her death in 1950, Alison Gray was succeeded by her two sons, William and John, who had been recruited into the business by their father, Harold Douglas Gray. He had joined the family business when he returned from duty in World War l and expanded the racket manufacturing arm by opening the Gray-Russell rackets factory in Ireland.

      His father, Horace George Gray, was responsible for developing the first laminated racket, the Masterpiece, in 1908.

      In 2002 the company branched out into another new sporting code when they bought rugby pioneer Gilbert. "Entering the rugby market was an important move for us," says Gray, "because it adds a different season and complements our current cricket, hockey and racket ranges. We acquired all the assets of the company, which included the stock and key members of staff."

      They are currently enjoying the benefits of the huge upswing in rugby interest in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the UK after their World Cup success. "Last year Gilbert enjoyed their best year ever," says Gray.

      In line with company policy, the rugby products are also manufactured in their own factories.

      Although the Grays’ have owned Gilbert barely more than eighteen months, a new Truflight technology has already been developed by them, which is an advancement on Gilbert’s famous patented "valve in seam" technology. The 2004 range, to be launched in SA later this year, has already been hailed as the most technologically advanced in years.

      The fact that they have always considered themselves to be manufacturers, contributed a great deal to the Grays’ success in all sporting codes. This enabled them to be closely involved with the development of new products and to keep control of manufacturing standards.

      Where possible, products are manufactured in factories owned by the company.

      In 1965, when hockey sticks with smaller mulberry heads became popular and the Pakistani government cleverly banned the export of mulberry wood, Grays of Pakistan was established to oversee the manufacturing on the sub-continent. They developed the world-renowned Grays Karachi King with its instantly recognisable orange flash, as well as the many hockey innovations that established Grays as one of the leading hockey brands in the world, including SA. At the Sydney Olympics, 40% of the players used Grays sticks. In 1987 Grays Pakistan floated on the Pakistan Stock Exchange and it has been one of Pakistan’s most successful companies ever since.

      Although Gray-Nicolls continues to manufacture the top end English willow cricket bats used by some of the world’s best batsmen in their Robertsbridge factory, they also have a bat factory in India where Kashmir willow bats are made for the more price-sensitive market.

      A Gray-Nicolls factory was also opened in Melbourne to supply the growing demand from the Australian and New Zealand markets.

      Major innovations included the revolutionary "Steel Spring", the first shoulderless "Superlite" bat and in 1974, the revolutionary scoop bat. The long list of high-scoring batsmen who played with Gray-Nicolls will fill pages, but Brian Lara deserves special mention as he scored his record-breaking highest ever test (375) and first class (501) innings with the Scoop 2000.

      During the 1980’s, when the introduction of graphite rackets heralded another manufacturing trek to the Far East, the original Grays rackets factory in Cambridge closed. The traditional upper-class racket sports Real Tennis and Rackets, however, did not succumb to the lure of synthetic materials and Grays continued as the only manufacturer of these wooden rackets in their Coton factory near Cambridge.

      Real Tennis, a mixture of what we know as tennis and squash, is still popular enough to sustain 40 clubs in England, where aristocratic players like Prince Edward enjoy the game.

      While Richard Gray and his siblings are looking forward to many more enjoyable years growing the sporting goods company, the 6th generation of Grays is growing up. With six boys and 8 girls to follow in their footsteps, it looks as if Grays will be a family concern for many more years.

      April 2004

      'Now watch us grow!'

      Dunlop Slazenger managers in SA and the UK are excited about the new growth and product development prospects created by the sale of the company to one of the UKs biggest sports company

      'This is a phenomenal opportunity!" Graham Nicholas, International Sales Manager of the Dunlop Slazenger Group, is smiling.

      Under discussion is the sale in February of this major UK sports brand to the company that also owns one of Britain’s biggest retail chains.

      "But, this is not going to influence trading, it will be business as usual," continues Nicholas. "Management will stay the same — we have just had a change of ownership."

      Yet, his enthusiasm for the deal is obvious. Understandably so, as the sale to Sports World International must come as a welcome relief for the management team that have been shouldering a burden of debt since they bought the Dunlop Slazenger Sports Division from the British Tyre and Rubber Industries (BTR) in 1996.

      "It is the best move that could have happened," acknowledges Nicholas. "The new company will invest in product development, new strategies and research. The sports business is dynamic. If you are not able to move forward and invest in developments, you will be left in the wake. This exciting development will enable us to develop and grow globally."

      It has been speculated that Sports World International, that owns the Sports Soccer retail chain, bought Dunlop Slazenger for an estimated £40-m. Apart from the 120 Sports Soccer outlets in the UK and 20 in Ireland and Belgium (sales of £398-m and pre-tax profits of £46.1-m), Sports World International also owns the rights to Donnay rackets and is the proprietor of the famous Lillywhites sports store in London.

      Over the past 112 years Dunlop and Slazenger — which became one company in the early sixties — has built up an impressive heritage. Dunlop is considered to be one of the world’s top squash brands, with most of the top men and many of the top women players in their stable. It is the official ball supplier for women and men’s squash and the official Wimbledon tennis ball supplier.

      This position was attained despite the financial restraints the company has been operating under during the past few years. Six years ago, the Dunlop management team, supported by equity group Cinven, bought the Dunlop Slazenger sports division from British Tyre and Rubber (BTR) Industries.

      In 2001, Cinven bailed out and the company was taken over by the banks, led by the Royal Bank of Scotland, that it was indebted to. This deal resulted in a loss of £70-m, but about £20-m was recovered with the sale of Maxfli Golf.

      Now that this cloud of debt has been lifted, the management team is looking forward to global growth and extensive new product developments.

      "Now it is down to us to develop the company to its true potential," says Nicholas. "Profitability should grow in all areas, as we will, for instance, be able to invest more in players. We have a good stable now, but we will be able to expand."

      With a legend like John McEnroe, top seed Tim Henman and South African Wayne Ferreira playing with Dunlop, and heroes like Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock showing the Slazenger logo, the brands have maintained a top level presence in tennis and cricket.

      But it has been on the squash courts that Dunlop has shown brand dominance,, sponsoring 6 of the top 10 and 65% of the top 20 players in the PSA World Tour Rankings. One of SAs top players, Glenn Whittaker, is also a loyal Dunlop player. The brand is also the official ball supplier for the World Squash Federation (men and women).

      It is therefore no surprise that Nicholas predicts that squash will be their major growth area. While most traditional sports like tennis and cricket are slowing down worldwide, squash participation is growing.

      "It suits the lifestyle of the younger, urban person as you can fit it in a busy day — you only need to spend 40 minutes in a club, not a whole afternoon of a field or court. Nor does the game depend on the weather," he explains.

      The UK squash market, with 600 000 unregistered players, is still the biggest in the world, but it is growing globally.

      But, new products are going to be developed across the board — and the first non-traditional Dunlop products are already available to the SA trade.

      "The sale has been a very positive move for us," says local distributor Steve Gallienne of Dunslaz Distributorship, actually smiling.

      Since he and partner Richard Agar formed Dunslaz Distributorship to distribute the brands locally, they have become a well respected presence in the market. They were not only runners-up in the ‘Best Service and Marketing’ category of the SA Sports Trader 2003 Product of the Year competition, but also received several nominations as Supplier of the Year in the 2004 Product of the Year competition.

      August / September 2008

      Remembering Eric

      A well-known figure in the history of the South African sports industry, Eric Andrews, passed away earlier this year. CHRISTIAN ANDREWS pays tribute to a man that was not only involved in sport and development, but contributed to the shaping of the South African sports industry

      In his youth Andrews played football for the Stella Football Club in Durban and charmed the ladies as a life saver. He went on to box for the Natal Boxing Association and represented South Africa at the Commonwealth Games. Basil Jury and one of the greatest South African boxers of all time, Laurie Stevens, were among his contenders in the ring.

      He embarked on a career with Transvaal Rubber Company (TRC), which distributed raincoats throughout Africa and supplied the mining industry with manufactured rubber products. At the time TRC was headed by Roy Anderson and Andrews became the Managing Director of the Sports Division.

      Andrews was a member of SASTAF, which represented the sports retailer association’s interests. He later became chairman of this organization. After 25 years with TRC, Andrews opened his own retail sports business, Eric Andrews Sports, in 1973, which was located in the Johannesburg CBD on the corner of Wanderers and Plein Street. Eric Andrews Sports was run in conjunction with L F Palmer, with legends Johnny Waite and Sid O’Linn. Desai Kika joined Andrews in business and 15 years later Andrews’ son John left an Executive position at Dions in Florida to join Eric Andrews Sports as a partner. Andrews motivated and brought about the importation of new sports products into South Africa such as Asics Tiger footwear — known for their thin soles at the time.

      It was rather difficult to source baseball, softball, and ice hockey products in South Africa and as a result Flame Marketing was established as a subsidiary of Eric Andrews Sports to source these specialized sports products to cater for this market.

      Among the brands distributed by Flame Marketing were Easton, Louisville Slugger and Cooper. The Flame brand was launched as an in-house softball and baseball brand and remains a leading brand in Southern Africa to this day. A manufacturing facility for Flame sports clothing was built in Rustenburg, further establishing the now well-known registered trademark.

      The success of Eric Andrews Sports was increased with the inclusion of Dennis van Olst as a partner. The strength of Eric Andrews Sports was marked by the establishment of 50 retail sports stores on major mines in South Africa. Andrews retired in 1990 and relocated with his wife, Elaine, to Seven Fountains (in the Albany area) and in 1994 they moved to Grahamstown.

      Two of his sons, John and Christian, continued the family tradition when Eric Andrews Sports joined forces with Select Sports for a listing on the JSE as part of the Mathomo Group. John served as the Managing Director and Christian as the Manager of Flame Marketing. In 1999, Christian left the Mathomo Group and started Sportsmode, continuing the Flame tradition of the importation of specialized sports brands.

      John joined brother Noel as the Financial Director of Contract Kitting (a supplier to the telecommunications networks in South Africa).

      Over more than 50 years of service to the sports trade, Andrews developed long term relationships with Tony O’Hagan, Morné du Plessis, Rusty and John Pledger, Dennis Potgieter, Meier Alperstein, Stan Dugmore, Mike Bell, Herbie Prout and Campbell McClellan, among many others.

      As an avid golfer, Andrews played league golf at Royal Johannesburg Golf Club and at Modderfontein Golf Club and achieved a hole-in-one at Royal Johannesburg Golf Club. Other highlights of his golf days were to play with the likes of Gary Player, Bobby Locke and Dr Piet Koornhof. For his efforts, he was awarded a life honorary membership of Royal Johannesburg Golf Club.

      Andrews was a man that will be remembered for his generosity in helping the small sporting codes through helping individuals as well as sponsoring well-known sports personalities such as Marks Maponyane, Jomo Sono and Allan Verwey. He also helped tirelessly on the PTA board of Sacred Heart College where his sons attended school.

      Andrews is fondly remembered for his charismatic personality and dapper dress code.

      He is survived by his wife, Elaine (to whom he was married for 46 years), his children and grandchildren.

      June/ July 2009

      Spotlight on agents:

      Daniel Kerdachi

      A sales agent is the public face of a brand or distributor. He is the link to their customer, the retailer. In this series we ask some successful agents for tips on what makes a good sales agent

      Kerdachi’s recipe for success

    • Be honest with your customers — even if you have to share bad news

    • Anticipate your customers’ needs

    • Try and provide solutions to problems

    • Make time for your customers and have the patience to meet their needs

    • Make sure that you respect the brand and the distributor’s values

    • Honesty when dealing with customers is the secret of Daniel Kerdachi’s success as agent and distributor. No matter how tempting it might be to paint a brand’s performance with a brush dipped in sugar, or to conveniently gloss over problems, he always makes sure that his customers get truthful answers — even if it is not what they want to hear.

      “I make sure that my customers are always kept informed about what the brands are doing from a marketing perspective and also about new products and services that may be introduced.

      “My customers appreciate my honesty and most times I offer them a solution should there be a problem,” he says.

      After completing a B.Comm-degree at UCT, Kerdachi had jumped at the prospect of joining Reebok in 2000 as marketing manager in Durban. “I was keen to join the industry because I love sport and fashion and the business that consumes it,” he said. “I also enjoy working with retailers and the corporate customers who share a similar passion to me.”

      He gained valuable experience working for former Reebok owner Roy Eckstein and Bruce Joubert, who had joined Reebok as CEO, having been marketing manager for Coca-Cola in SA. Joubert subsequently bought Reebok SA.

      After three years Kerdachi took the bold step of becoming an independent agent by selling Bergmaster sleeping bags, backpacks and rainwear into the local market. Despite the fact that it was not an easy time for local manufacturers, it was clearly a step in the right direction for a young and enthusiastic salesman. Two years later he took over the ownership of Bergmaster Products, specialising in manufacturing rainwear. Among his successful lines are rugby supporters’ rainwear for most of the franchises. During the past six years he has also expanded his agency business, Flamingo Sales & Export, with top clothing and footwear brands like Airwalk, Diadora, Everlast, Skins, Havaianas, K-Swiss and Vans, sports brands like Gilbert and TK, boardsport brand World Industries and motor cycling brand Alpinestars.

      “I am currently the agent for the brands K-Swiss, Vans, World Industries, Airwalk and Alpinestars,” he says.

      He says he managed to grow his agency business as well as run a distributorship because he works with a great team who understand his customers’ requirements. But, he admits, it is no easy task.

      “I have systems in place to handle the distribution, which allows me to continue with the challenges of being an agent. I definitely spend more time on my agency business than on my distribution business.”

      Part of the time is spent on the road, travelling all over the country to see customers.

      “Customer service and honesty are at the top of my list,” he explains his business philosophy.

      “I have very good relationships with my customers.”

      Anyone who wants to become a successful agent needs to set aside plenty of time for customers and have the patience to attend to their needs, he says. “All customers are different and have different wants and needs. You need to be flexible and anticipate what your customers need.”

      He also believes that it is important to choose the brands you work with carefully and make sure that the brand owners and local distributors share the same principles as you and your customers.

      “It will make working together so much easier if you have mutual respect,” he says.

      October / November 2008

      Spotlight on agents:

      George Vey

      A sales agent is the public face of a brand or distributor. He is the link to their customer, the retailer. In this series we ask some successful agents for tips on what makes a good sales agent

      George Vey’s success recipe

    • Understand your customer’s business by visiting them

    • Listen to what retailers are saying — that helps to identify opportunities

    • Identify early trends and have products ready to maximise sales

    • Ensure that the selection and display of product makes a brand statement

    • Know your customers’ sales statistics and map a growth plan for them

    • Know what your competition is doing

    • Go out there and create opportunities

    • It was the love of a car that lured George Vey to his current position as sales representative for Soviet footwear in the Johannesburg and Pretoria region. “A sales representative who worked for my neighbour, Stanley Kotkin, drove a Golf Gti — and I really wanted that car! So, I went to Stanley’s house, knocked on his door, and asked him if I could work for him as a sales representative so that I could drive my dream car.

      “Stanley did give me a job — packing orders in the warehouse. Still determined, I soon progressed to floor manager, then warehouse manager and finally, three years later, when the position opened, I was moved into sales. I got the car I wanted!”

      Vey is now responsible for the key accounts and independent sales for Soviet Footwear in Johannesburg and Pretoria, and is also responsible for building the Soviet range, which involves a lot of overseas travel.

      His approach to Stanley Kotkin was certainly not without merit — at that stage he already held a sales position with an international hair care company, after having studied marketing business management.

      Vey says that when he initially started working in sales, he was solely motivated by the rush of making the sale, “which is my forte. However, the more time passed, the more I learnt and I quickly developed a huge passion for the shoe industry as a whole,” he says. “I still love selling, but I have also developed creatively by being involved in building the Soviet range.”

      Know your clients

      A successful agent must ALWAYS be on top of his game, and never loose momentum, believes Vey. And an agent can only stay on top of his game if he understands the retailers’ needs and their businesses, so that he knows what they are capable of achieving, he adds.

      “You need to be acutely in tune with the product mix for each individual retailer. What sells in one store may sit on the shelves for another. Make sure you understand your retailers’ businesses and their market.”

      You only gain hands on experience and a better understanding of their business by visiting retailers — which will also tell you what your competition is doing in their stores.

      “You also get to know their stock levels, merchandising and where your brand is placed and fits in the store”.

      Relationships with your retailers are key! “Reliability, integrity and efficiency builds a successful long term business relationship.

      “Always listen to what your retailers are saying and doing in their business so you can identify new opportunities. If you are not listening during a sale, you can easily miss out.

      This will also entail identifying early trends so that you can maximize on the sales for that trend’s time-frame — and have products ready.

      “Basics always sell. Always make sure your customers have stock of the basics in their stores.”

      While he believes an agent should be aggressive in his sales technique in order to get a brand into stores (“If you don’t somebody else will”), this should be balanced by the knowledge of what is right for the individual retailer’s business.

      “Brand promotion is essential and you need to ensure that your brand is displayed to the fullest potential in the stores. The selection of the product must make a statement and tell a story in the stores. Selling across the range is important,” he adds.

      He also says that it is very important to “be on top of your accounts and know their statistics. After all, I would like to think that we are account managers and not merely sales people. Always know what each of your retailers achieved in previous years, and have their current and future growth plan mapped out.”

      As an account manager, he says, you need to have self-discipline and continuous drive and passion. The more you have the more successful you will be.

      “Know your competition and what they are up to at all times, and honestly access where your strengths are compared to theirs?

      “Ultimately, what you put in is what you will get out.

      Learn to meet challenge

      The knowledge you need to become a successful agent comes with time — and the more you are committed to your industry, the quicker you will learn, is his philosophy

      Training of agents should start with the basics: how to present a range; how to get your vision through to your retailers so that it makes sense to them. “Remember that the right product, at the right time, in the right quantity, equals success.”

      His biggest challenge as an agent is to ensure the longevity of his brand in retail “We all know brands have their peaks and valleys, the biggest challenge is identifying where you are on that scale and having a plan of action to keep your brand inspirational.”

      His experience is that the industry has become a lot more competitive, especially in the recent tough economic climate.

      “Chain stores are showing better sell through than the independents during these tough times.”

      But, tough times like these are not necessarily a bad thing,” he believes. “It creates the opportunity for us to sharpen our pencils. There will always be opportunities, but identifying them is the challenge.

      “Where is the market going and how fast will it get there? Who knows! Just get out there and Rock ‘n Roll!”

      April/ May 2009

      Spotlight on agents:

      Mal Thorne

      A sales agent is the public face of a brand or distributor. He is the link to their customer, the retailer. In this series we ask some successful agents for tips on what makes a good sales agent

      Mal Thorne’s success recipe

    • Enjoy selling and sell what you enjoy

    • Understand what you do — know the sport and product well

    • Believe in the products you sell

    • Sell sincerely and refrain from high pressure selling, rather concentrate on your customers’ needs

    • Be polite and courteous — get to know everybody from the top guy to the sales people on the floor

    • After 30 successful years as salesman in the sports industry, Mal Thorne can say with authority that he found the secret of success: “to enjoy selling, you have to sell what you enjoy.”

      And as an avid sportsman, sport and sporting equipment is what he enjoys. Cricket is his special passion — he played Premier League for Old Johannians under Don Mackay-Coghill as captain and with the likes of Clive Rice as team mates, and later joined Claremont cricket club in Cape Town, where he is still involved as a qualified cricket coach.

      But, he has also run the Two Oceans, did the Big Walk twice, done The Argus Pick n Pay cycle race and became tempted to do the Cape Epic, after being inspired whilst watching his son competing for eight days in March this year.

      His scope for sport enjoyment is wide.

      Thorne started his career in Cape Town selling for Neste, then joined 3M, who transferred him to Johannesburg to sell cosmetics during the 1970s. But, unfulfilled with his life as a FMCG salesman, he went overseas and obtained the rights to introduce Patrick rugby boots to clients in Johannesburg, as well as the Donnay racket brand — then THE tennis brand used by the cool Swedish champion Bjorn Borg. Arena swimwear also became one of his brands in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s.

      But, in retrospect Thorne could see that he was under-capitalised to properly market the brands and after his divorce, he returned to his home town, Cape Town.

      There he became the sales agent for Hugo Snyman’s A Game tracksuits. “He was the most forward thinking tracksuit manufacturer of the time,” says Thorne. He soon added the Spoil Sports tracksuit brand, owned by Peter Warmsley and Mike Henshell, which he sold as far afield as Johannesburg.

      “I also picked up the New Balance agency in Cape Town from Gordon Howie, who imported the brand at that stage,” he remembers. “I also came across Power, a brand that had just been started by Futura Sports, part of the Bata company.”

      After selling Power for about a year as an agent, Futura offered him a full-time position as Cape Town representative in 1986.

      “I enjoyed my 23 years with them immensely.” Power soon became a well-known brand that did really well, he says. “Remember that brands like Nike and Reebok were not in the country. In those days Power had the king of ladies aerobic shoes, Jade. In mens the Perfector was an absolute winner, we sold millions. And then there was the wonderful Jahangir Khan squash shoe, also a top seller. I showed Tim Noakes of the Sport Science Institute (SSISA) the Mentor anti-pronation running shoe, and he highly recommended it. It also did really well.”

      Power makes very good shoes, not too expensive, and extremely good value for money, he says with enthusiasm. “It just lacked aggressive marketing and advertising to become a successful international brand.”

      Futura also had the New Balance and Patrick agencies and Thorne was again selling these brands he knew well.” I knew the markets, and we did extremely well. I also sold Airwalk skateboard shoes for Futura.”

      He believes that you can only be successful as a salesman if you love what you do and therefore sell with a passion. “You must also understand what you are doing, in other words, know the sport. Build up a reputation that you know what you are talking about.

      “You must also believe in the products you sell — I was lucky, because I always sold very good quality products. The back-up service was also very good. The support and trust from your company is also important.”

      Sell sincerely, he further advises. “I do not believe in being a high pressure salesman – you must supply what your customer needs.

      “Be polite and treat people courteously. Get to know everybody from the top guy to all the guys on the floor. Make it a pleasant experience for them to give you feedback and show that you are interested in what they do at the coalface on the floor.

      “I really enjoyed every single day.” This enjoyment can to a large extent be attributed to the people he met. “The Eric Logans, the Dave Stewarts, the Johnny Waites, the Dennis Lindsays, Gerald Bosch, Albie Bates… wonderful characters, I could just pop-in or otherwise chat to them on the floor, and walk around and chat to all their sales people. I had a brilliant time.”

      Nowadays, because you have to try and get your brand into chains, selling has lost much of this personal touch and is no longer so relaxing, he says. “You can’t just pop in, you have to make an appointment.” But, he still made a point of knowing the names of the salesmen on the floor, even in chain stores, and greeted them all when visiting the manager.

      Another change in the industry is that the sales people would not necessarily be sports people. “In the eighties you would find some of the country’s top sportsmen on the floor. Even the young guys they appointed were all very keen sportsmen — they played at least first team cricket or tennis. Now, even though the sales people might love sport, they don’t have much time to play, their working hours have become so much longer.”

      He is concerned that young people don’t play enough sports nowadays, especially team sports, which affects equipment sales. “More of them tend to gravitate towards extreme sports or solo sports, instead of cricket and rugby.” He experienced this with his own children – although his eldest son played U13 cricket for Western Province and later played for the army, he now enjoys extreme sports.

      His other son, who now works as a chartered accountant in Germany after a stint in London and Milan, was a Western Province triathlete, and is also a good golfer and tennis player. His daughter now lives in San Francisco.

      Although he officially retired a few months ago, Mal Thorne is by no means inactive. He keeps close contact with former colleagues, is still involved with cricket at the Claremont club, mountain bikes and plays golf at his house on the Theewaterskloof golf estate. And then there is always the Cape Epic…

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