August 16, 2012
(Editor’s Note: Sports apparel “Guru” Ray Jannelli, the president of PLA, has some thoughts this week on his days as the former manager, buyer and sales trainer at the "Original" Mitchell & Ness.)
By Ray Jannelli
In my twenty some odd years in the sporting goods/sports apparel business I am always asked what was it like being the head buyer and retail store manager in the "glory days" at the "Original" Mitchell & Ness?
My reply always: "It was always about the customer.”
Our customers were part of an inclusive club, sports fans all! We knew all of our customers on a first name basis; even new Mitchell & Ness recruits coming out of school were encouraged to turn a potential customer into a friend, friend into a customer, customer into a loyal-repeat customer.
First name basis. Club atmosphere. Elite customer service. I am pleased to see my customers finding me at our new sports apparel company Pro League Authentics.
The second question I am always asked is: “What happened to the "Original" Mitchell & Ness"?
My reply: "The 1980s, '90s and early 2000s were truly a magical time at Mitchell & Ness, original products, strong customer base, great employees that had a genuine interest in sports, the products, and the customers.”
Great time, personally. I must have trained over 50 college graduates in the highly competitive world of sporting goods sales. (Thank you, Brian Tracy and the Sandler Sales Institute.)
The problem started in the spring of 2004, actually earlier, maybe late 2003 when I saw a distinct paradigm shift of alienation of our core, loyal customers of many years. The Zen Koan certainly applies here, "Look inside for answers- not outside.”
Take note future MBA's. When a company looks outside for a level of expertise (consultants) it usually means that company did not look for answers from within. The company's "mind" is the level of expertise of the employees that work for that particular company." It’s academic, though it is a double-bind.
A real world example: At Mitchell &Ness in early summer ’04 we brought on board a company called DMI Partners, a simple SEO firm, that came off the local Mensa bench (no, they weren't starters).
DMI, which had NO sports apparel business experience, started to interfere in major business decisions, overstepped their bounds so to speak, the Mitchell & Ness execs listened to them, the beginning of the end.
Long, sad story short, Mitchell & Ness had to sell to Reebok.
The lesson: Business students (if you ever own a business) and current business owners - listen from the REAL experts - your employees. Your employees are the boots on the ground, a sounding board, and your customers are your market validation.
That consulting fee could be put to better use.
Authentic Store Buzz: In Philly, the Super Bowl theme is picking up steam in the shop as more people are grabbing Eagles merchandise every day. Into the store this week; some great fashion fit retro Kelly green Eagles gear from Junk Food for both men and women (pictured above).
Authentically Speaking Trivia Time: What team wore this patch? Answer on Friday.