Female focus

Lesley Archer, Country manager UK at Röhnisch, talks being the first woman in the UK trade to sell top-end hardware, why golf pros should offer ladies apparel and how the brand looks to support the golf pro.

What’s your background in golf?
I started in the golf industry in 1983 with Stylo matchmakers and was there for 14 years. The company did equestrian as well as golf and were market leaders in that field, and I was initially doing sales. I started off in the office and then became more involved in the business. When one of the reps retired on the golf side I went out on the road selling golf shoes. I was there for 18 months and then got a call from Adidas-TaylorMade to work for them selling golf clubs.

How did you find this?
When I went to the interview I thought it was to sell Adidas shoes and I was really surprised when they said they wanted me to sell golf clubs; although I had been in the industry for a while and the customers knew me I didn’t really play golf. They paid for me to learn and be a member and I was with them for two years before I went to work for Callaway in 1999. I was probably the first woman to sell top-end hardware in the UK and I succeeded mainly due to service – I worked hard and it paid off. I was there for nine years before I helped launch Pringle and a few other brands before taking some time out for personal reasons. Röhnisch then approached me and I’ve been with them for just over a year as country manager for the UK and I’m really enjoying it.

Are there more options now regarding apparel for women who play golf?
Yes, absolutely, and we are encouraging more women to take up the game; we have our own campaign called The Together Initiative which is all about getting the message out to women that playing sport is fun and healthy. I do think golf is a lot more open now and there was an event at Silvermere when they extended their ladies shop and just seeing the difference in the women who came along was great – there were a lot more women new to the sport who were trying it and didn’t seem daunted. Fashion has come into golf more as well, golf apparel definitely has an aspect of fashion to it now.

Is there a real sales opportunity here?
Absolutely – for the pros that have the membership for it. We know that there are always going to be pros that have a small number of women members so for them to stock it can be difficult. For the ones that can then they do need to do it properly – long gone are the days when you can just have a little bit tucked away in the corner. Pros need to concentrate more on the ladies as they can be more demanding, so you need to go more in-depth and show the women that you are taking an interest and giving them a good selection.

What about men who don’t feel as confident buying clothes for women?
We do try and make it easy for the pros now by selling in colour stories and many of our customers will say, ‘I have £1500 to spend – what gear should I be ordering?’. Our agents have been selling ladies’ clothing for quite some time so are experienced in this and happy to help. I don’t think as many male pros are as worried about this as they were in the past, but we appreciate that buying for the opposite sex can be hard so we do all we can to make it easy for them.

How do you help the retailer?
We have point of sale to make the brand stand out, that is something that we invest in a lot. If a retailer is selling a collection then we have posters, banners and headers and all sorts to go into a shop to be a Röhnisch area because, at the end of the day, we don’t want to go into a shop and have our gear sat in a corner. Displaying the products in the correct way and in the right colour stories is very important. For our bigger accounts our agents will often put on a fashion show for them at the start of the season and that’s a great way to get some ladies to come along and have a look at the collection and get members involved in the fashion show. They go down really well and they are a great way to support the pro. I’ve attended a few this year and it’s amazing how much can be sold through this on the day.

What would you say to any pro considering stocking ladies apparel?
Speak to us and let’s talk about what the potential is and what we can do to help. If you are a forward thinking pro – and a lot of pros do seem to be working hard to get better at retailing – then you need to cover all bases. We think long-term and don’t mind starting off small with a retailer as we look to build things gradually. We appreciate we aren’t going to deal with every single pro and in a way that is good – it means that we have a niche product. We want to do more with the accounts that we work with and support them.

Has there been more of a focus on females playing golf in the last few years?

It is crazy to think that the UK is one of the worst countries when it comes to female participation in golf but it is getting better and I’m seeing more ladies invitationals and focused days, so there does seem to be a big push at the minute and it’s only going to get stronger. Women’s golf is still small, but it is a really good time and how we target the younger generation coming through is key.