Willsmer taking Callaway Apparel forward

Perry Ellis has promoted Helen Willsmer to director of Callaway Apparel, overseeing the European sales, customer service and marketing teams for the EMEA region. She spoke to Glyn Pritchard about her new role and the plans for Callaway Apparel in Europe.

Willsmer began her career with Hackett London before moving into sports apparel and now has over ten years’ experience in the golf clothing industry. She led the team to re-launch the Callaway Apparel brand in Europe alongside the hardware. When the Callaway Apparel license was bought by Perry Ellis Europe18 months ago, Willsmer joined the international design and distribution company to ensure a smooth transition across and to develop the Callaway Apparel sales.Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 15.00.29

Her promotion to director is confirmation of her success in that role as she explains. “I am pleased to be working for such a well-known international design company as Perry Ellis International, with their wealth of knowledge and well earnt reputation for apparel. Our sales were up by 60 percent in 2014, our first year with Perry Ellis, against the previous final year inside Callaway. And we expect to end 2015 with another double digit growth in sales. This is mainly down to the extra resources Perry Ellis has committed to the brand. We now have full representation across the EMEA region with either directly employed sales staff, agents or distributors. Having people on the ground is essential especially in the Gulf region where personal relationships are vital to doing business.”Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 15.01.02

Looking ahead Willsmer says the brand is planning an important change for its collections starting with spring-summer 2016. “It’s going to be a true European designed collection. Previously we have taken the American collection and added the Callaway X range with styles and fit more suited to European tastes. But now the whole collection, including ladies, will be our own designs with styling that’s cleaner, more functional and practical than the American apparel. However, we will use the same colour palettes as the American collections so the brand has a uniform look around the world.”

For retailers Willsmer says Callaway will offer competitive pricing at good margins coupled with strong support levels. “We’ve taken on-board a lot of retailer feedback and for the spring-summer 2016 collection we will have polo shirts at price points from £29.99 to £44.99. But while keeping prices sharp we have added to the quality so at the lower end the polos have Spandex for stretch, UV protection against the sun and moisture wicking for comfort.”

The pricing policy is aimed at winning consumer brand loyalty and repeat business. “We want to give consumers the very best value they can get for their money with a product that will last, so they keep coming back. They should be saying, ‘It’s a quality shirt at a great price from a premium brand – I want to buy another one’.”

Matching the pricing policy is an emphasis on improved service levels. “We now have the right people on the road and the right customer service team supporting them. We deliver on time and hold stock so that we can meet sudden demand for events or corporate days and we offer a full embroidery service. We’re continually trying to improve our service and support, because I know there’s no room for complacency.”

Callaway Apparel is working with all the big buying groups, Willsmer confirms. “We are partners with Foremost, TGI and EuroSelect. We are also now partnering with some of the big golf resort hotel groups. We’re winning that business through our customer support levels and by providing things such as in-store support and merchandising.”

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Building brand awareness is essential Willsmer admits and the brand is definitely benefiting from tour endorsement, especially the terrific season being enjoyed by Danny Willett. “He has had two tour wins this season and put in a great performance at The Open. He’s young, British and now ranked 25th in the world. Marc Warren is also having a strong year standing at 13th in The Race to Dubai.”

Tour endorsement of the brand is important says Willsmer because it emphasises Callaway’s golf credentials. “We support the tour because Callaway Apparel is an authentic golf brand, not a general sports clothing brand. And the message I want to get across is that Callaway Apparel is back, building the brand alongside the hardware and not just a side-line.”