INSIDER INTERVIEW - SMU Professor James Tellier
Everysportforless sits down for a 1 on 1 with James Tellier, Category Manager with the Sports Excellence Group and one of the master minds behind the creation of the Hockey Special Makeup Skates, Sticks, Gloves and Protective you see on Everysportforless.com. Working tirelessly from his Montreal Office with names like Bauer, CCM and Warrior to develop SMU products and bring you more features for less money with Models like the second generation of the CCM Jetspeed Xtra Pro Plus Skate, Bauer Vapor XLTX Pro Junior and Bauer Supreme Ignite Pro + Senior Skates and the Warrior Alpha Force Pro Gloves and Sticks. James knows Hockey Gear inside and out and it shows. JT has many nicknames but we think "The Professor" fits him best, he's constantly tinkering to improve the features of the Special Makeups and then teaches us a thing or two (or three) about them.
E4L: So James, Tell us a little about yourself and your industry background.
JT: Overall, I've been in the business for 16 years. I started working selling hockey retail when I was in school at a big boxstore for a year, I then moved over to the specialty side working for a specialty hockey and ski retailer for 4 years. After graduating, I worked in sales on the hockey supply side for Mission-Itech hockey. After we got bought by Bauer, I worked as a Product Manager for a Golf apparel company then came back to the retail side working for Sports Excellence a little over 5 years ago. So I've worked both on the supply side and retail side of the sporting goods business in both product and sales capacities.
E4L: Tell us a little bit about the process of creating an SMU.
JT: The process is actually quite a long one. Developing our exclusive Special Make Up (SMU) products starts about 15 months before the product launch. I lead a "buying committee" made up of experts from our stores and we work closely with our supplier partners, they do a great job supporting us and the process, which can be a lot of extra work for them. We do pre-line viewings and take important premium features from the regular catalog lineup and create customized versions of their products exclusively for our stores. It usually takes 2-3 samples to get them just right. It's important to note that all of our exclusive special make up products have added higher-end features.
E4L: How does working on an SMU now differ from when you first started doing them?
JT: The development process is much more efficient. The manufacturers tend to know now what we want and get final samples earlier. This allows us to do a better job bringing them to market. We can create way more content; we do a ton of videos, pictures and develop ways to communicate the features and benefits directly to our customers and importantly, to our sales staff to better service them.
E4L: What is the SMU you've worked on that you are most proud of?
JT: It's hard to single out just one. We do exclusive special make up skates, protective and sticks. I think this year's Bauer Vapor LTX PRO+ skate is the best we've ever developed and our CCM Jetspeed XTRA PRO is probably the best mid-level skate we've ever done. Product in general seems to get better each year and I think our exclusives are no exception.
E4L: Directly from a builders standpoint why should our customers get excited about SMU's?
JT: Added premium value. Unlike some "private label house brands" we don't take stuff out, in fact, we add better features that are important to our customers at meaningful price points. We're able to leverage our buying power to get these added features at a lower cost which we share with our customers. For protective, you might get $50 of added value for an extra $10 for a comparable regular catalog equivalent. For skates, the value is usually even more.