Focus Magazine. Interview with Paul Schmude owner of Sportspower Armidale
How long has SportsPower been operating?
As a sports shop in Armidale, it was established by Dave Robins. I began working there 27 years ago. In time it became a SportsPower store. I’m grateful to Dave - if it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I would have gone into a business that I love.
How long have you been the owner?
My wife and I purchased SportsPower Armidale in July 2005, so this is our 15th anniversary year.
I’m proud of the fact that the store has continued to be locally owned and serving the local community.
We offer a proven combination – an Armidale store that responds personally to people in our community, and a business that’s part of a nationwide buying group, SportsPower, which can provide competitive prices for people in country regions.
Since being the owner, has SportsPower Armidale won any awards?
We’ve been fortunate to win various awards over the years.
The large buying group, Associated Retailers’ Ltd (ARL), which does bulk purchasing for major companies and brands in Australia such as Toy World, Manchester House and Camping World, gave its 2013 Sports Store of the Year Award to SportsPower Armidale. This is a national award, so there is a lot of competition for it each year.
We have also received a number of the Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Awards, which are given each month to a wide range of businesses, including retail stores. We have won such awards in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
On a personal level, I was lucky enough to receive a Customer Service Award from the Armidale Chamber of Commerce in 2008.
How has the industry changed and grown in your time?
Like the retail trade overall, any sports business is always facing new challenges.
The most obvious ones are from increased competition in the retail market as well as growth in online purchasing.
A report earlier this year showed that local retailers in Australia are facing stiffer global competition, with 15 per cent of the world’s top 250 retailers now operating in Australia – and this number is continuing to rise.
In addition, the rise in purchasing across the internet is significant. While this offers a certain convenience to customers, they still have to deal with the things that can go wrong when you buy without first inspecting the goods – particularly with items like clothing and footwear.
There is also the issue of after-sales service – with things like sporting equipment that might prove to be defective in some way. This can be much harder and more time-consuming over the phone or by email – especially when you have to return damaged goods for a refund - than being able to resolve the matter in person with a professional in the shop.
You sponsor a lot of events around town – what have been some of the highlights?
SportsPower supports sport in Armidale as fully as possible, sponsoring at least one club in every sport.
We assist all the local schools in raffles, giving away products for fetes (we love chocolate wheels!).
We also try to support as many fund-raising events as possible, not just in Armidale, but also in the surrounding area – Uralla, Walcha, and Guyra. A recent one was “Shave for Sara”, to help Sara Lynch who’s only 10 years old and been diagnosed with Leukemia.
Let’s talk shop - what are the main things that you sell?
We are a “one-stop-shop” for all sport-related items. We cover virtually every sport played in Armidale and the wider region – including all football codes, hockey, netball, cricket, tennis, squash, snooker and darts.
We provide both male and female apparel and footwear, and we sell lots of equipment, such as trampolines, pool tables, basketball systems, table tennis tables, and gym equipment of all kinds.
We give special attention to skins, which are becoming increasingly popular for fitness-minded people in our community. SportsPower Armidale is, in fact, one of the biggest suppliers of skins in country NSW.
A key service we offer is customised club wear and team wear. We do this for many sporting clubs, not only in Armidale and the New England area, but also in places far afield, such as Perth and Darwin.
We even supply customised team wear – shorts, jerseys, and socks - to a couple of rugby clubs in Japan!
Tell us about your team . . .
We have great staff, in particular Matt who’s worked with us for 3 years.
Matt runs the shop at the “front-end”. He’s friendly and very good at engaging with our customers and meeting their needs.
What are your plans for the future?
We’re always looking for ways in which we can improve.
A major development now taking place is the creation of our own website for SportsPower Armidale. We know that we need to have a presence on the internet, as a way of highlighting and promoting all that we have.
I see a close connection between the internet and in-person service. People can look online at what’s available – or is soon to be released – and yet still visit the store and receive the benefits of professional advice and personal service.
What do you love most about your job?
The best thing about having a sports store is meeting the needs of our customers, which covers a wide range of ages.
We try to provide a quality service, firstly, by helping our customers when they phone or walk into our store, and secondly, by offering the best after-sales service we can, based on our strong links with suppliers.
The key, I think, is having a highly motivated team and a good supply line.