Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stylemaker Q/A: Matt Jelinek

Frustrated about the lack of swimwear options in Madison? Matt Jelinek, swimwear manager at Middleton Sports & Fitness, is trying to change that. Starting this month he’s revamping the store’s swimwear department to not only carry popular swim brands Speedo and TYR, but more fashion forward looks from Gottex, Jantzen—even Dolce & Gabbana. Since they’re known for carrying “sportier” swimsuits, I asked Jelinek about the planned changes, and how they’ll market their “new” segment of fashion swimwear.

Q: When did you join Middleton Sports & Fitness? What had you been doing before and what attracted you to this job?
A: Prior to joining Middleton Sports in April of 2008 I was running my own company, which is a very part-time job that I continue to do. I also consult for a local publishing company as well as [work for] a property management company.
The opportunity was offered to me and the prospect of providing exceptional customer service and purchasing in the swim department while also facilitating new marketing and merchandising efforts with this locally owned company was very appealing. I’ve always been an advocate for small business and this was another way for me to become more involved with other local businesses.

Q: What do you do on a day-to-day basis? What are the responsibilities of your job?
A: Our customers come first—from our young customers who are on a swim team for the first time, to our in-store customers, to our customers from middletonfitness.com. Daily purchasing is also important to ensure that we have our most popular items and styles in stock and available, which includes special orders for customers. Oftentimes I travel to meet with our teams and large customers. Middleton Sports also has two traveling stores for our teams and customers as far away as Reedsburg, Milton, Johnson Creek and Iowa.

Q: You are introducing a new swimwear/cruisewear component to the swim department. Why did you decide to do this and what physical changes are you making to the store?
A: Middleton Sports has always been a leader in offering the widest variety of swimwear. With annual inventories of more than $250,000 in the springtime, we want to continue this tradition by offering an entirely new lifestyle feel to our customers. We will be changing the look in one section of our swim department to include different lighting and a more intimate feel to the store, which will include specialized training for our employees to ensure the best look and feel for customers.
The new component brings with it a potential to reach out to new customers while also providing customers with items that they would otherwise only be able to order online.

Q: What are you looking for in what you’ll carry in this new section? What brands will you carry?
A: We’re already working with some of the largest names in fashion swimwear including Gottex for women and Andrew Christian for men. We’re still working on negotiating a purchasing agreement with Dolce & Gabbana and hope to be offering their 2009 line by early spring for both men and women.

Q: What do you think the Midwestern shopper is looking for in swimwear that’s different from other parts of the country, and how is the store catering to that?
A: It’s been my experience that Midwesterners are looking for something that is stylish, but more importantly, fits their personality and something in which they will feel comfortable in any setting. Anticipation of these needs is driving us to purchase suits in all sizes for all shapes. Whether our customers are looking to accentuate a certain aspect of their figure or to draw attention away from other areas (as one of my good friends says, “If you can’t hide it, decorate it!”), we’ll offer something for everyone heading either out of town or to our local beaches and pools—including kids. In other parts of the country these suits or replicas of them are easily found and sometimes sizes are available; sometimes they’re not. But [these brands] are much easier to find. We intend to ensure the highest quality of swimwear to fit any individual’s style and comfort while making sure we have their size available. Special orders cost nothing extra to our customers unless there’s a rush. And if the suit doesn’t fit, the customer doesn’t pay.

Q: You also emphasized carrying suits that would appeal to the gay male. What are they looking for as swimwear consumers, and what brands will you carry?
A: Gay men are very particular about what they wear. They want to be fashionable trendsetters and are often early adopters to new styles in fashion. To this end, having the latest and greatest in what is being introduced to the market on the coasts and overseas is essential. We’ll offer Andrew Christian, Jocko and Dolce & Gabbana.

Q: What pieces are you most excited about carrying?
A: Gottex has a phenomenal line of swimwear for 2009 that will be very appealing to a large portion of our current customer base as well as college students. I think that this line will bring about a change in how women feel about their bodies. Particularly because this trend-setting company offers larger sizes that are extremely fashionable and accentuate the most appealing shapes in all sizes of the female form.
For men, I’m really excited about the Andrew Christian and Jocko lines. Nike is offering some new sporty looks that are sure to please our more mature client base as well. And when we get Dolce & Gabbana in, I’m sure we’re going to be quite busy.

Q: Any services or special offers you’ll be offering to the swimwear customers?
A: We’re going to start a mailing list for customers to receive coupons through email. Additionally, with the new lines, [we] will help customers get fitted properly and ensure that specific items are available to them when they are needed.
We plan to provide every customer with a very relaxed, comfortable shopping experience and are committed to helping customers to find something that they’re proud to put on their bodies—something that makes them feel proud of their body, no matter their size or shape. Vacation is about being comfortable and that’s what we aim to facilitate with what our customers wear.

Q: What is the price range of suits you’ll have?
A: For women, we’ll have separates and two-pieces starting from $39.95 up to more than $260 for separates and single-piece suits from Gottex.
For men, we’ll have suits starting at $39.95 for Nike, Speedo and Andrew Christian up to $180 for Dolce & Gabbana, when that line comes in.

Q: When will you have everything in?
A: The changes to the swim department will occur throughout the month of November. We’ve already started receiving Nike, Speedo and TYR cruise/beach lines. Andrew Christian, Jocko, Gottex, Perry Ellis, Jag, Jantzen and the others should start arriving in the first few weeks of November. Dolce & Gabbana will be arriving around February. New arrivals for all of these manufacturers will come in during October and February annually after our launch in early December 2008.

Middleton Sports & Fitness, 6649 University Ave. 836-3931. middletonfitness.com

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