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The Strong Threads That Have Kept Game Sportswear Growing

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In Port Chester, N.Y., Rico Genovese and his family have been steadily growing GAME Sportswear for nearly 35 years. While many apparel companies have outsourced to overseas operations, Genovese has kept at least half of the cutting and sewing right here in the United States where he started his business.

Genovese was born in Italy, and his mother brought him to the U.S. in 1951. He trained to be a design draftsman and in 1972 was hired by Bristol Myers as a junior engineer. At first, he worked on their famous Short and Sassy Clairol shampoo line and continued his education by taking classes in the evenings.

Genovese worked hard on all aspects of the production of the Clairol line for Bristol Myers including labeling, shipping and packaging to keep up with the demand for the product. He gained insight on how the whole process works prior to an item going out the door. He was able to increase Bristol Myers sales by getting the shampoo bottled faster and boxed more quickly, according to Cindy Wager, GAME Sportswear marketing manager. “He did all in his power to make sure the line wasnt held up or jammed.”

While working at Bristol Myers, Genovese realized how much he liked working in production and the challenge of adding value to the production line by increasing workflow and productivity. After five years at Bristol Myers, he was ready to buy his own factory.

He was interested in the “buffalo plaid” hunting coat and military jackets that were currently being made at Dolores Manufacturing in a small garment factory in Port Chester under the Antler Uniform Label, a division of M. Rubin & Sons that later became Blue Generation. Genovese convinced the owner of the factory to sell him the factory and then stay on as an employee.

Genovese built his company using a very hands-on approach. He learned every aspect of working on the line. If someone was struggling with a sleeve, he would jump right onto the line and help out to not hold up production.

Genovese and his wife, Ginny, named the factory Gina & Maria Manufacturing after their two daughters. Ginny handled all of the accounts receivable, accounts payable and payroll, along with all the other financial aspects of the business, a job she continued to do until about five years ago.

 

Taking the Ball and Running with it

 

Genovese became known by attending tradeshows, but the way he retained clients was through his ability to create whatever it was that clients needed. Starter Sportswear asked Genovese to create heavyweight satin jackets for them. At the time, Starter was making jackets with buttons and turned to Genovese to take on the workload of creating a zipper-front jacket for the fans of a variety of professional sports teams. He made jackets for pro baseball, football, basketball and hockey teams and was the only one at that time with permission to produce apparel in the official colors of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players later the National League.

“He invented something called a kissable front, which means that, when a team such as the Dodgers needed their name embroidered in script across the chest, when you zipped up the zipper it didnt lose the name. The team name didnt shift or get crooked,” says Wager. “He is proud to tell people that the year he first made these for the Dodgers and the Angels, they ended up going to the World Series, where they were all wearing his jackets.”

After being the contract sewing provider for Starter and also Avirex for 15 years, GAME started manufacturing exclusively under its own label with its own sales reps and advertising.

 

The Name of the GAME

 

When his third daughter, Maria, was born, Genovese re-evaluated his companys name. Combining the first initial of his daughters with his first initial, Enrico, spelled out “GAME,” and this fit with the emphasis of the company and what it produced. Genovese came up with a logo, and GAME Sportswear Ltd. was born.

As time went on, Genovese worked at streamlining all operations and eliminating waste. He learned all there was to learn about his machines, including how to repair them, and eventually purchased new ones. To stay competitive, GAME now uses the fastest, most reliable computerized sewing machines available. GAME has its own in-house knitting, trim, chenille and art departments. Its knitting department creates trim in 15 different patterns to accommodate all its needs.

Because the company manufactures domestically, it has a unique ability to produce complex, small custom orders, according to Genovese. Two of GAMEs biggest product lines varsity wool and leather jackets, and firefighter work shirts are made in the USA. The import styles are highly detailed sewing for warm-up suits, polo shirts, heavy winter outerwear and hooded sweatshirts.

Onsite, GAME uses IO Line for its tackle twill jobs, has an extensive embellishment program and uses state-of-the-art equipment like a Barudan for embroidery.

GAME markets to embroiders, silk screeners, uniform suppliers, sporting goods dealers and advertising specialty distributors, including those that represent the corporate market. About ten years ago, Genovese entered into the workwear business and has created items that are ANSI/ISEA compliant and third-party certified. The company has expanded its workwear to include construction worker vests and other high-visibility garments.

“Weve really expanded from just doing jackets,” says Wager. “Rico has expanded the clothing line to womens styles and items for children. We have big and tall. Products like our hoodies can be printed on for something such as a soccer team, or our polos can be embroidered as well for corporations or teams.”

When GAME expanded into the varsity wool and leather jackets, it didnt do it in a small way. GAME is now one of the largest wool and leather jacket manufacturers in the world, according to Wager.

Recently GAME made its two-millionth firefighter job shirt. According to Wager, “They are excellent quality, and unlike many of our competitors, GAME has Made in the U.S. styles. These have good pricing, can be embroidered on and come in various styles, among other features.”

According to Wager, GAME products have many features that improve the comfort and wearability of the apparel items. New styles and products are offered all year long, and special orders are always available. It employs the highest standards for quality control, and yet items are still competitively priced. High-end embroidery and embellishing are done on site, and zip-in design allows easy access for embroidery. On top of all of these features, big and tall (up to 5XL) and youth sizing is available, and fabrics can include moisture-wicking and anti-microbial capabilities.

GAME now has some 100 employees and has approximately $15 million in annual sales.
Its warehouse is in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., where the headquarters are also based. Between the Yorktown Heights and Port Chester facilities, it owns 80,000 square feet of space. It has 32 independent sales reps nationwide and about 10,000 accounts.

“We have an excellent customer service team that answers the phones for such things as special orders which we fill. If someone has a question about something shipping and when theyll receive it, well take care of that efficiently and right away. When you call, you always get someone who can help. If something is ordered in the morning, our warehouse crew can get it out the door the same day,” says Wager.

 

The GAME Plan: Looking Ahead

 

The spirit of the Genovese family is found in more than just the company name. According to Wager, what drew her to the company was the family atmosphere and how everyone is treated with respect, just as they would be in a family setting. “Also the product is great quality. This truly helps because, when you have a great product, it makes marketing it easier,” she says.

Genovese at present is looking ahead to expand more into the corporate, workwear and advertising specialty worlds. He is always creating new products, and right now GAME has two new products coming out: the new Captain polo shirt and the full-front-zipper firefighters shirt, which is easier to put on and take off when an alarm comes in.

GAME attends various tradeshows throughout the year and travels around the world to find the best pricing on fabrics, check quality control and build relationships with its suppliers. At present it makes 50 percent of its garments here in the U.S. and imports the other half. Domestically grown as well as imported fabrics make their way to GAMEs factory in Port Chester to become active apparel, team apparel, outer wear and workwear.

“I went to the factory and was able to witness the whole process, and its quite impressive,” says Wager.

Despite the economic downturn, business has been off by only about eight percent from the previous year. Wager attributes this to the fact that the company worked hard to keep both orders and inventory levels high while at the same time sustaining the firms strong plans to go forward in the future.

“GAME Sportswear Ltd. has a long history of service, high quality and competitively-priced products. But customer loyalty plays an important part in keeping things going too,” says Wager.

 

GAME Sportswear Ltd.

1401 Front St.
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
(914) 962-1701
www.gamesportswear.com
info@gamesportswear.com

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