Follower of fashion

Louis Wolcott has been in the apparel industry for over a decade – he tells GOLF RETAILING about his career so far, how he thinks apparel will change in the future and what pros can do to increase their sales.

You’ve been in the golf apparel industry for a while – for those who don’t know can you give us a brief rundown on the different brands you have worked for?
My dad owned golf shops so I grew up in the industry, but I started my own career in golf at Marriott St. Pierre and qualified as a PGA professional there. I then helped launch J.Lindeberg in the UK as an agent between 2002-2003, which was a period of great success for the brand. Johan Lindeberg then appointed me as global brand manager and I spent five years travelling the world replicating the success in the UK. I was heavily involved in product development and worked with Tour players and celebrities. I’ve also worked with Lyle & Scott as global golf sales manager to reposition the brand and Wolsey as group brand director before heading up the Trendy Sports Agency.

Have you seen the golf apparel market change a lot over the last decade?
It’s certainly more competitive with such a vast selection and so many quality brands out there. Golf apparel has moved forward a lot with J.Lindeberg pioneering the move to technical fabrics, which has now become so commonplace. Brands are a lot more forward-thinking and the general fit of the products is so much better.

What are some of the apparel fashion trends for next year?
The use of technological fabrics is increasingly popular and I would expect that to continue. Some of the fabric trends coming out of Asia suggest a high technical performance but a more natural feel. I think the consumer is getting tired of the artificial feeling products and the brands are adjusting to accommodate that.
The increase in people living an active lifestyle is key, in terms of influencing what people expect from the performance of their clothing and that has had a huge effect on the way golf apparel is produced. I would also expect to see a few more boundaries broken in what can and can’t be worn on the golf course. We’ve seen Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott wear collarless shirts, a number of players choose high tops and I’m sure we will see more of golf’s traditional fashion barriers come down in the future.

How much difference do you think it makes on apparel sales when a big player wears kit at a Major or the Ryder Cup?
Quite a lot. If it’s a big player and they are successful and is a good fit for the brand, it can have a massive impact. The Ryder Cup is a little bit different with team uniforms, but I’m not convinced that it has been done properly yet. I think there is a lot of scope to see a modern, forward-thinking brand do it really well. Ralph Lauren RLX is designing the American team’s outfits this year, so we can expect to see an improvement.

Why did you decide to set up the Trendy Sports Agency?
I’ve often been approached for advice on sales and marketing because of the success of brands like JL. Previously, there was no place for brands to go to get a holistic solution in what can be a complicated market. Now there is an opportunity for some leading brands to work together and pool some of their advantages.
Taking samples and rolling out a rack from the back of car isn’t professional and it doesn’t present luxury brands in the way they deserve. This isn’t how it’s done within the fashion industry, so why should it be different in golf? We construct showrooms to replicate a shop-in-shop experience to present the brands in the best way possible. Retailers have the opportunity to see a collection of complimentary premium brands presented in a way that allows them to truly appreciate what they are looking at.

What services will the company offer?
We offer brands a 360 solution – sales, marketing, PR and product placement. Some brands will also benefit from advice on product design but fundamentally it’s about getting these products in front of established retailers and consumers.

Do you have any advice for how golf pros can sell more apparel?

In my experience, people want quality and are willing to pay for it at high-end venues. It should never be assumed that cheaper products will sell well simply because of a lower price. But it’s all about understanding the needs of the consumer, not just what the retailer likes. Rather than following what everyone else does, it’s vital to stand out from competitors – it doesn’t make sense to just follow the pack. It’s about being one step ahead, offering a different selection while always keeping the customer’s requirement at the forefront of your mind.