Meet the speakers: Short Par 4 COO Tad Frost on navigating supply chain challenges and adapting to meet consumer demands

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We’re joined by Linn Academy 2021 speaker Tad Frost, COO at Short Par 4 to discuss the future of commerce, changes in consumer behavior, and more. Short Par 4 is a personal style caddy for golfers at an affordable price. With a subscription to Short Par 4, golfers get personalized, quality apparel delivered to their door. 

Be sure to attend Linn Academy and check out Tad’s panel, where he’ll be joined by other leaders in ecommerce to discuss the subscription model revolution and driving growth with customer loyalty. 

Here’s our conversion with Tad. 

Linnworks: What are your predictions for the future of ecommerce?

Tad: With the accessibility that comes with mobile phones and devices, making everything easier for the customer, ecommerce is only going to continue to grow. 

A good example of the use of mobile devices is from the customer data on our website. We first built our front-facing website for computers. But now, when you look at our metrics, 70% of our purchases are made via mobile. 

So because of that, we’re looking to redesign our website. Our forward-facing site will be focused on being compatible with phones and how it looks on a phone vs. a computer because subscriptions and ecommerce purchases are being done on phones. 

Also, email marketing used to be the trend. Now SMS marketing is growing dramatically. From that perspective and just the way business has gone, I think ecommerce will continue to skyrocket.

What is going to be interesting is how businesses sustain the demand. When you look at scenarios with the pandemic, we know one thing: Covid-19 is not going away. There’s going to be another strain after another strain, it’s just to what degree of impact it’s going to have. If the pandemic continues to go in the direction it is today, it will be difficult for businesses to hire people. And you need to consider various countries when talking about logistics. 

Today, the supply chain is very difficult. I don’t see that changing for probably another 2-3 quarters at best if it doesn’t get any worse. 

Who knows what it will be like when we revisit this conversation 6, 9, or even 12 months from now. Demand will go up, but it will be difficult for the supply chain and having the resources and the people to fulfill and operate a business to help to meet the demand. 

What are your biggest challenges right now?

Tad: For us, our struggle is manufacturing goods and getting it to the US. To give you a good example, we’ve manufactured our own product that we’ve consolidated into a shipment that involved a 45ft. container. This product has been ready for a month and a half and we’ve had shippers cancel on us, containers cancel on us and we just can’t get it here. 

Also, the price point to ship it to the US is triple the cost of what it once was. What was once $10,000-$12,000 is now over $30,000 on a container. 

All we can do is know what is in front of us and budget for it properly. We built a product to sell it for a promotion that was supposed to come up in September but we just can’t do it. That’s the challenge. You have to be aware of the delays in the supply chain and the only thing you can do from there is plan. If you don’t plan and think ahead of it and think about how to plan for a promotion that will ultimately be 6-10 months out potentially, then you are only hurting yourself. 

As another example, we make our own golf gloves. I was just told that we had to put in an order of golf gloves last week (August 2021). The earliest we’ll get it is July of next year. You really have to get ahead of it. 

Also, with gloves, the majority are white, which is basic, but we do sell colored gloves. The dyes for the colored gloves are impossible to get to dye the gloves. It all comes down to supply and demand across all levels of business — layered with availability and outbreaks in different countries. 

With massive growth in ecommerce, how do you see physical retail and ecommerce working together in the future?

Tad: I think there will always be something in the way in which physical retail and ecommerce work together. Physical retail will never go away. It comes down to how creative retailers want to get and how they decide to just expand their operation and opportunity.

For example, we have a grocery chain called Publix here in Florida. You can order online and pay a fee and they deliver it so it’s convenient for you as the consumer. Something along those lines retailers will continue to do. I think retailers will continue to get innovative with the ecommerce aspect of business because it’s not going away. It will continue to evolve for sure. 

How have you seen consumer behavior change over the past 18 months? Have you had to adapt your customer experience strategy to accommodate new consumer expectations? 

Tad: The consumer behavior has become effortless. That’s why ecommerce has grown the way it has. Because of accessibility, when we talk about mobile devices, it makes things way too easy. 

Ecommerce shows that people want convenience and put less energy and less effort into shopping. When you look into availability, if you want something and you need it immediately, you’re more likely to go on Amazon to have it tomorrow than drive to the store to pick it up today, even though you need the product today. That would be an example of convenience. 

We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to technology. There’s so many things when it comes to technology that is out there and that is going to be available to us. It’s just a matter of what it is and how we can apply it to our different businesses. 

What have you done to accommodate the convenience customer? 

Tad: For us, we found out what we do best. It’s the idea to figure out what you do best and capitalize on it. The idea comes from the book “Good to Great.” 

What we’ve realized with our members and our customers is that they are just like us in that they love the game of golf and will spend whatever is needed to support their passion. When we talk about golf and what it is as a sport, it’s an obsession. Any golfer who has a spouse that isn’t a golfer, the spouse  will say that golf is all that they think about. With obsession comes spending money — so for us, what we did, knowing that, we continue to grow different avenues and different arms of our business to offer different things — whether it’s creating our own product, adding the Short Par 4 Text aspect to our business, and other different arms to help grow the company from a revenue stream and continue to offer apparel to members and even to the non-members at a rate that is affordable. 

Apparel doesn’t need to be at a massive discount price but a discount. We are a leader in our space, so it is important to continue to stay relevant and continue to offer different items that customers want. In the SP4 Text  line of our business, 60% of those customers are not members of any of our  subscriptions. When we first started SP4 Text,  we thought we couldn’t offer apparel because it competed with our subscription but that wasn’t the case.  There are plenty of people that don’t fit into the subscription model but fit perfectly into our text offerings and vice versa. 

Apparel moves. We sell accessories but when it comes to gofers, we love apparel and our closets are always full. Golf apparel is not just golf apparel — it’s also apparel you can wear at the office or on a date night or night out with your friends. It’s not just a one-use scenario, it can be used for multiple occasions. 

Linn Academy

Linn Academy brings together industry experts from some of the world’s leading ecommerce platforms and marketplaces to provide the latest insights and trends from the world of online retail.