Golf Retailing’s Andy Brown sat down with David Silvers, TaylorMade-adidas Golf’s managing director of Europe, to discuss the brand’s 2015, the rumours that Adams and Ashworth might be sold and how the company aim to regain golf’s top spot.
It TaylorMade-adidas Golf’s impressive headquarters in Basingstoke David Silvers looks relaxed as he reflects on how 2015 has been for the company. Silvers admits that it has been a difficult year, but his enthusiasm for the brands and, on a wider level, the golf industry shines through whenever he speaks. He describes 2015 – with the firm’s well publicised IT problems – as “challenging” but asserts that, “I love the role. It’s pretty obvious we have had a challenging couple of years but why wouldn’t you want to work for TaylorMade, the best and most innovative golf brand, and adidas one of the biggest and best sports brands that you’ve loved since you were a kid? Sometimes we have to remind everyone at the company that we work in a brilliant industry.”
A proportion of the firm’s customers experienced issues when the company changed their operating system in the middle of the year and Silvers admits that, “there are always hiccups when you change a system and our transition period, which we thought might be six weeks to two months, ended up being eight months. To run a business of this scale and rework some of the issues became incredibly difficult and our customers have born most of that pain.
“Most of the problems revolved around invoice accuracy and stock accuracy, but both of those major points have been stable since April. Now we are at a position where we are investing heavily to leverage the capabilities of the system to make us much better from a service point of view and we are investing in our back office and our culture around service to win the trust of the trade back.”
Part of the reason for Silvers’ optimism is how well the company has performed in the shoe market, with adidas golf shoes gaining shares in this area. This success story might not have even materialised though, Silvers admits, as the material used in the ‘Boost’ technology is heavily in demand and adidas had initially earmarked it for different sports. “The boost technology was not originally intended to be used in golf because we were launching in about 17 different sports in February this year,” confirms Silvers.
“Adidas had previously launched in running in February 2013 and were expanding across many sports and there is a scarcity of the material that we use in Boost. We had to do a good marketing job internally for them to say that golf was the right place for Boost and thankfully our parent company said yes and now we are, in units, in the top three selling sports for Boost technology within Adidas, so it has been a massive success. It’s really obvious it is great for golf as it has incredible step in comfort and it brings energy back to your feet.”
There have been rumours in the trade – picked up by several national newspapers as well – that Adidas want to sell the brands Adams and Ashworth. This is a rumour that Silvers confirms is true. “It is on record that we are actively looking for buyers for the Adams and Ashworth brands,” he confirms. “Whether we sell them or not is a completely different matter as we would need to get the right price and make sure they end up at the right place, but that may not happen so we have a responsibility to the brand, the customers and our employees. We have an order book and product designs in the pipeline for the future. In the same way that every footballer has a price, every brand has a price, so we are just being honest and saying that we need to get back to focusing on our two biggest brands and our four biggest categories.”
The managing director of Europe is clear about what the future focus of the company should be on: the two brands he mentions are Adidas and TaylorMade and the four categories are Metalwoods, Irons, footwear and apparel. Adidas apparel and footwear has been selling well and TaylorMade irons and metalwoods are either number one or two sellers. As well as a clear focus on what he believes the brand should be focusing on, Silvers also recognises the need to develop a better working relationship with retailers. “We’ve seen stability around pricing and more margin for retailers, which is what they wanted and what we wanted to work with them on. We wanted to make sure we could get some added value back into a brand which is number one on Tour and best performing and so should command a premium positioning.”
As well as looking to give retailers the opportunity for more margin, Silvers is also conscious of the need to ensure that the product cycle for TaylorMade isn’t too quick. He admits that replacing the R1 driver too quickly with the SLDR was a “mistake” but insists that lessons have been learned. “We have innovation in our DNA, it’s what we do and we won’t change that, but what we know we need to do is stabilise product life cycle. We’ve done that with our golf balls – we have a two year life cycle on golf balls, 15 month life cycle on SLDR, 13 months on JetSpeed, we’ll have 13 months on AeroBurner, so we’ve learnt from that, but what we won’t become is predictable. The edge that we give ourselves by pushing our research and development people to keep going, that relentless pursuit of innovation, leads to innovation.”
Silvers is keen to stress that the firm which created MetalWoods in 1979 will continue to take risks and innovate – as seen by the highly successful launch of the M1 driver – but concedes that, “We realise we have a responsibility to the trade to transition between product life cycles in a better way than we have in the last few years.”
The last few years have been challenging for TaylorMade, but Silvers points to the many years when it was one of adidas’ best performing brands and insists that the firm can reach the same levels again. The brand does consistently come out on top in consumer surveys regarding innovation, performance and desirability, and it is clear from talking to Silvers that he is focusing on ensuring that the trade have a similar view of the brand. So what does the future hold?
“We are focusing on four product lines, but what we are going to do more than ever is focus on service excellence. Now we have reached stability in our system we are now doing everything that we can to make sure that we are easier to do business with and we are not going to stop until we become the best for service. We know we have a hell of a long way to go but we have the people, the resources and the will of the business to make that happen.
“We think that when we do it right from a product and marketing point of view we are the best. If we can align all this to the service standards our customers quite rightly demand and then eventually exceed them then we will get back to our position as the number one golf brand. We had a slight dip, but we’re coming back.”