DJ Bennett brings luxury to sporting goods


Dawn J. Bennett in her high-end Chevy Chase boutique called DJ Bennett. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR CAPITAL BUSINESS)
December 23, 2012

This is what the American Dream looks like, according to Dawn Bennett: $502 fishing boots, $680 skiing hats and $13,500 golf bags.

Now Bennett wants to sell you a piece of that dream, over champagne and craft beer at her new appointment-only shop in Chevy Chase.

“People want luxury — the best of the best,” said Bennett, a money manager and frequent contributor to CNBC. “We’ve sold them the American Dream of what it’s like to be on a yacht, to sail, to go fly fishing. Now we’re helping them get a professional athletic edge.”

DJ Bennett, which opened its doors in September, specializes in luxury athletic wear and equipment ranging from snowboarding goggles with built-in GPS capabilities ($450) to neoprene surf suits ($650). Bennett has assembled a roster of sporting experts and professional athletes to help guide shoppers through the company’s inventory, which includes items from such brands as Ghurka, Louis Vuitton and Beretta.

“It’s a very privileged customer experience,” she said. “If someone tells us they’re going skiing in Vail, we’ll have everything set out for them when they come in. And there will probably be someone at the store who’s been skiing there before, so they can tell them what to expect.”

Bennett, who used to be a competitive swimmer, said she started the company because she had trouble finding high-end sporting items for herself.

“My whole life I’ve actually been shopping for something like this,” Bennett, 50, said. “When I go fly fishing, say, I want to have the best equipment around — the best possible boots, the best possible clothing — but I could never find it all in one place.”

The company’s Web site, which was also introduced in September, ships orders throughout the world. There is also a private blog for regular customers, where they can seek advice from professional athletes and Olympians such as cyclist Nicole Freedman and snowboarder Ross Powers.

“The [shopping] experience gets people going again,” she said. “It reminds them, “Oh yeah, this is what surfing or hunting or skiing is about.’”

Bennett said yoga gear, golf equipment and hunting and skeet-shooting items such as goggles, boots and helmets have been big sellers. Twenty-five employees, including three full-time buyers, help keep the operation going.

Bennett would not disclose how much money has gone into the company, but said that she financed the venture herself. She hopes to be profitable next year.

“I’m taking a good idea and betting on myself,” she said. “I’m not driving this company month by month, second by second, because I think that leads to a big breakdown. I’ve got three-month goals and five-month goals. It’s a very old-fashioned business plan.

Eventually, Bennett hopes to create her own line of sporting apparel. In the meantime, she plans to expand to China in 2013 and then to other emerging markets such as South Korea and Singapore.

“We want to continue to go across the world,” she said. “It’s a very luxurious, white glove experience — and I think people are getting it.”

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section.
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