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Product Knowledge



Product knowledge

Your online guide to selling products

Accessories

Binoculars

With the exception of spectacles, binoculars are the most used optical instruments in the world. As such they should be one of the leading profit generating lines in any sport and outdoor shop. To sell them effectively, and to entrench yourself as one of the binocular experts in your area, you need to understand the technical jargon and be aware of the factors that should be considered by the potential user.

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Bottles vs bladders

When should you recommend that your customer consider a hydration pack, or when would a bottle be better? Which features should they consider, and which ones should they avoid when selecting a bladder or bottle.

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Carbon vs. graphite

There appears to be much controversy over the differences and uses of carbon fibre composite in sports products like fishing rods, tennis rackets, golf club shafts and many others. Your customers might, for instance, insist on a high modulus graphite fishing rod for all occasions — but that is not necessarily in their best interest. Unfortunately, the right choice of material is not a simple one.

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Footwear uppers

There are various materials used for outdoor footwear upper manufacturing and the ideal choice will depend entirely on your customer’s needs.

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Goggles

Goggles, first allowed at the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976, may not be crucial for a swimmer’s performance, but their absence might breed frustration and cause distractions. For 20/20 vision, protection against the harmful effects of chlorine, other chemicals and UV and ensuring that you see the wall and know when to do your tumble-turns, is simply pivotal. But what do you recommend when your customers are spoilt for choice in terms of the goggle-market?

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Gas: What to know

Gas equipment can be dangerous if the user does not know how to properly handle, store and maintain it. However, if the user works sensibly with it gas is a useful power element when participating in outdoor activities where you might need a gas stove, or light, for example.

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Heart rate monitors

Aheart rate monitor is all about effective exercise. To make an exercise routine count, you need to exercise at the correct intensity to achieve your goals — whether you want to get fit, lose weight, or prepare for the next Comrades Marathon. A heart rate monitor (HRM) tells whether you are doing too much, too little or just enough to achieve your goals.

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Lighting products

The revolution has been swift and absolute. Ten years ago, when I first began writing about outdoor equipment, light emitting diodes (LEDs) were practically unheard of and headlamps were still only used by a fringe minority of rock climbers and spelunkers. Today you’d be hard-pressed to find any outdoor lighting product that doesn’t contain LEDs. And you just have to visit any campsite, backpackers’ hut or nighttime trail-running or adventure-racing event to see that every woman and her schnauzer has made the move to hands-free illumination.

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LED lighting

There’s no doubt that LEDs have revolutionized the outdoor lighting market. But they’ve also introduced a fair bit of confusion! As the technology has advanced, so consumers have been bombarded with a stream of new terminology, from all the different types of LED (Cree, Luxeon, Super Bright, Single Power, Double Power, Triple Power) to the measurement of the light output (lux, lumens, candlepower, watts), not to mention a host of related concepts such as regulated power supply and IPX 7 waterproof ratings. Pretty bewildering, eh?

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Mouthguards

Until a few years ago, mouthguards were associated with sports like boxing and martial arts. Then a few hockey or rugby players started wearing mouth protection. Nowadays, athletes who frighten their opponents with blue, black, green, red … and many combinations in between… grins have become common spectacles on sports fields across the country.

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Mouthguards 2

In the winter school term, with the contact team sports like rugby, hockey and soccer in full swing, you’re bound to be selling mouth guards in some volume. But, how do you recommend the right size to your clients, who can obviously not try them on? And what else should you know in order to sell this accessory item to best advantage?

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Softball

While most people probably know what basic equipment is needed to play softball — bat, ball, helmet, etc. - , informing your customers about exactly why they need one type of product over the other, can be a bit more tricky.

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Trekking poles

Amazing things, knees. They carry us around day after day, year after year, without complaining… until you accidentally trip over the dog or slip off the treadmill at gym. But that doesn’t mean we should take them for granted. Watching out for snoozing pets is clearly a good idea. And hikers, who place their knees under greater-than-normal strain thanks to those heavy packs and steep downhills, can also benefit by using a pair of trekking poles.

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Watches that can outsmart you

Nowadays, watches used in films like ‘007’ and ‘Gadget Boy’ no longer seem that far-fetched. Sportsmen have stopped buying watches solely to keep time, but rather use them as fitness training tools that can record heart rate, speed, distance, and other useful workout data. Outdoor watches also incorporate all the tools that a fisherman, sailor, mountaineer or diver might require in one compact high-tech gadget.

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Water purification

I’m always a bit suspicious of products that employ fear as part of their marketing strategy: “Your energy field is out of balance... buy this bracelet”; or “Toxins are poisoning you — here’s a foot patch that will make it all better”. That kind of thing. Unfortunately selling water purification systems relies on the very same principles. The difference here is that there’s scientific data to back it up.


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Apparel

Softshells

Humans produce more moisture when they are more active. A trail runner would, for example, produce double the volume of sweat than someone taking a leisurely stroll. As outdoor activities like trail running, mountain biking, adventure racing, etc. became more popular, a growing demand developed for a lightweight, non-bulky outdoor garment that is water-resistant as well as breathable. Softshells became the optimum garment.

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Equipment

Balls

Every four years, before and during a World Cup, the performance of the new official ball is scrutinized and criticized or praised by just about every striker or kicker to take the field. The ball is more often than not blamed for missed goals or bad line kicks — but, strangely, hardly ever credited for goals scored! Can design elements in new team balls really influence performance to such an extent?

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Backpacks: Features you need to know to sell backpacks

When it comes to shopping for a backpack, South Africans now have more choice than ever before. Choice is good, of course: it means there’s more chance that the customer will find a product that best suits their needs.

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Backpacks: How to fit

Finding the right fit of backpack for your customer is as important as finding a hiking boot that fits comfortably. If you sell your customer a backpack that does not fit correctly, they will not easily forget you, or their next hike, as it might turn out to be a ride from hell.

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Darts: What you need to know

When recommending a dart set, the first question you should ask your customers is what investment they are prepared to make.

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Diving masks: How to fit

Assisting a customer to fit a diving mask in a way that will allow him to secure maximum vision, good breathing and a comfortable, exhilarating adventure underwater is uncomplicated, yet tricky.

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Equipping young base- and softball players

Badly fitted equipment can have a negative effect on a young player and adversely affect his enjoyment of the sport — which might even result in him not continuing to play, the sport losing out on a player and the trade losing out on a customer.

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Eyewear

How should retailers select the perfect sport protection eyewear for customers, especially those interested in different outdoor and indoor sporting codes? And how do you pinpoint the perfect value-for-money product for the specialist — like a professional cyclist or a member of the elitist Sunshine Tour of Golf club? Should a cricketer opt for the same product that adds value to the life of a squash player?

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Hockey sticks: How to fit

Advising your customer when selecting a field hockey stick that is well balanced, comfortable, the right size and complements his or her position, style of play and role in the team, is critical for the enjoyment of the game. Or it could turn into an extended nightmare if the customer ignores the advice of the hockey experts and makes the wrong choice.

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How to select a knife or multi-tool for an activity

Different activities require different types of knives or multi—tools and retailers have to take various factors into consideration before recommending a knife or tool for a specific activity.

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Kitting out a triathlete

It is often said that triathlon is one of the fastest growing sporting codes in the world. In South Africa alone there are 53 triathlon clubs, according to Triathlon South Africa. With a continuous stream of new participants, sport retailers can’t afford to ignore this sport or its members’ needs. With the three disciplines in triathlons — swimming, cycling and running, participated in in that order — participants and retailers alike have to keep their focus when it comes to the kit the consumer would need, and that which he might not be allowed to use.

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Outdoor eating options

There are several factors you need to consider when recommending cooking equipment, and all that goes with it, to your customer: the number of people they want to cook for, the weight and the activity your customer will be using it for, the type of fuel, the duration of the trip, etc.

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Sleeping systems

There’s a widely held misconception that sleeping outdoors must be uncomfortable; that it’s impossible to get a good night’s sleep unless you’re tucked into a Sealy Posturepedic. But the truth is that humans are capable of bunking down quite happily in the most inhospitable places, from mountain ledges in the Himalayas to igloos in the Arctic. What’s the trick? Having the right equipment, of course.

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Sleeping bags

Not all sleeping bags are created equal. From the material and construction method used to create the bag to the temperature rating supplied by the manufacturer — performance could differ tremendously from one bag to the next, depending on how it is made.

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Soccer boots and balls

In certain areas of the country, and during periods of drought, soccer players are more likely to play on hard ground or artificial pitches, than on a pitch with good grass cover, which they may encounter during away games.

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Squash and badminton rackets

Recommending a racket to a squash or badminton player is not always an easy task as each individual has his own style of play and level of experience. here are, however, a number of features that could greatly enhance — or detract from — a player’s playing ability or experience. Interestingly enough, many of the racket qualities that affects a players’ squash game affects a badminton players’ game as well.

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Tennis balls: What puts the bounce in a tennis ball?

One of the most popular commodities in modern sport is… not a Maria Sharapova-photo or –autograph, but the 300 million tennis balls manufactured (and used) globally every year. Different sizes of tennis balls are available for play on different court surfaces and at high altitudes.

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Tent fabric

Originally, all tents were made of heavy canvas, held in place with thick ropes, that took a small army the best part of a day to erect. Modern day tents are versatile, activity-specific and can be set up in minutes rather than hours by a few people (many by a lone traveller). They are made from all kinds of materials that all offer different benefits.

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Waterpolo balls

The South African water polo establishment is a small, intimate, brand conscious community that does not suffer mediocrity gladly, rarely experiments with inferior products and are prepared to invest to secure quality products, say local distributors. Water polo is becoming increasingly popular at school level, especially amongst girls. Selling water polo balls to this growing, discerning market therefore requires a solid understanding of the features of the ball and the customer’s needs.

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What makes a golf ball?

Golf balls have come a far way since the days of the wooden and the featherie ball (a leather pouch fi lled with wet feathers and coated with paint; the feathers would expand when they dried and create a compact ball).

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Footwear

How outdoor outsoles work

An outdoor shoe typically features various technologies and materials to help the wearer enjoy the best possible experience especially on the rougher side of the terrain spectrum. Specifically, the outsole will keep the wearer on his feet on difficult terrain … literally — it is the part of the shoe that provides the grip, which helps the wearer keep his footing.

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Equipping snorkelers’ and divers’ feet

Underwater footwear like booties, diving socks and fins work together to protect the feet from external factors such as water temperature, sharp terrain, etc. and also to move the wearer through the water with as little effort as possible. There is a variety of designs that have been created to help the user enjoy his chosen activity to the maximum.

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Minimalist footwear

For years you have been explaining to customers why more is better in a running shoe — more support, more cushioning, more stability. Now you have to explain to them why the brands are producing running shoes with less. While the shop floor is not the place to have a debate about the pros and cons of barefoot and minimalist running shoes vs regular running shoes, the following information should help you to field the questions your customers might ask.

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Team boot soles explained

Choosing suitable gear is crucial for any athlete who wants to perform at his best, and prevent injuries. Identifying the right boots for the sport, terrain and position of the player is no different. Playing in uncomfortable and unsuitable boots can lead to under-performance and injuries, amongst other things.

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Toning footwear

The latest women’s sportshoe trend in the US, toning shoes, have experienced dramatic growth over the last two years — annual sales grew from $17m in 2008 to $245m in 2009 — and is still growing massively. According to analysts this is the fastest growing trend ever. You can therefore expect more and more consumer interest in this shoe category — and you will have to be prepared to answer the questions they are likely to ask.

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Trail vs road running shoe features

As a retailer selling running shoes you have undoubtedly been asked by many customers why they would need specific running shoes for trail and road. Is this a marketing gimmick trying to sell a pair of shoes for each running category? Or are there key features in running shoes that will take the environment into consideration and benefit the runner, allowing them to transform themselves into a kamikaze trail junkie, a lightning fast road racer or even a nimble barefoot warrior?

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© SA Sports Trader