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Wearables Business

Charlotte PPD gets into the swing of a golf tournament – promotional products distributors – Eric Lerner of Action Plus Sportswear and Specialties

Charlotte PPD gets into the swing of a golf tournament – promotional products distributors – Eric Lerner of Action Plus Sportswear and Specialties – Interview

Byline: JEEF RUNDLES

With the summer season in full swing, many enterprising promotional products distributors are taking advantage of the robust golf market to get in full swing on golf shirt sales, as well.

One such PPD is Eric Lerner, the founder of Charlotte, N.C.-based Action Plus Sportswear & Specialties.

On top of “sending out five orders a week of golf shirts” for a variety of uses for his end-user customers, Lerner this year got the order for 140 shirts for the 11th annual Jewish Community Center of Charlotte Sports for Israel Golf Tournament. He also served on the JCC’s organizing committee for the event, and participated as well.

Lerner himself is a great PPD story. Educated at the famous Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude, he headed off into the business world as a systems analyst for Andersen Consulting of Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. As an analyst he worked on projects for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, on various real estate projects, and he even pulled a stint as an instructor for Andersen’s Computer Application Practices School.

But on a vacation with friends in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the early 1990s, Lerner got sick and missed most of an extended boat outing, spending several days alone. After regaining his health, he discovered the wonderful world of selling screenprinted T-shirts, and upon returning home left the corporate world to get into the wearables business. Action Plus Sportswear started out screenprinting, and then widened its scope in the mid 1990s to include the entire world of promotional products. Still though, as the name of the company implies, the focus is on apparel: Lerner reports that more than 65 percent of his 2002 business came from wearables.

Being active in Charlotte’s Jewish community, and its JCC, Lerner got involved with the golf tournament, which this year raised nearly $20,000 in support of the Maccabi games. These athletic games are staged regionally throughout the country each year by JCCs, and many of the winning participants go on to games held every other year in Israel. Lerner says about 70 percent of the money raised by the tournament in Charlotte goes to support local games, while the remainder is given to the Sports for Israel organization.

Held the last Monday in April each year, the tournament is a popular local charity event. Nearly 140 players took part this year, and for a $200 donation each player got 18 holes of golf at the Raintree Country Club, a dinner and donated tournament prizes, as well as a “goody bag” of promotional products.

The committee decided that the centerpiece of the “goody bag” should be a golf shirt, and Lerner recommended one from Blake & Hollister: Style 801, the Diamond Jacquard, a 4.8 oz., 100 percent cotton shirt that the committee found attractive and distinctive.

“At Action Plus we judge the success of golf apparel by the number that we see worn in the following weeks,” says Lerner. “This Blake & Hollister shirt continues to be worn frequently by the participants. We received many compliments for the choice of shirts.”

Participants, he says, also commented on the distinctive embroidery, a compilation of the tournament name and a Star of David fashionably embroidered on the sleeve of the shirts. Jump Stitch, a contract embroiderer in Charlotte used often by Lerner for his clients, did the work.

Lerner notes that he paid to play in the tournament and makes other donations throughout the year to the JCC, but the shirts for the event were all business. The JCC paid $29.50 per shirt for the finished product, making the Sports for Israel tournament a good piece of business for the PPD.

Lerner says his Action Plus firm supplies wearables and other promotional products to upwards of 20 golf tournament each year, plus his corporate customers buy embroidered golf shirts year round for company uniforms, giveaways, and other business uses. He adds that his top three choices for these shirts are those made by Blake & Hollister, Cutter & Buck and Outer Banks.

Since he participated in the golf event, Wearables Business wondered how well he fared in the competition and just where his golf handicap might fall.

“I spend a lot of time selling golf shirts, but I don’t spend a lot of time playing golf,” he says. “My handicap is that I am married to a Jewish woman and I have children.”

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