Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We beat Katrina, but got edged out by the Calendar

It’s a fact of life in the Army/Navy and Outdoor industry that calamities around the world can cause a great upsurge in business. In April 2003, for instance, as the U.S. military was entering Iraq, Army/Navy stores around the United States were swamped with requests from both soldiers and the military for equipment from t-shirts and socks to backpacks and M-16 clips. Rothco and our thousands of dealers responded to that demand and provided thousands of our men and women in combat with needed equipment. While we were glad to provide this service, it is with heavy hearts that we see our young people go off to combat and the increased business is accompanied by sobering realities.

A similar situation occurred last September just after Hurricane Katrina and the other Gulf Coast storms that hit the Southeastern U.S. In the immediate aftermath, Rothco and its employees reached out to their customers in the area to offer assistance and donated generously to groups helping in the area. Businesses in the area that remained open placed large orders for emergency supplies such as cots, ready-to-eat meals and blankets as well as military clothing for soldiers, public safety personnel and relief workers.

Sales of our military and fashion clothing were already strong that month, so the additional sales from the emergency supplies gave us the strongest September in our history. This September, we released the new 2007 Rothco Catalog with hundreds of new products. Even we were surprised by how well you received the new merchandise. Items like our Vintage Long Sleeve Henley, Special Forces Vintage Fatigue Shirts, Black Vintage Fatigue Cap w/Jolly Roger, Pink Camouflage T-Shirts, Womens Vintage Flyers Jacket, Pink Tee w/Camo Army Print, Womens Subdued Pink Camo Vintage fatigues and all those great new vintage bags from our Classic Packs & Sacks line, along with our regular merchandise, were obviously just what you were looking for because you bought them in great numbers. Top selling items for September 2005 like cots and Ready-to-Eat meals were replaced by Messenger Bags, Vintage M-65 Field Jackets and the old classic, the nylon MA-1 Flight Jacket.

At the end of the month, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our sales per day in September 2006 were actually MORE than September 2005. Only the fact that there was one less billing day in September 2006 kept us from having a record-breaking September sales total. In the end, we were actually busier this September, during what is thankfully a very quiet hurricane season. We were all able to have strong sales without the mixed feelings that come from the business surge we see after an emergency.

If you haven’t received our new 2007 Rothco Catalog, go to http://www.rothco.com/general/index.cfm?fuseaction=catrequest and send us a catalog request. Current dealers should have received our 2007 New Products Flyer featuring the best of our new products for the season. If you haven’t received yours yet, shoot us an e-mail at bdus@Rothco.com and we’ll send you one.

October is the next challenge. Our biggest month ever was October 2001, when patriotic merchandise and Halloween soldier costumes were all the rage after 9/11. Nothing would please us more than to eclipse that number and we are well on our way. With Halloween coming soon and the National Retail Federation, saying that Americans will spend about $5 billion on Halloween costumes, decorations and treats in 2006, up 51 percent from last year, things are looking good. Especially if you’re a pirate. More on that in the next blogpost.

For more on the NRF Halloween Survey, go to http://www.nrf.com/content/default.asp?folder=press/release2006&file=halloween06.htm

John Ottaviano