Sunday, January 20, 2008

PlusPOS: A Competitor's Closing Affects Us

It's not been my style to talk about specific competitors publicly unless it's something positive.

Sometime around September '07 one of our major competitors, PlusPOS closed up shop. From what I hear from those who've been in this business longer than I, they were the first company to offer sporting goods to sports officials... a pioneer really. From what I gather, they have been for some time #2 in sales in this industry out of what I count is 20+ companies.

Other #2's
For fun, even though it's comparing small apples to big ones, here are some other #2's in their industries: Delta Airlines, Dell Computers, ABC TV and Toyota. Imagine if one of those went out of business suddenly and how that would affect others like them.

Now that PlusPOS is no longer a competitor, this post is not intended to be my launch pad to begin talking bad about them. Others have done plenty of that.

So how do I feel about it?
You'd probably think I'd be overjoyed. Not exactly. On a personal level, I can't help but feel for the people who worked so hard to build it up. I have a lot in common with the powers-that-were there as a fellow entrepreneur, small business owner and officials' supplier. In addition, how could you not feel vulnerable? I mean if it could happen to them, it could happen to us.

A Further Increase in Business
On a practical business level, we have been taken a little off-guard. For instance, we had planned for strong growth for the '07-08 basketball season but felt an unexpected added push from their closing that left us in November and December working a little harder than usual and worrying a little more about whether we'd have enough inventory for the rest of the season. I guess you could call that a good problem to have.

Spring '08
As for baseball season, who knows. We were planning on a nice spring even before they closed and are trying to figure in the coming added push that we didn't figure in for basketball (wrestling, too). You can read about some of our in-house improvements in my last post.

But as PlusPOS was stronger in baseball and softball who knows just how much of an added push that will be. I feel a little like we're shooting in the dark and that it will take until March or April when the sun comes up to see if we actually hit any of the right targets.

7 comments:

Lawrence Dorsey said...

Jim,

I too was a little sad to see +POS go. I started umpiring in 1991 and for the first 4 years or so I only bought my equipment and uniforms from +POS.
In fact, my first taste of true customer service came on my very first +POS order. I ordered my gear on a Thursday night about 7pm EST. I think it was due to arrive in NC on Tuesday. I called my assignor, who had recommended +POS, and he told me that he really needed for me to have my gear on Saturday (2 days away). He called +POS that evening and spun a yarn about me needing my order ASAP and that if I didn't have my gear he was going to cancel my schedule for the fall season. They said no problem and red labeled (UPS Overnight) to me at no extra charge.

Sadly, things went downhill for them in the late 90's and they never came back. They were the first true innovators as an officials only company. There are others that have taken up the "cause" but +POS was the trailblazer.

Lawrence

Jim Kirk said...

Thanks Lawrence for your good comments. You do have to respect the amount of vision and guts it took to start blazing that trail.

A frequent response people give me when I tell them what I do is "Sporting Goods for Sports Officials? Is there a market for that?". So if people think I'm half-crazy when there are 20+ companies out there doing this, I'm sure people thought they were completely crazy being the first to give it a go.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

I've a been an umpire and/or referee for over 30 years. I've used the balloon chest protector and everything in between. I was devastated to see +Pos close. I truly felt they provided officials with excellent equipment at a fair price. I honestly feel that many, not all, but many officials purchase inferior equipment for the sake of saving a few bucks. I have had a kidney transplant for the past 17 years and require the best of the best to protect myself. The moral to this story is you get what you pay for. So all you unpires that have purchased inferior equipment to save a few bucks, I hope you do not take a 70+mph softball or a 90mph fastball to the chest with inferior equipment. PlusPOS had superior equipment and I never worried one second. So, I feel that we are greatly responsible for putting them out of business. Nothing wrong with "inexpensive" equipment, just cheap equipment.

Gaylon Kent said...

jim, i, too, was not pleased when +POS closed up shop, but i wasnt surprised...sometime around the spring of 2006 something changed and their quality started going downhill...i first noticed it on some plate and base pants i bought...the material was different and the color a littel off...it was still a well constructed pant tho...

then i bought some shirts last spring...i always loved the +POS nylon mesh and the zipper collar...i bought some light blue and red shirts and they were a very heavy polyester mesh, really second rate....i sent them back...

too bad, too, cause i thought +POS up until then made the best officials gear around...it was sad to see the quality decline...

gaylon kent
las vegas

Anonymous said...

The decline and fall of +POS is a case study in the value of good customer service. Companies that provide good quality equipment and excellent customer service (such as Ump Attire) continue to operate. If umpires were only interested in "inferior equipment," Ump Attire and the several other companies providing quality gear and service to match would also be struggling. That does not appear to be the case.

I am sorry to see +POS go. They used to be my first source of supply for equipment and uniform items. However, for the last 3 or 4 years I found I had to go elsewhere because +POS simply did not come through as promised. It seems to me that blaming the customers for their demise is like blaming the victim of a robbery for being robbed because he had money.

Jim Kirk said...

Some good comments all around. Customer service is just so important especially considering how easy customers can now spread their thoughts about another company through e-mail, discussion boards, site reviews on other websites, etc.

J. Nool said...

Jim, I just stated back umpiring a few years back and only found +Pos on their way out. I did like the MLP Jackets and no one seems to have anything close. Any ideas? Did they manufacture their own stuff? (Pull over, water resistant in Navy w/ red / white trim).