How the U.S. Open hats business comes together: Five questions with "Merchandise Mary"
Mary Lopuszynski—or Merchandise Mary, as her Twitter handle notes—is the senior director of licensing and U.S. Open merchandising for the USGA. It is no small undertaking, notably on the U.S. Open front. The U.S. Open Merchandise Pavilion at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is 37,000 square feet and will feature more than 400,000 items with the U.S. Open logo. How does it all come about? John Strege spoke to Merchandise Mary about the business of hats at the U.S. Open.
Can you give us an idea of how big the U.S. Open hat business is?
Units wise hats are the number one item that we sell. In a good year we’ll sell over 100,000 hats. It’s an easy buy for people. They’re buying for their foursome, for their family or friends. They don’t have to know their friends’ sizes and there’s a lower cost.
How has it grown over the years?
Every year I look at pavilion and the space and make the headwear area bigger. I like to say it’s like bees on honey. Hats are a good thing to kind of focus on.
How do you choose vendors and what you order from them?
We’re pretty consistent from one year to next with vendors. We have six different headwear vendors — Ahead, 47 Brand, New Era, Nike, Imperial and a little private label. We talk to our sales reps at the different companies. We do market research and look at what people are wearing. With the U.S. Open, typically three-fourths of the of people come from the local area. When we went to Pittsburgh [the 2015 U.S. Open at Oakmont] we sold a lot of black and gold hats there. We might go to Pinehurst and couldn’t give a black hat away.
Obviously, baseball-type caps in solid colors are the most popular, but what are examples of other things you do?
We have fun items. Hunting camo has become a thing the past few years. We’ll do the logo in orange, to give it that hunting feel. That’s popular. We have some bucket hats in that camo. In recent years military type camo in colors has become a bigger fashion statement. This year we’ll try to do fun things out here on a Hampton beachy nautical theme. This year we have a Navy hat and spelled out US Open in nautical flags. Some years straw hats are bigger. We have women’s hats, visors and kids’ hats down to a baby-bonnet type hat.
Ordering too many hats or too few can get costly. How do you manage inventory?
We open for 11 days and then go out of business. We don’t want to have inventory left over. Hats are easier for replenishment. Ahead is our biggest hat vendor and it’s very good on replenishment. If we need these styles tomorrow, we have ordered as many as 5,000 hats and we’ll have them tomorrow.