HART SPORT: HOW TO GROW WITHOUT A SALES FORCE
Written on the 5 June 2015 by Karen Rickert
FROM kindergarten kids to the Queensland State of Origin team, Hart Sport has played ball across the spectrum for more than 20 years.
The Aspley-based business has become a household name after supplying sporting and recreational goods to more than 35,000 organisations across the world.
Clients, including educational institutions, resorts, sport clubs, defence forces and major NRL teams, choose from thousands of products in the Hart Sport catalogue.
The business was established in 1992 and still hasn't employed a single customer sales representative in its team of more than 60 employees. Owner and director Greg Harten says he prefers to let the product to speak for itself.
"Hart Sport was the first business to sell by catalogue and it's grown from there," Harten says.
"Obviously now it is internet-based but, having said that, our biggest selling tool is still the printed catalogue, used in conjunction with the internet for ordering.
"We often have visitors from other industries ask about our sales force and they're always fascinated to hear that we have none.
"We've got people developing and designing products, not people who are going to knock on your door and ask you to buy them."
Hart Sport produces an extensive amount of equipment on site, and plans to expand its manufacturing capabilities to accommodate growing demand from Asia.
The majority of manufactured products are being exported to schools and leading sporting academies in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China.
After stumbling on the idea of exports, Harten says it has now become a key area of focus for the business.
"We are growing our name right throughout Asia. There's no doubt that is our biggest growth area by far," he says.
"We've had a lot of expats travel with our gear that they've used in Australia and it snowballed from there.
"Traditionally, that market would've been serviced by the United States but we've become more active there.
"It's about half the price to buy it from Australia compared to the US, given our dollar is going down."
Harten says if the business can capture 5 per cent of sales in the Asian market that would equate to three times its stronghold of the Australian market.
The business has also laid plans to diversify into the wellness industry, by launching Hart Active in Newmarket.
The holistic healthcare service will combine a wellbeing centre, physiotherapy, nutrition, exercise physiology and massage in one location.
Harten says although it is a separate industry, the integrated health model is a natural progression for the business.
"The fitness market has grown considerably in the last 10 years," he says.
"There's a million personal trainers and studios everywhere and we noticed a lot of allied health practices using our equipment anyhow.
"Now we offer a holistic approach like we do for each sport. We have been looking for qualified practitioners who think the way we do.
"There's different challenges, but we researched what people liked before setting up the practice."
While the diversification measures will ensure Hart Sport's longevity continues, Harten says it's important not to lose sight of the core business.
Sports including rugby, rugby league, AFL and cricket are stalwarts for revenue, but soccer and personal fitness equipment are in high demand.
"Another is dodgeball - it is dodgeball mania in Australia at the moment," he says.
"Five years ago we'd sell 100 dodgeballs a year, now we sell 300 to 400 a month.
"Our products are always evolving because they are developed by real people to fill real needs in the marketplace. People are always looking for new ways to stay fit."
Hart Sport Aspley facility