FootJoy put on hundreds of shoe fitting days a year to make sure pros are giving their customers the right shoes for them. Andy Brown went along to one such event at East Sussex National and talked to James Bradford, one of the brand’s shoe fitters, to find out more.
Customisation has changed the face of the golf industry – whereas ten years ago it would have been common for a customer to walk into a pro shop, pick up and buy a club off the rack now increasing numbers of pros are steering the sale towards customisation. This should lead to a better performance for the customer and is another way for the pro to show their worth to their members and their clubs. This is exactly the same principle behind shoe fitting: if members are in the correct shoes then they will play better and be happier with the service provided.
James Bradford has been with FootJoy for six years, initially working in the office with the customer service team but for the last three years he has been conducting shoe fitting days with golf pros in the south east and midlands. Bradford is one of three shoe fitters out on the road – the other two cover the rest of the country – and estimates that last year he did over a 100 such days.
“The majority of those are from the end of March to October where there are more rounds being played because the weather is better and it allows us to set up outside a lot of the time,” says Bradford. “During the summer we do four fittings a week and it is growing – it is definitely keeping us busy. We aren’t selling anything ourselves, we are just fitting and then the sale will come from the pro’s own stock, but if they don’t have it then they can order it in from us.”
Bradford says that his main role is to educate the golf pro regarding how to properly fit a shoe and data that FootJoy have produced would indicate that this is an important role – the company says that 70 per cent of golfers aren’t wearing the right size shoes. Often this can be down to wearing a half size too big or small but width is the most common cause for the wrong size shoe. “Nine times out of ten people have purchased shoes which are far too long for them to accommodate more width,” comments Bradford. “If a shoe feels tight when you try it on then what you will do – if you haven’t had your feet measured – to stop it feeling tight is to go longer, because as the shoe gets bigger it gets wider. What we tend to see is people coming down in the length of the shoe but out in the width. Someone might be wearing a size ten but after we measure them we see they are an eight and a half but need a wider width.”
This information makes sense – ask someone the length of their feet and people will be able to answer, but how many would be able to tell you the width of their feet? FootJoy are trying to address this by hosting shoe fittings days such as the one I attended and also by trying to get pros to use a Brannock. Designed way back in 1927, a Brannock measures the length and width of a foot and Bradford believes that a pro should never sell a shoe unless they have measured their customer using a Brannock. FootJoy send out the devices to retailers free of charge and Bradford says that if any pros don’t have one then they should contact a FootJoy area sales manager to get one sent over to them.
One of the obvious benefits of a customer wearing the right size shoe for them is comfort – when you are walking around a golf course for five miles having a shoe which only rubs a little bit at the start and is a minor irritation often becomes very painful by the end of the round. Bradford also says that it comes down to value for money; the better a shoe fits then the longer it will last. “When shoes are too big they wear out quicker than they should and a lot of the time people will wear their shoes out from the inside, so you see some wear patterns inside due to the friction,” explains Bradford. “For shoes that are too long or wide then on the outside you will get a bunching of leather and that can make it prone to cracking and potentially leaking.” If customers feel like they received good value for money with their golf shoes which they purchased from their pro then they are more likely to buy their next pair – and additional goods – from the same shop in the future. The final benefit that golf shoes which fit properly can provide is perhaps not as obvious: performance.
“What we are wearing our golf shoes for is to provide traction with the ground and you want the shoes to act as a second skin and give you more traction – that’s how you generate power in your golf swing. What we see is that guys in the wrong size shoe can lose – in extreme cases – 26 per cent of their power from their swing. So the wrong shoes can lead to less yards off the tee. The more your feet move inside the shoes the less traction you generate.” Bradford also mentions that the type of shoes that someone needs depends on their golf swing and their movement pattern, which is why the brand produce shoes depending on how active someone is in the lower half of their body – those who are more mobile need a shoe with more give, such as FreeStyle.
Customers in shoes that are the right fit will play better golf, have their shoes last for longer and be more comfortable on the course. The pros that take the time to measure member’s feet will provide these shoes but something else important will be happening as well – they will be adding service and be more likely to make a sale. “Fitting a customer for a shoe is an added service that the pros should be offering and, if they take the time to do this, then it is more likely that a sale will be made,” says Bradford. “Just taking five to ten minutes with someone is an added service and chances are that they are going to come back, so it can lead to further business opportunities.”