Sights on a crowning achievement

Until now, Peter Millar’s luxurious golf apparel has been often associated with crested items, but with growing sales and distribution, and an enhanced brand identity, Peter Millar is getting noticed for its own merits, rather than someone else’s. Peter Millar’s Senior Managing Director Bob Smith spoke to Robin Barwick

At GOLF RETAILING’S Thought Leadership event in December, you declared that Peter Millar’s European pre-bookings for 2014 were “very good”. Has 2014 lived up to expectations so far? 

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 16.36.14Sales in 2014 have exceeded all expectations, and I am happy to tell you that our year-on-year figures have increased by high double-digit percentages.

The product range is standing out at our green-grass golf accounts. Awareness of the Peter Millar brand is growing with six brand ambassadors in Brandt Snedeker, Harris English, Bill Haas, Branden Grace, Richard Sterne and George Coetzee playing on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour. We have increased our marketing spend to support the brand and we have worked hard to establish high levels of trust with our retailers. The bottom line is that the product is flying off the shelf.

Where do online sales fit into Peter Millar’s success this year?

Online direct sales have also helped to raise brand awareness, and customers now have the opportunity to purchase goods not stocked within the pro shop. We’ve yet to partner with a specialist e-commerce retailer, which puts us in control of distribution online. Online direct sales have grown month on month since our web launch less than two years ago.

Is it difficult to maintain a premium operation when your customer base is growing?

Our base of accounts has grown by a low double-digit percentage this year, whereas the amount of product taken by our accounts has grown by a high double-digit percentage. So our growth this year has come primarily from existing customers taking more categories from the range.

We never use the word ‘discount’, and nobody receives enticements to buy our product. We maintain the same pricing structure from the smallest pro shop to the largest and we remain green-grass only in golf.

We are also proud to have recently opened our first store outside of the United States. The Peter Millar store opened on June 1 in the Old Course Hotel, St Andrews. The store concentrates on classic lifestyle product from the Peter Millar collection for both men and ladies.

We are at a point where we are carefully looking to expand both our UK and International customer base, establishing partnerships with retailers selling the new crown-logoed Contemporary Fit collection. We would like our customers to know that Peter Millar is a lot more than a company for crested golf product, but a premium lifestyle brand in its own right.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 16.36.20With a new brand message, how did your annual sales meeting go in June?

The sales meeting was extremely successful and it was a major event for Peter Millar. The meeting took place at the London showrooms of Alfred Dunhill (a sister company within the Richemont Group). It was in fact our first international sales meeting, and we had most European countries and South Africa represented. Peter Millar is now using a combination of agents and distributors within these markets.

The sales meetings are important in terms of educating our partners in the history of Peter Millar, and also to let them know how the brand is moving forward. We also had Mike Bowers, Vice President of Design and Merchandising at Peter Millar, over from the United States to talk about the new range, to explain how the design process works and how the colour palettes are created.

This was Peter Millar’s first international sales meeting?

Yes. Since 2004 we have been concentrating on the UK and Ireland, while facilitating Europe. As of October 1 we are expanding the operation so that the UK is the international hub for new business outside the Americas. Peter Millar has not taken advantage of international demand in a concerted manner until now. The brand will now have dedicated sales operations throughout Europe, including Turkey and Scandinavia. South Africa, Morocco and Australia will also be covered by the international team.

Personnel within Peter Millar’s international operation will double over the next three months, in administration, finance and logistics. We are actively recruiting at the moment. In the same period our warehousing will expand to four times its current size, while the sales force outside the United States will be trebling.

When will the 2015 collection arrive at retail?

Deliveries start in the first week of January, however different markets need product at different times. For example, we will deliver to some territories in December to fit with customers’ individual needs.

What is the story with the new crown emblem you mentioned?

The new crown logo is central to our expansion, and was debuted at last month’s sales meeting. We are launching the Contemporary Fit range of product, which features the crown logo and a modern cut, which will suit international markets. The target demographic for Peter Millar is not dictated by age, it is a lifestyle choice across generations. Peter Millar clothing is a lifestyle proposition, rather than simply a golf brand.

Products featuring the crown from both the Classic and Contemporary Fit collections will increase Peter Millar brand awareness. The Contemporary Fit collection is working as an extension of our very successful Classic range. The Classic range will continue to grow, and we are using the same premium fabrics in the Classic and Contemporary ranges.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 16.36.33What is your perception of the apparel market in the UK as a whole this year?

The golf apparel market in the UK is going through some serious changes. It’s a very competitive market with an increasing number of suppliers. Brands are trying to figure out the correct fit, fabric choice and price point among other things, in an ever-changing market.

At Peter Millar we are developing new materials, new blends, all the time. The E4 performance collection of technical apparel has expanded enormously since its addition to the collection, and the technical apparel we are producing is not just for golf, but for the lifestyle market as well. Proud of its heritage, Peter Millar will continue to use natural fibres including cotton, cashmere and merino wool in all its collections.

Lastly, what is Peter Millar’s association with the Ryder Cup?

In 2012 Peter Millar became an exclusive licensee of Ryder Cup Europe. The Ryder Cup range is currently selling to approved retailers and green grass PGA professionals. We’ll also have a large presence within the merchandise pavilion during the week of the event. Our involvement has been a little different from most other licensees, as we have worked with other specialist licensees to produce the first ever range of Tartan Ryder Cup product, using the official Ryder Cup Tartan. This range, with product for men and women, will be on sale at Gleneagles, and in particular at the Ryder Cup.