As the sporting goods industry rushes toward the approaching millennium, trend spotters are keeping a sharp eye on the two developments of special import to the manufacturers and purchasers of athletic apparel: (1) the greater diversity in the purchasing options of the emerging athletic programs,
and (2) the changing approach to the burgeoning women's sports market.
The sporting goods manufacturers are, more than ever before, providing coaches and athletic directors with options that best fit their specific needs, while providing quality products at affordable prices.
Over the past decade, the needs and purchasing habits of our schools have sharply changed. Schoolmen who ordinarily ordered customized apparel are now facing budgetary and delivery restraints that afford less time for specialized apparel.
This naturally has opened the way for stock ordering. True, stock ordering has its downside in color and style limitations, but the savings in cost offers a distract upside.
Don Alleson Athletics (Rochester, NY) is concentrating more on stock business because it understands that there are athletic programs that won't have their budgets prepared in time to purchase custom apparel.
Todd Levine, vice president of marketing, points out that "Our stock business gives coaches the same high-quality product as well as customizes colors to their specifications, With custom jerseys, you might have to wait 4-6 weeks for delivery. If an athletic program is a little late getting its budget in line, it can still order from our stock line and customize the jerseys with their own colors.
"Over the past two or three years, we have replaced 40 lines of apparel with new upgraded lines that have given our customers a higher price-value ratio."
This practice - giving the customer an opportunity to purchase both custom and stock apparel - is the industry's way of promoting its diversity With so many options to choose from, coaches must rely on the experts to help steer them in the right direction.
Tom Doyle, vice president of Information/Research for the National Sporting Goods Association, acknowledges that the purchasing business is all about relationships:
"It is important for coaches to foster a good relationship with their suppliers. There are much fewer suppliers than there were 10-15 years ago, and the chances are that the coaches will have to deal with a supplier for a long time."