Lionel Caron, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Srixon Sports Europe, talks to Golf Retailing about 20 years of Srixon in Europe.
How does it feel to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Srixon?
How time flies by! It is often said that 20 is the best age, and I believe it to be true. Within Srixon Sports Europe Ltd, we are all very excited to celebrate 20 years of existence of our European subsidiary of the famous Japanese group, Dunlop!
How far has the brand come in that time?
How we have grown in 20 years! When the brand was launched in the UK and Europe, no one had heard of it. No one even knew how to pronounce the name Srixon! A small, close-knit team of 4 to 5 people started the adventure to establish the brand in the British and European golfing landscape. Priority was given to balls, through testing of these products by resellers and end consumers. We were certain that the quality of our balls, confirmed by their testing in real playing conditions, would be our best advertisement.
I would like to spare a special thought for Masahiro Asahino, the first Japanese expatriate from our parent company installed in England to launch our brand, Leslie Hepsworth, my predecessor in the organization, but also Jon Parsons who was in charge of the brand’s marketing in the earlier years. Each one of these, at their level, partly contributed to the success of Srixon in Europe and the United Kingdom.
Things have changed a lot since then. The ball brand has become a market leader in this category and the product offering has expanded to include clubs and accessories. From 5 people we have grown to a team of more than 100 people, and the turnover has multiplied 50 times between 2002 to 2021. Our distribution has expanded to the United Kingdom as well as Europe and, more recently, the Middle East.
We integrated the Cleveland Golf brand into the group in 2007, which made it possible to strengthen the product offer on clubs, and especially on wedges, for which Cleveland Golf is obviously a global leader. I joined the Srixon group that particular year as I worked for the Cleveland Golf brand.
What products have been a game-changer for Srixon?
It is difficult to name them all as our history is full of products that have become iconic, thanks to their innovative characteristics. First of all, I would say the AD333 ball which launched in 2003, and, thanks to its exceptional qualities, was established as the Number 1 2-piece ball in England and many European countries, and remains so today. (We just launched its tenth edition this Autumn). Secondly, I would choose the first XXIO driver as it revolutionized the wood market in its time. Finally, and even more recently, I would say the Cleveland Golf Zipcore wedge that has won over many golfers.
What have been the most significant events in the brand’s history?
Once again it is difficult to mention everything, as our history has been so rich over the past 20 years. The launch of several iconic balls must definitely be one choice: the AD333 launched in 2003 still is a leader in its segment; the Z-Star ball launched in 2009 in Pure White; but also Tour Yellow for a first on the market and is played by our professional players on various professional circuits. There was also the “Tour” version of the AD333 launched in 2013, and since then the Q-Star Tour, and the launch of the two-tone Q-Star Tour Divide this year. I could mention many more products from our three brands, as well as the major victories of our champions equipped with our Srixon balls and Srixon and Cleveland Golf clubs on the Tour. These include Jim Furyk’s first place at the FedEx Cup in 2011, Shane Lowry’s win at The Open in 2019, and the victory of Hideki Matsuyama at the Masters earlier this year, equipped with the Srixon ball, woods and irons and Cleveland Golf wedges! A great way to celebrate our 20th anniversary in Europe!
Srixon Sports Europe is the umbrella for Srixon, Cleveland and XXIO. Is it a challenge running three brands rather than one?
More than a challenge – it is an extraordinary opportunity. Offering 3 distinct brands is a real asset on the market. Beyond our balls offering which covers all market segments and our range of wedges, our hardware offering is segmented around Srixon. We cater for every golfer from the best players looking for even better performance, to Cleveland Golf on the “game improvement” niche at ultra-competitive prices, and XXIO which targets the players with moderate swing speed. The distribution choices made are also very strong and are part of a BtoB logic aimed at protecting our resellers, ensuring a significant income and guaranteeing a sustainable activity.
Where does Srixon go in the next 20 years?
From a structure that mainly sold balls, we have transformed into a group with a complete range of balls and clubs intended to offer high-performance products to all categories of golfers to allow them to be more efficient and have more fun while playing golf. We will continually ensure that we offer better service to our resellers, and there are many projects under development within our company to contribute to this objective in the months and years to come. Development will also continue with the desire to develop better products, generation after generation. The upcoming 2022 collections prove it, from what I can tell by the enthusiastic reception given by our dealers to the new Cleveland Golf CG XL (out in February) and XXIO 12 or XXIO x-eks 2 ranges, as well as to the new Z Star and Q Star Tour balls, all scheduled for launch next Spring.