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“The sporting goods business has always been a little behind the times,” Harrington says. Faced with easing this anxiety, this February he unveiled a set of e-commerce certification standards at the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association Super Show in Atlanta. His nine-point plan includes setting minimum standards for site quality and performance, security and availability, personalized customer service, support staff, marketing, product presentation, delivery, international capabilities and industry relationships. “The Internet standards are there to help the brands get them over the hurdle of a new channel,” he says. “We’re saying to them ‘It’s safe. This is where your customers are going to go. Let us use our guidelines to help you.’ ”
Aiming to lead by example, Harrington says his approach does not presume exclusive arrangements with the brands: “We are telling them that if anyone else meets these standards, then they’re capable of selling your products on the Web. And since then, other sets of standards have sprung up-all echoing our idea.”
In the long run, Fogdog aims to use these quality standards to contend with some serious numbers. According to Forrester’s latest projections, online sales curently acount for just $165 million of the nation’s $150 billion sporting goods market, though the number is projected to reach $4.2 billion in 2004. Harrington, of course, has designs on a quarter of that pie.
A goal that lofty requires bench strength, and Harrington is especially proud of the team he’s assembled at Fogdog. Along with finding customer service consultants who really know their sports, Fogdog recently recruited two veterans from the sporting goods industry: vice president and general merchandise manager Ron Berry, who’s held key management positions at Foot Locker, and career Nike executive Tim Joyce, who came aboard this fall as Fogdog president. Joyce, most recently Nike’s vice president of global sales, spent 20 years with the manufacturer.
“We are going to be the category killer,” Harrington says, “but if this was a one-mile race, then we’re still just one lap around the track. So far, we’re in front, not far enough ahead to be cocky, but far enough to be the clear leaders. People are going to have to move fast to catch up.”
William Cocke is a freelance writer based in Charlottesville, Va.
June 1998-present: CEO, Fogdog Sports
March 1997-April 1998: General manager, GolfWeb (now owned by CBS SportsLine)
June 1996-December 1996: Director of national accounts, Cobra Golf Inc.
June 1976-June 1996: Financial operations management at IBM, including chief operating officer of the company’s $700 million education division.
- Education M.S., Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business; B.B.A., Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y.