Richard Fryer, sales and marketing director at FootJoy, gives GOLF RETALING an exclusive insight into life behind the scenes at the UK’s top-selling golf shoe manufacturer
Let’s start where the conception of a new golf shoe occurs. Where does FootJoy carry out its research and development?
The primary R&D for FootJoy takes place in Brockton, Massachusetts, which is the home of our global design and development team. Our team of designers utilise all of the latest design and CAD programmes to develop unique outsoles, midsoles and uppers. We even have rapid prototyping machinery that can produce a physical first-look at a new outsole overnight. A recent addition to our facility has been the ShoeBox, an internal simulator that uses force plates and body-mapping to understand the biomechanics of the golf swing and how different golf shoes perform. Having this phenomenal technology on-site enables us to put prototypes into a test environment quickly, to evaluate and fine-tune their performance.
It’s really an ongoing process. We continually take input from a host of different sources – from Tour players to high street fashion, and everything in between – but the result must always be relevant to golf as that is our sole focus. The team is always developing new uppers and outsoles, targeting different parts of the market, and sometimes some of the designs are held for a year before releasing. At other times, they are ready to hit the shelves immediately.
Take FootJoy’s DNA series for example: how long was DNA in development before it came to market?
It takes around 17 months for us to develop any new shoe line. As you would expect, there are a number of key tasks that have to be right before we get to the launch date. The first five, six months focus on design, engineering, prototyping, developing and sampling. Once we have all these aspects nailed down, our attention turns to the outsole tooling and mould trials. This can take around five months to ensure we have the best performing shoe possible. Once we have this established, we move to the outsole production. We need the outsoles to be ready to coincide with the start of shoe production. The outsole production along with shoe production can take around six months in total. Once production has achieved a level at which sufficient inventory is on hand to fulfill demand, we can then release the product to market.
What kind of input do you receive from Tour pros during development?
We consult with our tour ambassadors on a regular basis to ascertain their feedback on the performance and comfort of our shoes. With our pyramid of influence strategy, it is important for our products to meet the needs of the golfing elite to ensure we are helping enhance their on-course performance. We also work with club professionals and amateur golfers during the development of any new shoe we bring to the market. The feedback we receive from tour professionals, club professionals and amateur golfers alike helps us to ensure we are bringing shoes to the market which will enhance all golfers’ enjoyment of the game.
Do tour pros sometimes wear prototypes on tour?
Very rarely would a tour professional wear a prototype shoe on tour. You are more likely to see the tour professionals wearing early samples of shoes that are soon to be launched. For example, D.N.A. wasn’t seeded on the European Tour until January 15. Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Webb Simpson were a handful of players who had been wearing the shoes for a couple of months prior to this date. Adam enjoyed a couple of wins in the shoe in Australia, which created intrigue from the golfing world, who were keen to establish which shoe he was wearing. This gives us a couple of benefits in that it creates early demand, as well as giving us great feedback prior to the worldwide launch.
Are sales of FootJoy spikeless shoes growing?
Our spikeless sales have definitely grown over the past two years, as we have developed our line to include a ‘good, better, best’ approach, focusing on AWD Casual, Contour Casual and DryJoys Casual. DryJoys Casual has been a huge success for us this year, particularly on the world’s major tours, as it has been worn by the likes of Hunter Mahan, Victor Dubuisson and Lee Westwood, who won wearing the shoes in Asia this year.
We’re having a really strong year. Our market shares are up for both volume and value, to the point that for every £2 spent on a golf shoe in the UK, over £1 of that is spent on a FootJoy shoe, according to Golf Datatech’s Retail Audit of On/Off Course, January-June 2014. Our new launches of D.N.A., DryJoys Casual, HydroLite and AWD Casual have really spearheaded our growth this year, and we are focused on remaining the premium, performance golf shoe leader.
How many UK accounts does FootJoy have, and are you looking for more?
We have a broad distribution across the UK. In fact there wouldn’t be many golf shops that don’t stock FJ shoes, and we have no plans to grow our distribution. We would prefer to maintain our presence and continue to drive sales through our existing, loyal account base.
What is the ideal retailer for FootJoy?
Someone who understands the benefit of shoe-fitting and the need to stock in depth across half sizes and different widths. Also, someone who recognises the amount of time and effort that goes into producing our shoes, and that you can’t commoditise our product by simply saying ‘a shoe is a shoe’. We only make golf shoes and, therefore, every feature of our product line is designed for golf – we think this produces better products and gives us a unique position in the market.
How has the shoe fitting programme gone so far this year?
The response to this year’s shoe fitting programme has been sensational. We are 19 weeks through the programme and we are delighted to say that we have managed to fit just shy of 2,500 golfers. Our aim for this programme was to educate golfers on the importance of wearing the right golf shoe. We all know golf is a performance sport but, without education, not many golfers are aware of how the fit of their golf shoes affects their performance. From the people we have fitted so far, we have discovered 1,600 golfers wearing the wrong size shoe for their game. This equates to 70% of golfers wearing the wrong size golf shoe.
The success can be put down to a variety of factors. Firstly, our brand executives are armed with over 120 pairs of golf shoes, ranging from N-XW in both men’s and women’s shoes. The variety of sizes we offer ensure no compromise when purchasing a pair of shoes. We know that 90% of golfers have different sized left and right feet. When we conduct the shoe fitting and people discover this, they are then blown away that the MyJoys programme allows you to purchase a shoe for your left foot in a different size to your right, as well as being able to design the shoe from scratch. This is something that only FootJoy can offer to this degree.
Secondly, the FootJoy brand executives are qualified professionals who spend around 20 minutes conducting a shoe fitting, which is something golfers aren’t expecting. The feedback from our trade partners and consumers alike has been extremely positive.
Thirdly, we have employed three brand executives to cover the whole of the UK and Ireland. We are getting around as many golf outlets as possible so the greatest number of golfers get the opportunity to be professionally shoe fitted by FootJoy.