Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) has ended a 13-year relationship with Leisure Trends and selected SportScanInfo, owned by The SportsOneSource Group, to develop and manage a new retail point-of-sale (POS) tracking system. SportScanInfo (www.sportscaninfo.com), which is relatively unknown to many in the outdoor industry, has been serving the sporting goods and footwear market for the last 10 years with POS reporting data.
In citing timeliness of reporting as one of the reasons for making the change, Frank Hugelmeyer told SNEWS®, "Our contract with Leisure Trends, which ends Dec. 31, 2009, will not be renewed. The new SportScan system is scheduled to launch in early 2010, and will provide OIA members with broad, in-depth coverage of weekly retail sales of outdoor products rather than the monthly format they are now used to."
Weekly versus monthly reporting, though, was not the only reason the OIA board unanimously voted to select SportScanInfo, Hugelmeyer told us. Some of the other reasons include:
- Dramatically expanded channel reporting. With Leisure Trends, OIA was limited to reporting on specialty, chain and Internet retail channels. Using the SportScanInfo platform, the channels include full-line sporting goods, athletic/urban specialty, sport specialty, Internet/catalog, mid-tier department stores, better department stores, family footwear, and club/discount/mass.
- Improved accuracy. Hugelmeyer said with Leisure Trends, if a product accidentally gets misclassified, when it is updated, it only corrects the data from that point forward. With the SportScanInfo system, whenever a product is reclassified in the system, it updates all data, past, present and from that point forward -- meaning much more accurate market data, according to Hugelmeyer.
- Expanded category reporting. Currently, Hugelmeyer told us, Leisure Trends' data reports on the outdoor and paddlesports categories. Ski is not part of the outdoor reports available to OIA members since Leisure Trends has a contract with SIA for ski data. However, with SportScan, OIA members will be able to see how products are performing not only in the outdoor and paddlesports categories, but also in ski, run, sporting goods, bike, athletic and adventure travel. By 2011, expansion is expected to include action sports and hunting/fishing.
It is security of data, though, that has impressed others with whom SNEWS® spoke. Will Manzer, CEO and president of EMS, told us that his company has never reported to any entity, including Leisure Trends, simply because he and the EMS board have always been cautious about an open data platform where the source of the data can potentially be determined. Manzer added that EMS has recently started uploading data to SportScanInfo, in part, because of the guaranteed security delivered.
Jim Hartford, CEO of SportsOneSource Group, told SNEWS, "We maintain the SportScanInfo offices in Florida, keeping them very separate from our Charlotte editorial offices for very good reason -- security and separation. No one from our editorial staff can go in and see the raw data, ever. Even as the owner of the company, I cannot go in and see the data. Our CIO and one other person in the Florida office are the only two people who have authorized access to raw data, and our CIO has orders not to share data with anyone, even me."
Noting that the market data division of SportsOneSource is a very distinct business apart from the media operations of the company, Hartford further stressed to us that because SportScanInfo has public companies reporting into it, data encryption and security of data are of the highest concerns.
"Retailers are never identified by name and each retailer is assigned a number in our system, which only one person has access to," said Hartford. "Our bigger retailers even use an encryption tool we provide that encrypts data on their side and then we decrypt on ours for loading."
Retailers SNEWS spoke with, including Manzer, all noted that the existing SportScanInfo platform provides more robust point-of-sale data than the current Leisure Trends reports that OIA currently offers. Data is presented in a format that is easily understood by a retail owner, buyer or merchandiser.
The manner in which data is presented by SportScanInfo and the depth of market data reporting is no accident.
Click here to launch full page screen shot of SportScanInfo footwear data and format presentation.
Both Hartford, who prior to launching SportsOneSource spent 25 years on the brand side of the sporting goods business, and one of his former business partners now consulting for SportsOneSource as its chief retail analyst, Matt Powell, who spent 35 years on the retail side, including stints as chief merchant at Sneaker Stadium and a founding merchant at MVP.com, were SportScanInfo clients as consultants.
"We got involved with them and we both saw so much opportunity and upside to the business, so we ended up merging our businesses," Hartford told us. "The system was built by market researchers, so what we immediately began working to develop was an interface that was much more user-friendly and intuitive -- designed to be useful to businesses, not just researchers."
Hartford told us that the goal was and always has been to "find ways to get more people to more information quickly and easily."
“In these market conditions, in which no one wants to own the inventory and the margin for error is close to zero, retailers and vendors have to be able to access market data on a weekly basis to make more accurate buying, selling and pricing decisions related to their businesses,” Hartford told SNEWS. “Whether it is an associate footwear buyer for a regional specialty store or a sales rep for a large outdoor company, there is something in the SportScanInfo platform they each can use to help them advance their business -- and mitigate their risk.”
The partnership with OIA to launch its new POS reporting platform simply accelerates a process that Hartford told us SportScanInfo was already embarking on. "We were going to be offering market data services into the outdoor channel anyway, and we have been hard at work adding the necessary retailers and uploading market data for the last year," said Hartford. "Now, this partnership accelerates the process and ensures our platform will be far more reflective of the industry than it otherwise would have been."
OIA has established an advisory group, along with select board members, to work closely with the SportScanInfo team to ensure the data and product category reports are tracked and presented in a manner that will be most useful to OIA member companies.
"This advisory group and the board have been really supportive," Hartford told us. "When you can tap into that kind of market knowledge and brain power to assist with the structure and modeling of how you are presenting data and the outflow of that data, it makes it a whole lot better."
The new POS platform will launch to OIA members in a beta form on Jan. 18, 2010, just prior to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. The final version of the platform is slated to go live on March 4, 2010.
Hugelmeyer told us that OIA members will be able to access a vastly improved sales summary reporting platform to log into 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Other reporting and market data from SportScanInfo, such as top selling brands and products, brand market share data, etc. will be available to OIA members to purchase at a 10 percent discount.
As for Leisure Trends, Hugelmeyer told SNEWS that OIA is by no means ending its long-term relationship with the company. "We will most likely continue using Leisure Trends for various consumer-based market studies and reports the board has been looking at, something which Leisure Trends excels at."
Jim Spring, CEO of Leisure Trends, did not respond to an email request for an interview by the time we went to press.
SNEWS® View: While the outdoor industry might just be learning about all that SportScanInfo offers, the market data reports and data tools the company provides are very well known in the sporting goods channel. Keep in mind, we are talking about, and comparing, ONLY what Leisure Trends offers OIA members and SportScanInfo promises it will offer OIA members -- we are not comparing the two businesses and their offerings beyond that.
When it comes to reports that will be availble to OIA members without additional fees, just a quick glance at the screen shot above in the article from SportScanInfo compared with the other from Leisure Trends' Top Line reporting tool on OIA (to the right), both reporting on the footwear category, should provide a quick look at why OIA board members were wowed by SportScanInfo potential and voted unanimously to make the switch -- no small decision after 13 years with Leisure Trends.
First off, for retailers, reps and manufacturers, weekly trending data is infinitely more useful than monthly, simply in terms of being able to respond to market shifts and trends in sufficient time to hopefully capitalize on them, rather than only being able to react to them after the fact. Want to know when a particular type of footwear typically sells best during the year? With SportScanInfo, you can determine that, and then know when to bring in those shoes for maximum sales opportunity at the highest margin. Wondering if a product you are carrying is being marked down in various regions and by how much so you can hit the sweet sales target? You'll also be able to see new brands coming into the market that might be selling well in New England, but are not yet on the radar in other regions, enabling buyers to make buying decisions they might not have otherwise.
A less obvious benefit is truly seeing how sales are trending. With a monthly reporting system, August 2008 sales looked a whole lot better than August 2009 sales, not so much a reflection of the market, but because Labor Day was in August in 2008 and not in 2009. On a weekly reporting system, it is much easier to segment out calendar anomalies.
Another major advantage of the SportScanInfo system is the manner in which it collects and reports data. Unlike the Leisure Trends OIA Topline Report, which focuses on only three channels of sales for the outdoor market (outdoor specialty, outdoor chain and Internet), SportScanInfo's platform being offered to OIA members is currently more reflective of how consumers are buying products today. No longer are consumers limiting their sales of outdoor products to one, two or even three channels. Which means for anyone looking at the data from the business side, to accurately see how a product category is selling (specialty, mass merchant, Internet, catalog, department store, footwear store, etc.), the net needs to be cast much wider, which it is with SportScanInfo. Looking at the number of retail store reporting into both platforms, SportScanInfo says it has access to over 15,000 stores while Leisure Trends reports approximately 2,300.
We could go on, but suffice it to say, we are thrilled for the industry at the potential of the new platform. Yes, it will take a year, maybe two, before all the year-over-year trending data becomes fully accurate and reflective of the outdoor industry, especially the specialty retail channel. Assuming SportScanInfo manages to deliver expected accuracy of the data, the scope of the trending data will be a wonderful tool. --SNEWS® Editors