Golf Retailing Editor Dan Owen caught up with Tony Scott, Head of Marketing at HONMA Golf Europe, to find out how they plan to grow their business in 2021 and beyond.
How has 2020 been for HONMA?
HONMA is very much a premium brand. It’s in the top echelon of golf equipment, which means we may have been less affected by the downturn in economic markets than the rest of the industry. At the end of September, we’ve just hit our H1 target. It was adjusted down slightly because of COVID-19, but to come out of a tricky middle of the year and hit the target at the end of September was fantastic.
Our top tier BERES line is doing extremely well in France. According to Golf Datatech we’ve had between 6-8% of the market in France this year which is the highest it’s ever been. I think it’s partly because there have been fewer sales of the performance category clubs while we’ve still managed to sell luxury clubs, and that’s been true to a degree in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and Spain as well. Generally speaking, 2020 so far has been good. We’ve not seen the drop off to the extent that some of the brands may have.
The UK has been trickier. It’s been a difficult time to grow into a new market, which essentially is what we’re trying to do in the UK. But the product is very good as you’d expect from a Japanese brand. I see the market as having marketing brands and product brands and we’re a product brand which means our money goes primarily into making the best possible product.
That said if I’m talking shares again, then our share in the UK is up about 300% versus last year. And while those numbers are still small, we’re most definitely moving in the right direction.
How are you looking to grow the HONMA business?
In the UK we’re still finalising our distribution. We’re looking to grow it a little bit, plus we want to make sure that we get in the right doors. We need to increase traction with the performance products in the UK, but also we need the high-end BERES line to get a foothold in the UK market to help us fulfil our potential.
Across Europe, BERES is well established already. It’s actually the other way around, we need to do a bit more with the performance products across the rest of Europe and get our TR and the game improvement XP-1 lines in more golfer’s hands. Our distribution in continental Europe is very good. We need to grow in Scandinavia, where we don’t really have much of a presence. The main growth area for us is probably the UK and it’s about getting distribution right. We’ll keep hammering the drum and driving awareness but it’s a slow process, and particularly this year, when we have had to be focused in our marketing.
We are the only brand that makes every component of the golf club from the toe of the clubhead to the butt of the shaft. Other brands focus on making the best clubhead possible, and then put a generic shaft in it, but because we manufacture our own shafts in conjunction with the heads it gives us a lot of flexibility in creating perfect custom fit golf clubs.
I think we’ll be adding to our tour staff as well. It may not be a singular big name like Justin Rose, but more localized talents across Europe and the US. But if the right name comes available to help grow our brand we would definitely talk to them.
You recently appointed Dean Cracknell as your new Experiential Manager. What does that role entail?
With his previous experience with Srixon, Cleveland and XXIO he will be invaluable to HONMA. He will be working with retailers to maximise our presence at accounts and helping them to draw consumers in and give them a real experience of the HONMA product. With his knowledge of the UK market, he’ll be a great support to me based out in Switzerland.
We want to go above and beyond what other brands offer their consumers. From amazing in-depth fitting events to taking potential customers out on the course with a set of clubs to try, we will take that extra step that other brands won’t take. It’s not just standing on the range and letting people come and try products, we’re providing consumers with an experience, giving people a real insight into what HONMA can offer them.
There are some great ideas we’re hoping to bring over from the USA including the fitting vans and the HONMA House concept. COVID-19 has slowed down their introduction, but they are very much on the agenda.
How has the #DiscoverHONMA campaign gone so far?
While it’s a little early, there have been a lot of clicks through to access the website where people can find out about it. Our fitting events have been noticeably busier, so from that point of view it has definitely worked.
We’ve also been running a delivery guarantee in the UK which has been really successful. With a guaranteed 10 working days delivery form our Amsterdam workshop, custom orders are being processed quickly and efficiently, at a time when some other brands have really struggled with delivery and a shortage of components.
What are you most excited about in the new TR21 range? And how will that help you improve your sales?
I’m excited about all of it, especially as it rounds off our TR20 launches from earlier in the year. But the standout product is the TR21X iron. It features a multi-material hollow iron design, with additional tungsten weighting, it’s forgiving yet looks great behind the ball. It appeals to higher handicaps looking for forgiveness, as well as lower handicaps looking for more distance. We’ve also got the advantage of being well stocked with product, so you won’t have any delays in receiving your set.
Where do you see the brand in five years’ time?
I see a huge difference. We’re established across continental Europe although there is still room for growth. I see a much bigger potential in the UK and Scandinavia. Honma isn’t going away and we will keep pushing. We’re going to keep bringing great products to the market and we work with our retail partners to make sure that we are providing them with the service that they want.
For the time being we will stick with hardware, bags and golf balls, but when the time comes, we may bring some of our other lines such as apparel and footwear to the European market.
Last year in conjunction with one of our retail partners we opened the first HONMA store in Europe. It’s located in Paris, and it’s definitely a blueprint for what we plan to open across Europe
Why should a retailer stock HONMA if they don’t already?
The product is fantastic, our service levels are at a really high level, and we offer great margins. It might not always be the highest margin percentage-wise, but because of our price points we offer fantastic pound note margins. You will make more money on a set of HONMA clubs than you will with most other brands. GR