Saturday, July 29, 2000

Longaberger wants more men selling

Basket company wants to expand market

By Charley Gillespie
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The Longaberger Co. is trying to expand its market by adding more men to its mostly female, 65,000-member sales force, the basket company's president said this week.

        Speaking at the group's annual convention, Tami Longaberger said the addition of a $10 million golf course might help attract more men. The company is developing shops and other attractions along a 20-mile stretch east of Columbus from its basket-shaped headquarters in Newark into Muskingum County.

        The company's independent sales associates nationwide, 99 percent of whom are women, are expected to sell over $1 billion worth of baskets this year.

        “We want to offer men the same opportunity,” Ms. Longa berger said.

        Ms. Longaberger said almost all of the company's 650 salesmen work as partners with their wives.

        “Women sell for us because they love the baskets,” she said. “We need to find a way to reach the men in their lives.”

        As a way to do that the company hired architect Arthur Hills to design its new tournament-caliber golf course, where sales associates can play at a discounted rate. The course has been so successful the company is planning to build another.

        “So far the connection most men have been making with Longaberger has been more with our golf course than our baskets,” Ms. Longaberger said.

        The golf course is located next to the company's $20 million retail development called The Longaberger Homestead where 500,000 basket lovers a year visit to learn everything they would ever want to know about Longaberger.

        The company is also creating more functional products that men can use in the office or homes: a Father's Day basket, baskets for shaving supplies and a basket used to hold golf balls.

        Roger Shive, 38, Whitehall, Pa., was one of only a dozen male sales associates among the 13,400 women attending the convention. He said it was not the golf course but the quality craftsmanship of the baskets that got him interested in the company.

        “I fell in love with the product, but it's the financial opportunity that keeps me selling them,” said Mr. Shive, who owns more than 400 baskets.

        Mr. Shive, who sells health insurance for a living, sold $101,202 worth of products already this year as a part-time job.


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