Selling in the rain!

Black or blue, rustling sounding and scrunched up in the bottom of the bag, unwashed and unloved – that’s the common fate of most waterproofs. Every golfer needs a set and almost every player hates to put them on. So GOLF RETAILING asked leading apparel manufacturers about the latest developments in waterproofs and how can you persuade your customers to invest in a new set.

Leigh goddeAccording to research by Sports Marketing Surveys Inc, comfort is the single most important factor in waterproof purchases, ahead of material quality and fit. Performance technology was considered more important in this area than in other part of the apparel market. This applies to the best players with performance technology rated jointly alongside comfort as the most important factors for category one players. So to make sales you have to understand the science!

The good news is that over half (57 percent) of golfers have bought a waterproof in the last twelve months and on-course pro shops are the number one point of purchase. While a quarter of sales for waterproofs are from off-course shops, the proportion of sales from internet retailers are significantly lower than for apparel items such as polo shirts or sweaters. This is almost certainly due to the customer’s need to try on waterproofs for comfort, fit and rustle factor.

Because of the technology that goes into them, waterproofs are a relatively big ticket item generating decent margins. The average price paid for a full waterproof suit is £167, with category one golfers paying more at just under £200. The average waterproof top costs £102 and £82 is the average going rate for a pair of waterproof trousers. Men spend £25 more than women. All statistics provided courtesy of Sports Marketing Surveys Inc.

1. Many golfers wear their waterproofs to destruction. How can golf retailers get golfers to change their waterproofs more frequently?

Abacus Sportswear

Waterproof garments have developed considerably over the years and they continue to evolve. Our modern waterproofs are now made from extremely lightweight, breathable and elastic fabrics. It is therefore important for retailers to highlight the constant evolution of technical fabrics to any potential customers, as showcasing the enhanced materials is the best way to improve waterproof garment sales.

Adidas

By offering well merchandised stories within the stores, the consumer will see that there is more than the all black waterproofs and go for a more coordinated outfit; having colours that enhance their look and improve the self-confidence on the course.ProQuip

Cross Sportswear

Retailers need to make their customers aware of the technical developments in golf waterproofs and the fact that newer, lighter, more stretchable fabrics can actually help golfers play better golf. If retailers committed to having the same level of product knowledge about waterproofs as they do about clubs, then making a convincing case for a sale would be a lot easier. Having a good set of waterproofs really can make a difference to their game.

FootJoy

Golf specific waterproofs and golf apparel in general, have changed dramatically in recent years. Advancements in materials and manufacturing processes have meant that modern waterproofs offer protection from the elements as well as being comfortable and lightweight. Retailers can educate golfers about the improvements that have been made and by simply putting a waterproof jacket on will give consumers an appreciation of how a modern design feels.

Glenmuir Sunderland of Scotland

Retailers must market and sell the latest technologies as well as well as style and fashion. Education of the consumer is an important factor here. We place a heavy focus on innovation and product development to continue to push the boundaries in terms of fabric technologies as well as new fashion trends. It is important as a golf brand to assist the retailer in marketing and selling these developments to the consumer to drive a sale.

Mizuno

Technologies and fabrics are constantly improving – so it’s important for us to help the retailers educate consumers about the latest developments and the benefits to their game. With the weather being so changeable in the UK, layering is actually one of the most important concepts to have evolved over recent years and that is consistent throughout all Mizuno apparel collections.

Sunderland

Nike

We’ll continue to engage, attract and connect to our consumer with our innovative products and explain the performance benefits of our products. By using athletes’ insights and listening to our consumers, Nike will continue to bring innovation to make our outerwear product standout with seasonal colours and prints.

Ping

As with hardware products, innovation and evolution occurs frequently in waterproof apparel so it’s important that the retailer, and therefore the consumer, understands that. Over the last 18 months new lightweight, noiseless fabric technology has allowed our designers to engineer garments with excellent waterproof protection and breathability along with exceptional stretch, to offer the ultimate performance and playability on the course.

ProQuip

The reality is that some golfers view waterproofs like family cars. They’ll put 150,000 miles on them before changing them. Understanding and monitoring trends in golf fashion and apparel enables ProQuip’s design team to produce rain suits that are not just functional high performance garments, they look great too.

Sunice

Products that use Gore-Tex fabric technology have a lifetime waterproof guarantee so in theory you might never have to change. Styling and performance do change quickly though so if you want modern, functional outerwear that looks good and not just a waterproof you pull out the bag when it’s raining, you’ll have to change more regularly. That said, 85 percent of all outerwear in the market is dark and the style doesn’t really age so please do let me know if you come up with an answer to this one!

 

2. What’s the best way to display and demonstrate waterproofs?

Abacus Sportswear

Giles BirkheadRetailers have various ways of selling clothing and we work closely with all of our stockists in order to provide them with a variety of merchandising and point of sale tools to ensure they can showcase the waterproofs to their customers in the best possible way.

One of the best ways we have found for retailers to demonstrate waterproof garments is with a fashion show. This helps to bring the garments to life for the customer and Abacus Sportswear is happy to support these types of sales initiatives and will always make sure a member of staff is available to be involved in the set up process for such an event.

Adidas

The best way to demonstrate waterproofs is to trial them. Experience them for yourself. Knowing how they fit your body and not restrict your swing is what you’re buying into.

Cross Sportswear

Demo them! Get golfers to hit balls while wearing them. When we’ve done that with the 2016 Cross Sportswear collection, golfers have immediately noticed how quiet, soft and comfortable they are. Also, have the guts to show the technical attributes – pour water down a shop sample if need be. If a retailer has complete faith in the product, then so will the consumer.

FootJoy

As with shirts and pullovers, consumers often buy with the eye so merchandising by colour group is important. Equally as important is having ‘linked’ items nearby, such as the rain trousers on the same unit as the rain jacket, and base layers also nearby. If space permits, having a mannequin that shows the FJ Layer Up system – with base, mid and outer layers – will give an excellent opportunity for impact and multiple item sales.

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 12.08.38

Glenmuir Sunderland of Scotland

Merchandising is an important consideration here. Our research and development of selling Sunderland of Scotland waterproofs have shown that merchandising plays a key role in the psychology of the consumer making a purchase at the retailer’s shop. We assist retailers in this by offering our outerwear collection in distinct and vibrant ‘colour stories’ to make it simple for the retailer to select a colour story and merchandise a wall.

Mizuno

It depends on the retail environment, but it’s important to highlight the technologies within each garment. Effective POS is crucial as ‘silent salesmen’ help in busy retail stores or when retailers are not on-hand. Products like our Flex Rain jacket, which is soft shell designed for greater freedom of movement as well as offering outstanding waterproofing through our Impermalite technologies – is a great example. With lots of invisible technologies in apparel, it’s important to ensure consumers understand the performance benefits of the products relative to the price.

Nike

Mikhel RuiaTo help the consumer decide when they go to make their buying decision, we have created the Hyperadapt trial stations which allow golfers to experience the huge benefits of mobility and protection offered by the product. Consumers can put on the trial jackets and feel for themselves the range of free motion on their own driving range. The Hyperadapt trial station contains elements to communicate this message with athlete imagery in store.

Ping

At the point of purchase we have made a real effort to improve our communication of each garment’s technical features and benefits through new swing ticket designs. All our Tour Eye and Zero Gravity waterproof garments carry visible swing tickets communicating key features such as the three year waterproof guarantee. We’ve found that clear, simple messaging on all point of sale, including swing tickets, is very beneficial.

ProQuip

It’s important for consumers to be able to try on a full waterproof suit, including trousers and jacket, walk around in it, make several swings in it and get a feel for how well it wears. They need to gauge the fit, texture and behaviour of the fabric before committing to buy.

Sunice

As with all apparel we think it’s important to show outerwear in the context that it will be worn. We encourage retailers to build an outfit, showing off performance layering and the colours that run through a range. If customers can see how a base layer goes with a mid-layer and is finished off with functional outerwear, with a colour theme throughout each layer, it makes their buying choices easier and gives retailers an eye catching display.

 

3. Do Water Pillar and Moisture Vapour Pillar ratings really mean that much to consumers – don’t they just confuse buyers?

Abacus Sportswear

suniceThe different ratings are specifically designed to help showcase the capabilities of the garments and although consumers may not base their purchasing decision solely on them, it certainly provides a good demonstration of the garments technical properties. This is especially important for male golfers, as technical performance tends to be one of the key factors in the decision making process.

The technical ratings are also particularly beneficial for the individual retailers, as they provide them with the ability to showcase their knowledge and understanding of the market to the consumer. Abacus Sportswear will spend time with each retailer, providing them with a complete understanding of each garment in order to make it easier for them to sell products based on their performance capabilities, rather than solely on price.

Adidas

They should mean something as these are used to judge the performance of the suits. Any fabric can be waterproof with the right liner, but it takes a true performance fabric to allow water vapour to pass through while stopping water in.

Cross Sportswear

Well, they are ratings – so they do have a purpose. It’s up to the retailer to understand what they mean and communicate this. Our new Edge jacket has a water pressure rating of 20,000mm with breathability of 20,000 g/m2 24h. But that could be irrelevant for the golfer if our trade retailers can’t effectively demonstrate what this means; the higher the ratings, the better the performance. But this only makes sense when used as a comparison against cheaper products with lesser ratings, or more expensive products with similar ratings, so the golfer understands the value of the ratings.

Footjoy

Richard FryerRatings like this are a way of quantifying the performance benefits that are in the product, and helping reassure the consumer that they are investing in high quality, technologically advanced, performance apparel, that will make their game more comfortable and enjoyable.

Glenmuir Sunderland of Scotland

Consumers are more knowledgeable about performance ratings than in the past. While the majority of consumers perhaps don’t understand the actual test procedures and how to interpret the results, if a product can be shown to perform to a certain level, then this does give the customer reassurance that the product is fit for purpose.

Mizuno

Golfers are definitely becoming more knowledgeable, but how many would know our Flex Rain jacket for example has 10,000mm water protection as well as breathability benefitting from Impermalite technologies – I don’t know. Technologies are important, but for many consumers, they take these as standard these days and focus more on fit and design. It has to look good as well as perform well.

Nike

That you stay dry is almost a given (our product provides waterproof guarantees). In our communication on our Hyperadapt Jacket states the full range of motion that the product provides as well as the storm-fit protection.Chris Mattsson

Ping

We believe the onus is on the brands to educate and inform through clear messaging and constant communication with retailers. It’s important that consumers understand these ratings, and other features and benefits of our garments, so they’re able to make an informed purchasing decision.

ProQuip

ProQuip collects all of this data for each of its waterproof fabrics but doesn’t publish it precisely because it can confuse buyers. We prefer to share the simple message that all our rain suits are 100 percent waterproof and guaranteed for three years.

Sunice

These are both important measures for manufacturers to inform trade buyers that their products are functional. We use measures such as this to help retailers communicate to their customers in terms that they understand. At consumer level we think the important things are ‘Will they keep me dry?’, ‘Can I play golf in them?’, and ‘Do they look good?’. While there are always exceptions to the rule I think that’s the extent of the information most consumers want.

 

4. Does tour player endorsement really help to promote sales?

footjoy

Abacus Sportswear

Abacus Sportswear works alongside some of the leading names in golf, including the 2015 European Solheim Cup captain, Carin Koch; former European number-one Robert Karlsson; one of Scotland’s best ever golfers, Catriona Matthew; triumphant 2013 Solheim Cup captain Liselotte Neumann; and two-time European Tour Champion Steen Tinning.

Working alongside some of the leading professionals within the game has not only helped to connect the brand with the consumer, it has enabled Abacus to draw on this experience to create some of the most technically-advanced waterproof garments on the market.

For example, the technical fabrics used within the Spring/Summer 2016 collection have been thoroughly tested by Robert Karlsson, providing golfers of all levels with enhanced ability to perform at their highest level when on the course.

Adidas

Tour endorsement is key to exposing core golfers to new products on the market. Although it is sometimes hard to co-ordinate the waterproofs as we can’t guarantee it to rain – particularly as both the US and European Tours now follow the sun around the globe!

Cross Sportswear

Personally, I don’t think so. For a start, three of the four majors are rarely played in rain so golfers don’t get to see tour players in their waterproofs anyway. And the majority of the PGA and European Tour events are played in decent weather as well.

FootJoy

Tony ScottWhen tour players occasionally contend with less than perfect weather conditions they simply won’t compromise on staying dry and comfortable without being restricted. The number of tour players wearing our waterproofs is testament to the outstanding performance on offer. We offer an apparel and outerwear range to cope with all weather conditions and the best players in the world wearing those garments helps to promote that.

Mizuno

While club golfers will always look to the tour and at tour players, how much this has impact on sales is difficult to measure. There is little doubt that exposure at the highest levels helps drive visibility and awareness, but more importantly consumers seem to value performance, feel and looks over usage on tour.

Nike

We can definitely see a spark in sales on the products that our athletes wear when they are competing in tournaments. This is not just relevant to waterproofs. Scripted looks have proven extremely popular at retail this year, especially at the Irish open.

Ping

AbacusTour activity and particularly our work with Louis Oosthuizen form an integral part of our communication. It’s important that consumers understand our clothing performs at the highest level and Louis demonstrated this at the recent Open Championship entrusting in our new lightweight Zero Gravity Jacket.

ProQuip

It is genuinely rare, with the exception of The Open, to see tour players wearing waterproofs these days as so many tournaments on The European Tour are now scheduled in Dubai, UAE, China, Asia, South Africa and Australia – and so few in the UK – where there is a greater chance of rain.

We believe that club golfers in the UK are more likely to be influenced by the opinion of their club pro, word of mouth among golfing peers and their own ideas about price point and performance characteristics.

Sunice

It certainly doesn’t hurt, particularly to have a known face in an eye catching advert, but you have to balance that against the cost of the endorsement. Many people won’t know that Sunice is one of the most worn outerwear brands on the PGA and LPGA Tour but we only carry a handful of endorsements. We’d love to shout about that and tell you who wears the brand but the costs are just prohibitive. Even putting the background work in to substantiate a claim like ‘Most worn on Tour’ is costly. So yes endorsements do help but that has to be balanced against the cost.

 

5. Most leading waterproofs are now light and quiet – what future improvements can we expect?

Abacus Sportswear

Abacus Sportswear continues to push the boundaries of waterproof design, with the Pitch Extreme StretchLite jacket, which makes its debut appearance at the 2015 Solheim Cup as part of the European Team’s outfits and is the perfect example of this.

In the clothing world, fabrics continue to develop and there will be additional innovations just around the corner and technical capabilities that have yet to be discovered. However, one area of development I can potentially see taking another direction in the future is within the polo/knitwear sector, as they start to incorporate more technical functionalities that would transform them. They would have the look of a traditional jumper or sweater, but will have the capabilities of a waterproof garment.

Adidas

Quiet is one of the most important attributes, not to distract the golfer throughout his or her swing. The second attribute is to be flexible, to have an amount of stretch so that the swing isn’t impeded. As waterproofs develop they will inevitably focus on these qualities so that ultimately golfers will feel no great difference in terms of movement between their waterproofs and their normal outfits. Jon camp

Cross Sportswear

I’m not sure ‘most’ are, actually. Some are, definitely, and Cross Sportswear has made a massive leap forwards with our 2016 range in terms of the lightness and softness of our fabrics so they’re the best we’ve ever used. I think the biggest future improvements will be in the application of wearable technology – and whether flexible touch screens and power sources can be woven into golf clothing and what the applications of that will be.

FootJoy

Our designers are constantly striving to produce outerwear that performs while also looking good and reflecting modern styling. Advances in fabric technology mean that our garments are more breathable than ever before while also offering protection from the elements. Improved stretch means that garments fit better without restricting the golf swing. All of these areas mean that outerwear is an extremely exciting area of golf and provides retailers with a brilliant opportunity to educate customers and help them to enjoy their golf more than ever.

Glenmuir Sunderland of Scotland

Fabric technologies continue to evolve and in the future we at Glenmuir Sunderland of Scotland expect to see more ‘intelligent’ yarns coming to the market, which are manipulated to respond to both body temperature and weather conditions, thereby regulating the wearer’s body temperature. Also, the construction and application of the waterproof membrane is likely to become more technically advanced to become softer and more breathable. The ultimate goal is to mimic the skin’s responses to climatic changes as closely as possible and as technology advances we will see this becoming a reality.Ping

Mizuno

Improvements to flex and fit of products – to provide greater freedom of movement will be key along with other new technologies around improving breathability without sacrificing effectiveness. There may also be a shift towards more colour. While black will always be the staple colour in any outerwear collection in the UK, golfers seem more receptive to adding some colour though a jacket or outerwear garment on a dull day.

Nike

We’ll continue to bring inspiration and innovation in our products for athletes and consumers. Although we’d love to share future product info, it’s not something we can do at this time.

Ping

As you would expect we can’t share too much information about future developments, but like our hardware engineers, the apparel design team are very much performance driven and technological innovation will be at the core of our designs. Ultimately as a brand our focus remains on engineering our products for golfers and only golfers to help them play their best.

ProQuip

Comfort and quietness are the areas where ProQuip believes major improvements can still be achieved in the weatherwear sector. Most brands can keep a golfer dry but how many stay feeling comfortable and confident in their ability to play well, especially when some leading fabrics create so much rustling and noise during the swing.

Russell BrooksOur new Tour-Lite rain jacket is a prime example, it is made from a knitted outer fabric and weighs just 277 grams so that it hardly feels as if you are wearing it. It’s the softest and lightest jacket we’ve ever made and there is virtually no noise disruption enabling you to concentrate completely on playing golf.

Sunice

Fabric technology has reached a point where the future emphasis will be on golf functionality. Our next Sunice ranges will build on our current crop of lightweight performance stretch products that offer full flexibility, ease of movement, and high levels of comfort. We aim to develop outerwear products that enable you to play golf to the same level and in the same comfort in any type of climate.