AN INTERVIEW WITH JOE CLARK, MANAGER OF OZARK OUTDOOR SUPPLY
Ozark Outdoor Supply in Little Rock, AR, is situated in an old house on Kavanaugh Street, a road that's lined with shops and boutiques unique to Little Rock. The retailer has become known for its commitment and expertise in outdoor sports. Most of Ozark's customers are highly active people, participating in such activities as climbing, camping, hiking, backpacking, camping, canoeing, and kayaking. The store's motto: We don't just sell outdoor clothing and equipment, we use it!
Joe Clark is the general manager of Ozark, a one-door store. He manages a staff of eight to ten people--all of them trained to properly sell sport performance suns. Ozark's sunglass lines include Native Eyewear, Julbo, Smith Optics, and Kaenon Polarized. Clark discusses the importance of customer support, why offering incentives helps to drive business, and why Ozark views sunglasses as proper sporting equipment.
Sunglasses: How many sunglasses to you sell per year?
Joe Clark: About 300 pairs. So far, Native Eyewear makes up about 60% of our sales. Many people in Little Rock have become fans of Native sunglasses.
SG: What makes this line popular with your customers?
Joe Clark: The company has a quality product with its polarized lenses. Native's great warranty helps ease customers to make a sunglass purchase. For my staff, sales incentives make Native Eyewear popular. The company holds sales contests and has a nice incentive that makes our sales people interested in selling the product. Programs like this show good customer support, and that's key when we choose product lines to carry in our store.
SG: What else makes for good customer support?
Joe Clark: An outside sales rep that stays in touch and makes sure that we're keeping the counter full with their products. The reps we work with help out with local events, and they know what's going on in our store. We also choose companies that have fast turn-around times. Also, with us being a one-door store, inventory control can be difficult. It doesn't hurt to have someone from the company call us to check in and ask us how sales are going or if we need more stock. That's a good thing for us.
SG: What kind of sunglass training does your staff have?
Joe Clark: Companies come into our store and offer clinics about their sunglasses, so everyone learns the attributes of each brand and style. We’re all on the same page when we’re selling sunglasses. Our sales staff learns about lenses, lens shapes, size of frame, coatings, etc., just like we would any sporting gear. We match the right face with the right style for the right sport and the exact lighting condition. We consider sunglasses as pieces of necessary sporting equipment. That's how we position and sell sunglasses to our customers.
SG: What's one of the biggest problems your store faces?
Joe Clark: Getting people to understand the difference between an inexpensive pair of sunglasses and a higher quality, higher-priced sunglass that we offer. We overcome that obstacle by showing customers the difference between high-end, sport specific, polarized sunglasses compared to cheaper styles. They try on the sunglasses to feel the difference in fit. Next, we point out that eyes don’t strain with high quality sunglasses. We talk about the importance of UV protection, scratch resistance, and optical quality. Then, we go outside to show the difference between polarized and non-polarized. Once they have all the info, they usually buy the better suns.
SG: How does Ozark differ from your competition?
Joe Clark: Our customers know that the sunglass lines we carry are aimed at people who are active in the outdoors, such as backpacking, skiing, climbing. People come to us for specialized service for these sports. We apply our knowledge of these sports with our experience with the product to provide our customers with personalized service for their sport. That's what sets us apart from our competitors.