James Peters is the owner of Wonderful World of Golf, a luxury golf boutique in Sunningdale, Surrey which opened in April. He previously managed golf concessions in both Selfridges and Harrods. Peters was originally set for a career in the City until he took a stop-gap job at the Nevada Bob store in Broadgate, which was operated by Ivan Norman.
“Ivan pretty much taught me about golf retailing. He brought the Nevada Bob operation over to the UK from the States in the early nineties”, says Peters. “After working in the store with him for a few months, I decided a desk job in the City wasn’t for me. I seriously considered opening my own Nevada Bob store in Canary Warf but the rents were astronomical. Then Ivan phoned me while I was on holiday and said that Selfridges had agreed to a Nevada Bob concession and did I want it!”
Selfridges turned into a major success as Peters confirms. “They were doing less than £100,000 a year on golf merchandise and I got that up to a £1 million. We were operating in a prime retail spot on the first floor.” Such was Peters success that another department store down the road in Knightsbridge came calling. “Harrods approached me and asked if I was interested in taking a concession in the store. When we moved in there things really began to fly!”
Peters saw quite a lot of Harrods owner Mohammed Al-Fayed, while running the golf concession. “His office was on the same floor as us so he used to say hello in the mornings. He was a great retailer and it was a terrific store, but also a tourist attraction.” With the recent change in ownership Peters relationship with Harrods came to an end. “The new management under Qatar Holdings didn’t want hardware anywhere in the store, so in the sports department out went golf equipment. They just wanted apparel.”
It was then that Peters decided to open his own shop in Sunningdale. “I wanted to take the principles of what we had done in Harrods and apply them to a luxury golf boutique here in Sunningdale. I’m from this part of the world and it is surrounded by prestige golf courses. Virginia Water is the first area outside central London to have an average house price of £1 million. The people here don’t want ordinary, they want luxury with outstanding service.”
Design for the store was done by Innovare Design, a specialist agency working in Europe and UAE. “My brief was that I wanted the store identity built around the sporting heritage epitomised by Ben Hogan. It’s those values and class that I wanted to convey”, Peters explains. A large graphic of Hogan adorns one wall. “That actually cost more than all the others because the copyright is owned by Getty Images, but it sets the tone.” Store fitting was done by Hatton Building Developments, specialists in high quality fitting-out, based in Wokingham, Surrey.
The store has apparel racks in the centre, accessories on the left hand wall and clubs on the right. At the rear is a sitting area for trying footwear and a display for the Vega range of premium clubs. “Vega clubs are outstanding in terms of design, quality and finish. Some of the clubs are hand etched. We will setup custom fitting for customers with Professional Golf Europe, the UK distributor. We are also a Honma club reseller”, Peters confirms. In terms of other equipment brands Wonderful World of Golf is a Callaway, Ping and Titleist stockist.
For apparel Peters has selected J.Lindeberg and Tom Morris as the lead brands. “Tom Morris is more traditional but I like both ranges because the clothes can be worn on or off the golf course and of course they are very stylish.” Wonderful World of Golf also stocks FootJoy, Ecco and Royal Albartross shoes. “Alex Bartholomew is a hugely talented designer so the look of Royal Albartross is tremendous. The shoes are all hand made in Italy with outstanding stitching and finish. We sold a pair to a former champion jockey and every time I see him, he’s got them on.”
Despite the upmarket image and the aspirational brands Peters says that the shop aims to be realistic on price. “I do keep an eye on other retailers and we aim to be competitive but Wonderful World of Golf was never intended to be a price led proposition. There are a lot of other people doing that very well. What I and Mike Price, my store manager are offering is personalised service. One customer asked me when we opened in the morning and I said ‘3.00am if it suits you’, and that wasn’t entirely a joke.”
When asked about the viability of independent off-course retailers, Peters is clear: “What we’re offering is unique. I like to do things a little bit differently and I believe there is always a demand for that. I think the concept is sound and I can see the potential for more Wonderful World of Golf stores.”