Commerce is female – at least when looking at the sales floor, where women are often responsible for customer service. However, if you take a look at the management levels of some retailbranches, this picture changes: sports retail, in particular, is clearly male-dominated.
Marion Dockal-Kurz and Eldrid Sode, two determined women at SPORT 2000 who run their own sports retail stores in Austria and Germany, act as an example for successful women in this dynamic field. The two Managing Directors speak openly about their entry into the world of sports retail, the value-change within the industry and the challenge of getting young women excited about the world of sports retail.
Eldrid Sode: From temporary worker to sports retailer
The passionate sailor has been active in sports retail since the beginning of her career. However, this path was never planned. “I played badminton when I was young. Thus, I trained others as a student and also stringed rackets in a sports shop. To be honest, I never thought that I was going to end up in sports retail. In the beginning, I just wanted to help out my friends while I was waiting to start my studies”, Sode smiles, when looking back at the early days of her career.
Together with two business partners she opened a SPORT 2000 racket sports specialist store in Wolfsburg in 1985. The business has grown steadily over the years. Today, twelve well trained employees advise SPORT 2000 customers.
Transition: Women in sports retail
When Eldrid Sode looks back at the 90s, she can remember various memorable situations: “I was 20 years old when we started. At the beginning we were very naive at some points and made a lot of mistakes. Back then, the commercial partners probably didn’t take me seriously. It used to be all about getting certain brands. Not an easy task to be honest. Some contract partners let me feel that they would prefer to negotiate with someone else – like my husband for example.” As a reaction to those comments, the passionate sportswoman started to study business administration part-time. “My studies enabled me to counter the arrogance of the other person with more knowledge and self-confidence. This undoubtedly helped me to develop my business.”
Today Eldrid Sode feels, women have established themselves well in sports retail and are valued by colleagues. Fortunately, they don’t have to struggle with that kind of prejudice today.
Marion Dockal-Kurz: following her grandmother’s footsteps
Unlike Eldrid Sode, Marion Dockal-Kurz and her brother were born into a sports retail family. Thus, they were integrated into the family’s business activities from the very beginning. “From the start in 1946, our family business was held by female hands. My grandmother’s first name – Nora – even turned out to become the company name. The tasks were taken on together as a family. My grandmother took care of sales, my grandfather Karl managed the books and they handled purchasing together, as a team”, Marion Dockal-Kurz looks back at the early days of her company, which she now runs together with brother Harald Sauer. After a 10-year excursion to the antiques trade, she returned to the family business in 2002. The even distribution of tasks corresponding with the business is also pursuded in the third generation. While Harald Sauer is responsible for business figures and the technical bike area, Marion Dockal-Kurz is active in close customer contact and takes care of the more creative side to the job – purchasing of textiles and hardware. Meanwhile “Nora Pure Sports” is one of the top sports stores in Vienna, located in an exclusive location. 35 employees take care of customer requirements on a sales area of 1000 m2.
Technology is also a woman’s job
In the early days of Marion Dockal-Kurz‘ carreer, customers increasingly asked her father when it came down to technical issues or price negotiations. But the sport-loving woman learned the trade from scratch and built up her specialist knowledge on the saddle of her father. “In the early days, many customers automatically linked technology to masculinity. To get information from a woman simply didn‘t occur to many. I admit, it was a challenge for me and I am glad that my father always had my back. Meanwhile, a change in values has taken place. The expertise of our employees is now valued, regardless of their gender. Especially, since we are all well trained individuals who are always up to date with the latest technical equipment.”
Support on many levels
Cohesion in Marion Dockal-Kurz‘ family is great. This support not only benefited her when raising the two children, but also during her part-time jewelry design studies. The Viennese also appreciates family support when it comes to business matters. “Purchasing is a risky business. You have a high degree of responsibility and sometimes you lie awake in bed and worry about whether you have made the right range decision. It is important to have support here. I find that in my family and, above all, in my brother.” In addition to the family, the customers in particular also help to start each day freshly motivated. “In sports retail, we are dealing with happy people. We focus on sport and everyone who comes in connects something positive with it. I appreciate the numerous encounters – they give me a lot of energy every day.”
Women: the future of sports retail
Both women perceive, that getting girls aware and excited about the sports retail sector is a challenge which should be handled urgently in order to get girls into apprenticeships. Most of them are simply not familiar with this exciting professional field. Additionally the image problem of the retail sector contributes to this. “The industry is about much more than just selling goods – it is subject to constant change. We organise many workshops and rely on a huge network of cooperations. This doesn‘t only open up new perspectives, but also countless fields of activity. It’s fun, because it always goes far beyond the products we sell”, Eldrid Sode, emphasizing on the dynamic character of sports retail and adding: “Then and now I am enthusiastic about the passion that is prevalent in sports and in retail. Hopefully that will never change throughout our industry. “