Golf Retailing Editor Dan Owen hopped on the train to visit Brand Fusion’s warehouse at Oldbury, near Birmingham, and catch up with Managing Director Nigel Freemantle to learn about the company’s growth from its humble beginnings.

    How long has Brand Fusion been in business? Can you tell us about its evolution from the early days to now?
    Originally known as ND Sports, Brand Fusion was founded in 1980. My first deal was to sell gloves and bags from Peter Butler, who was the pro at the RAC Club, along with Penfold balls from Faulkner Sports, where I worked before going on my own. I started the business from home, growing steadily over the years and outgrowing many warehouses, until moving to a larger facility in Leatherhead. Then in 2000, we took on the distribution of Sun Mountain. This was a gamechanger and a big step in our growth. We expanded again 15 years ago when I bought our current warehouse space in the Midlands.

    It’s amazing to think back how far the company has come – from starting up in my living room and driving from shop to shop. I think some people, especially around the Southeast, still see me as that start up white van man! But that isn’t Brand Fusion anymore.

    Our warehouse space is 22,000 sq. ft. in the main warehouse, plus a 10,000 sq. ft. mezzanine. We’ve recently built a 9,000 sq. ft. additional warehouse space on our land that gives us a huge capacity for growth. We send around 600 packages each day from the two facilities.

    There are 18 members of staff split between the warehouses and our Surrey office. We also have 10 sales agents serving customers across the
    UK and Ireland and deal with nearly every country in Europe.

    We offer around 4,000 different product lines, across 15 different brands, ranging from well-known ones like Sun Mountain, New Balance, SuperStroke and Golf Pride to others that cater to specific market niches.

    How has 2023 been?
    Golf went ballistic for a couple of years post-COVID, but we’re back at 2021 levels now. There is a surplus of certain products in the marketplace that we need to sell through, but in 6-12 months the market should be back to normal. Our growth is looking encouraging, especially with the new products and lines landing for 2024 that will be launched soon.
    We’ve just had a record month for online sales and have seen a 20% year-on-year sales increase. More and more customers prefer using the online site, which allows our agents to devote time in promoting the new brands.

    What sets Brand Fusion apart from other suppliers, and why should retailers consider working with you?
    Brand Fusion stands out because we strive to stock everything all the time. We offer a wide range of products, ensuring that retailers have access to diverse choices in terms of colour and size. As a serious distributor, we strive to offer entire ranges rather than cherry pick as others do.

    Our efficient B2B website streamlines the ordering process, making it convenient for retailers to place orders quickly and accurately 24/7 year-round. We prioritise customer satisfaction and aim to make the entire buying process seamless. It’s probably the most user-friendly in the golf trade.

    Additionally, we provide embroidery services, allowing retailers to customise golf bags, head covers and many other products with their logos or designs. This service is especially popular among resort courses and clubs looking to enhance their branding. We recently introduced a new head cover that can be customised according to the customer’s preferences, such as team events or Captain’s Day. Embroidered items add a personalised touch and appeal to golf enthusiasts, making them an excellent choice for retailers looking to enhance their profits.

    Looking ahead to 2024, what are you most excited about in terms of new products or developments?
    We’re always excited about introducing new product ranges to the market and next year is no exception. We continually look to add high-quality products
    that cater to the evolving needs of golfers… so watch this space!

    Last year we partnered with New Balance for the 2023 season and the sell-in for 2024 has been very positive. New Balance is a highly reputable brand known for its comfort and quality. Its golf shoes – which resemble the popular athletic models – provide exceptional comfort to golfers. Retailers can expect a range of top-quality products that cater to various preferences. The pricing is competitive, making it an attractive choice for both retailers and consumers.

    Sun Mountain has some fantastic high-end golf bags, and the Sonnenalp range is proving to be more popular than we expected. There are new models coming next year that really stand out. The VLow is a new style, designed to work as well as a cart bag as it does as a stand bag. ClubGlider and KUBE travel cover sales are over 100% up and a completely new concept pushcart will launch in 2024.

    Golf is still enjoying high levels of participation and more rounds are being played in this country and so we’re hoping for a more settled market next year for the first time in a few years.

    In the age of digitalisation, how is Brand Fusion adapting to modern retail trends, such as online catalogues and streamlined ordering processes?
    We believe in staying ahead of the curve and making the ordering process as convenient as possible. We’re constantly looking to streamline our processes to ensure retailers have a hassle-free experience. Our warehousing, picking and packing are regulated through the whole process to remove errors and offer an impeccable, prompt service.

    We’ve embraced digitalisation with our efficient B2B website that provides retailers with a seamless ordering experience, while our online catalogue is accessible both digitally and in print, ensuring that retailers can browse our extensive product range easily. The online platform allows retailers to place orders quickly, reducing the time and effort required for traditional methods. Plus, there is only a minimum spend of £100 for free carriage.
    As a one-stop shop, we can provide a daily or weekly top up of an enormous range of products to eliminate over stocking with high margin lines.

    We also have a dedicated photography studio at Oldbury to cater for any specific image requests that will benefit retailers and help with product sell-through both in stores and online.

    Lastly, what advice do you have for retailers to maximise their sales potential and provide excellent customer service in the golf industry?
    Retailers should focus on upselling accessories and essential items – such as grips, gloves, golf balls, and tees – that are frequently needed by golfers. Offering these products in a variety of colours and sizes caters to different preferences. They should also consider stocking items like umbrellas, hand warmers, and winter mats, especially in regions where golf is played year-round. Customisation services like embroidery can also set retailers apart, allowing them to provide customers with personalised products that offer good margins.

    Finally, embracing digital platforms and streamlined ordering processes can enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction, ensuring a positive experience for both retailers and golf enthusiasts. GR

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    As an avid golfer since the age of eleven Dan lives and breathes all things golf.  With a current handicap of eleven he gets out and plays as often as his work life (and girlfriend) allows. Dan confesses to still being like a kid at Christmas when it comes to seeing the latest golf equipment. Having served as GolfPunk’s Deputy Editor, and resident golf geek for the past 13 years and working for golf's oldest brand, John Letters Dan brings to GOLF RETAILING an excellent understanding of the sector.