With Tiger Woods winning majors, a new ad campaign running and a host of products shipping to retail, Nike Golf is operating on all cylinders – well, almost.
A continuing concern is an inability to provide customer service at levels demanded by golf retailers who have many “at-once” needs.
Though Nike Golf has made service improvement a top priority in recent years, progress has been slower than desired, officials say. The division has gained considerable autonomy from its nearly $9.9 billion parent, but occasionally still needs to work within Nike Inc.’s structure, which has proven to be unwieldy.
In addition, Nike Golf’s rapid growth often has outpaced resources designated to bolster customer relations. According to a senior company executive, the business unit accounts for approximately $400 million of the company’s total sales. Nike Inc. doesn’t release specific financial results for the golf division, but officials said its sales jumped 42 percent for the fiscal year ending May 31.
Two new initiatives, however, are designed to provide more timely, efficient service to retailers in the future:
-Creating a dedicated apparel-only sales team.
-Establishing a warehouse distribution center exclusively for Nike Golf.
“For (the next 12 months), our focus will be, ‘How can we service our accounts better?’ ” said Chris Zimmerman, Nike Golf’s general manager. “We’re looking at everything from a stronger operational infrastructure, consistency and quality of deliveries, to strength of customer service teams.”
Initially, most members of Nike Golf’s sales force sold all of the company’s products: equipment, apparel and footwear. “It’s impossible to do all that well,” he said.
As a result, Nike Golf gradually has been dividing its sales force of roughly 100 during the past 18 months into two camps: apparel and footwear, and equipment.
Approximately 35 sales representatives have been designated apparel/footwear specialists and began reporting to apparel/footwear-only regional managers in June. Before then, they had reported to regional managers with responsibility for all product lines. This specialization prompted the company to promote Nike veteran Michael Fassette to national apparel sales manager. Fassette, who held senior merchandising positions at Lady Foot Locker and Fila before joining Nike, also will oversee Western region representatives. Joe Westby, a Nike Golf apparel seller, also was appointed Eastern regional sales manager.
In addition, Nike has added 11 field support staff to assist representatives and their retail accounts with demo days and other sales-related tasks.
Nike also expects to improve delivery by storing only its golf inventory in a separate warehouse rather than stocking it with all Nike products in the company’s massive distribution center in Memphis, Tenn.
“That system was developed to serve large sporting goods accounts, but golf is customized and fragmented,” said Zimmerman, who expects the Nike Golf warehouse to be operational within 12 months. “I want to be able to say, ‘This blue box needs to go out to this account in 48 hours. We can’t accomplish that today, but that’s the level we will get to.”