2004 Chain retailer/mass merchant of the year: City Sports
With a goal to “always satisfy the customer and have the right product, at the right place, at the right time,” it’s no wonder that the City Sports chain can boast a loyal customer base, that keeps coming back for more, at its 11 locations across the Northeast.
According to Equipment Buyer Erik Metzdorf, who shared his employer’s objective with RSI, City Sports customers expect high-end product and quality service when they step into the store. “A lot of times they are members of clubs,” he says. “They know what they are looking for.”
Chances are they will find it quite easily. The chain takes feedback from consumers and managers on a weekly basis and strives to fulfill customer needs. And because of this and many other factors, City Sports is RSI’s Chain Retailer/Mass Merchant of the Year.
“What I try to do is to create a pro shop in each store,” says Justin Green, director of tennis for City Sports. Green, who has played tennis competitively and is now responsible for the racquet departments at six store locations, aims to stock each store with a selection that would interest the most advanced players, and keeps up-to-date on new products and trends through his own research. “The pro shop feeling in our stores is very important to us,” says Metzdorf. “Based on sales, we’ve had a good run.”
To help keep all employees on top of their game, the Wilmington, Mass.-based company emphasizes staff training and takes advantage of numerous opportunities to help its employees get to know the products they’re selling. “They’re huge believers in having constant training,” says John Tranfaglia, eastern regional sales manager for HEAD Penn. Store managers, department managers and sales associates alike spend time with representatives from companies like HEAD Penn, taking part in demonstrations designed to familiarize them with the product. “We explain the racquets, explain the technology,” Tranfaglia says. City Sports CEO and owner Michael Kennedy has also contributed to staff training by conducting a tennis clinic for approximately 60 employees in Boston. According to Green, such clinics give the sales associates an advantage. “The better informed our employees are, the better they’ll be able to help our customers,” he says. Experience with the sport they are selling has proved important for employees like Green, as it has helped bring a consistent customer base — ranging from children new to the game to players on the verge of ATP competition — back to the store. “There are a lot of customers who won’t go anywhere else,” Green says. “Tennis customers can be pretty particular about their equipment.” Green is one of many employees trained in racquet stringing, too. With the amount of staff members possessing that skill, Metzdorf says, “we can turn around racquet stringing jobs the same day.” Green himself strings about 200 racquets a month.
“Besides their service, I think their selection is also excellent,” says Tranfaglia, adding that competitive pricing is an additional strong suit for the chain. For tennis, City Sports’ wall and floor displays feature everything from replacement grips to headbands and sweatbands. And while Metzdorf says that 80 percent of tennis merchandise is the same at each of the chain’s locations, “we do tailor merchandise to stores based on feedback from customers and managers.”
For City Sports, it’s all about getting the right product to the right place.
City Sports’ Tips for Success
- Know your customers. Ask what kind of player he or she is, including what their NTRP rating is.
- Keep fresh, new products on the wall. Liquidate older products.
- Ensure a clean presentation of merchandise, and make sure you have a full stock of all the essentials.
See all articles by Kristen Daley
About the Author
Kristen Daley is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.