Prana launches new approach to showing line at Summer Market

Prana is celebrating the company's 14th Outdoor Retailer Summer Market with a new location and booth that is more than double the size of past booths.
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Prana is celebrating the company's 14th Outdoor Retailer Summer Market with a new location and booth that is more than double the size of past booths.

However, it is not so much the new location and dramatically increased size of the booth that is the story. It's how Prana is planning to interact with its customers that will turn heads -- and might just change the way other companies show new product to dealers.

It begins with a redesigned booth (#10026). The expanded workspace does not equal more bays for sales presentations. Instead, dealers will find a more interactive, multi-dimensional experience as they view the line. A presentation will be conducted by moving from merchandised display to merchandised display, with buyers being personally guided by their sales reps. Each merchandised display will have a presenter. As buyers move through the booth, they'll receive consultation from the sales team in order to achieve a far more intimate sales experience. Beaver Theodosakis, president of Prana, said he hopes the new arrangement will result in better and more accurate ordering and improved sales numbers.

"This came about primarily because of our dealers. We are starting to grow to be a more important part of the mix for many dealers," Theodosakis told SNEWS®. "Where before we had a rack or two in many stores, now for our core stores we are their number one apparel vendor.

"As you know, we don't have sales reps, so all we have is the Outdoor Retailer show twice a year to connect with our dealers," added Theodosakis. "Our appointments were 90 minutes and were shared, so it was not fair for the business or people. Dealers were saying, 'I need more time with you.' The wheels were starting to come off the old model, and we knew it was time to give our dealers more focused attention."

Buyers' appointments will begin with their reps handing off a workbook prepared exclusively for each retailer with handwritten notes, recommendations, sticky notes for highlights and more. Reps will then escort buyers through the various merchandised areas showing them the line and acting more like personal guides than reps.

"It is an experiment we hope works," said Theodosakis. "We are taking chances here. Our sales folks will not be selling, but will be consultants. They have their accounts they know and they will be able to be back and look through a three- or four-season history -- what they bought, what the sell through was, even what colors they bought. The reps will know what worked and what didn't, and they will put those observations into the workbook for each retail buyer. This will allow each rep to work with each buyer to build the best buying plan tailored specifically for each store."

It still takes 90 minutes to walk through the entire line, but now it can be done in 30-minute chunks or all at once. When walk-throughs are finished, the buying plans are submitted to Prana's team of merchandisers, each working at one of four large computer screens that buyers will also be able to view.

"It's rather like a sushi menu, where the buyer picks what they want from the display, and then the merchandiser acts like the sushi chef and makes the items to order," said Theodosakis.

On the screen, the merchandisers can actually merchandise each of the buyers' selections, showing them how they will best be displayed and what it will look like -- on 4-ways, rounders, waterfalls, on the wall, etc. Merchandisers will be able to see immediately if buyers purchased too much brown or blue in the line and be able to recommend corrections to the order.

"Our merchandisers will also advise on colors and the best time to bring something in, so in affect, they may tell a buyer that the mauve will be best to bring in for April and then a few months later, bring in the green," added Theodosakis.

Once the buy is merchandised, the retail buyer will be able to walk away with the printed out merchandising plans as take-aways.

Theodosakis acknowledges that this is a very unorthodox approach to showing the line, but he and his team have spent hundreds of hours planning and trafficking the booth flow -- what will happen if a buyer shows up late, or not at all, or someone else wants to jump in -- and he's certain his team is ready to handle the flow efficiently. The Prana team expects that it will work with over 300 buyers in the four days of the show.

Beyond the line presentations, important new merchandising initiatives will be on display throughout the booth. Theodosakis said the displays will showcase the Prana line as the company would wish items to be merchandised and be important for retailers to see.

Not all of Prana's booth space is being devoted to product display. Theodosakis said he wanted to focus a section of the booth on serving as a community hub, reinforcing the company's commitment to being a vehicle for positive change.

To do that, Prana invited three organizations that it works with and supports to share a portion of the booth space.

"The intention is to allow our guests, as well as show attendees passing by the booth, to have easy access to these organizations by giving them prominent space on Main Street on the show floor," Theodosakis told SNEWS®. "By doing this, we hope it will help each of these organizations increase their reach."

The three non-profits are: 3 Phases Energy, Youth Outreach Legacy Foundation (YOLF) and The Conservation Alliance. 3 Phases Energy is committed to promoting and implementing renewable energy options for businesses, utilities, governments, institutions and non-profits. YOLF works with children and was founded by Dennis Madsen, former CEO of REI. The Conservation Alliance is a non-profit organization of outdoor businesses whose collective annual membership dues support grassroots citizen-action groups and their efforts to protect wild and natural areas.

Theodosakis also shared with us his plans to launch a new labeling program as part of the company's expanded Natural Power Initiative.

"The next step for us is to offset the U.S. manufacturers who sew our clothes with Green-e certified wind power. The idea is to have something on the clothing that starts to deliver in spring '07. Almost like concert backstage passes, each product will have a 'made with Green-e certified wind power' identifying label directly on the garment itself, rather than just on the hangtag."

SNEWS® VIEW:  Leading by example yet again. A round of applause for Beaver and team please! Certainly, the bigger booth size is a result of the land-grab many companies have told us they took as a result of the convention center expansion. Certainly more booth than Prana needed currently, but to the company's credit, it is using the space in a most inventive, imaginative and proactive manner. The non-profits are thrilled, we know.

As for the business approach, it is a logical next step toward working more directly with all of the company's retailers, improving buying patterns, improving sell-through, and further solidifying Prana's position as a key supplier. What it also does, though Prana certainly isn't saying it, is improve the relationship with each store buyer and possibly open a door to begin working directly with key stores to create Prana concept shops. It's not a very far leap from showing how product should be merchandised in a booth, to actually working with a staff merchandiser to create that same look and feel in stores around the country.

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