At The Open Championship, Mizuno gave Miles Bossom of GOLF RETAILING an EXCLUSIVE preview of two new iron ranges in their successful MP family, the MP5 and the MP25. Miles spoke to the Mizuno team on the Mizuno tour bus next to the driving range on The Old Course St Andrews.
Sat in the bus yards from golf’s biggest stars practising on the range there was a sense of anticipation as the Mizuno team gathered round to give their ONLY trade interview ahead of this important product launch.
What’s being launched?
Tony Scott, UK golf marketing manager: We have launched two new irons, the MP5 and the MP25. The MP5 isn’t a blade and it’s not a muscle back, it is a kind of muscle blade with a channel back and is designed around the MP64 which was a really high selling iron for us. It has the same head size, top line, same position for the COR and same size COR. It’s grain flow forged 1025e steel which we have been using for several years.
Is the MP5 a direct replacement for an existing product?
Scott: No not really because it is not a blade although the product it would be expected to replace is the MP4. The MP4 is staying in the range as a true blade so this product adds another string to our bow. We’ve always previously carried four MP irons and four JPX irons but we now have five MP irons and four JPX irons.
So where does this product fit in?
Scott: It is definitely for the better player that is looking for some forgiveness and help with his shot making.
Alex Thorne, Mizuno’s tour promotions manager, Europe: The MP5 has a slightly bigger more traditional head shape, slightly more weight from the scalloped out channel at the back that has moved the weight lower, which will launch the ball a little higher than the MP4. It’s really aimed at guys that were playing the MP64 but didn’t quite want a blade. It is a player’s iron with a bit more forgiveness. It will suit a scratch golfer up to maybe a ten or twelve handicapper and certainly goes higher in the handicap range than the MP4.
Where does the MP25 sit from a handicap perspective?
Thorne: It will suit a wide range of players from the tour pros up to the low/mid handicap amateurs. Mizuno ambassador Chris Wood hit this in Munich a couple of weeks ago and really loved it. He was really impressed with the introduction of boron into an MP iron. He had seen how well it had done in the JPX850’s forged, but by putting it into this iron with the cut slot in the back that is hidden, you’ve still got the really good looking players iron but with some hidden technology. The ball speed is up a little on a traditional forged iron and it comes off the face a lot quicker.
Chris would look to put that in as a three and four iron whilst Luke Donald will probably go into this across the whole set as it is a natural progression from the MP15 that he is playing currently. It is an easy transition and will give him a little more power.
Is Mizuno looking to increase the number of trade accounts you have in the UK?
Scott: Absolutely yes. We currently have about 570 fitting carts and are bringing another hundred carts into the UK in January. Our sales guys are out on the road currently identifying where these carts are going to go.
If one our readers want to stock Mizuno they can register interest and you will provide them the cart? What do retailers need to do to become an approved Mizuno stockist?
Adrian Longstaff, UK golf sales manager: The retailer can buy or rent a cart, but our approach is very much consultative. We present the product which comes first and foremost and we work with the guys on what categories will work best for them in terms of sell through and margin.
Are you seeing increased attention to your products and do you see these new irons attracting more retail accounts?
Longstaff: We are receiving really good support. Our market share figures are strong and the green grass groups, TGI and Foremost are really positive about what we are doing.
When a retailer stocks your products and carries a fitting cart what support does Mizuno offer them?
Longstaff: Our DNA Fitting system is widely regarded as the best in the market and the software we offer to support them makes fitting easier, more accurate and more consistent. We also offer fitting days where our technical fitting rep will attend to help the retailer get the most out of the day. Our aim is to run one of these events at every account during the year.
Has the quality of club fitting at green grass accounts improved much in recent years?
Thorne: Yes definitely, it is improving all the time. The actual construction of the clubs hasn’t changed much, fitting the shaft to the head, gripping and so on. But the technology in the clubs has, and with DNA we fit based on tempo. Years ago the shaft option was based upon club head speed so if a player swung the club fast he would be fitted a stiff shaft or if he had a slow swing speed he would have a regular shaft. Now for example we may fit a lightweight stiff shaft for a slow swing speed.
Do you think consumers now understand the benefits of fitting?
Longstaff: Yes they do but there is a long way to go. There are still a lot of retailers that don’t push the consumer into it enough, perhaps because they want to move their stock rather than providing the right clubs for the customer which is an obstacle that as a trade we all need to get around.
Is there one unique selling point (USP) that retailers should consider when recommending Mizuno irons to their customers?
Longstaff: One big consideration is that when a golfer goes through the fitting process we recommend the shaft and grip which is best for them and that is the shaft they will be supplied at the recommended retail price. It does not increase based on a change in specification, whereas the vast majority of our competitors will recommend a superior shaft, and it will add say £150 to the total cost.
To summarise why should the golf retailer stock the Mizuno product range?
Longstaff: Custom fit – we are consistently considered the best in the market place in terms of the fitting carts and the service we offer and our product lifecycles. Many manufacturers have a one year lifecycle whereas our products have a minimum two year lifecycle. This means that we can phase out product and retailers are not left with stock.
For example the MP54 is leaving the range in September although we have actually run out of stock now so there is nothing left to clear. The same is true of the JPX range which is now very low on stock and will be phased out in February. This is good news for the retailer and gives confidence to the consumer as there is nothing that annoys them more than paying a lot of money for clubs only to see them heavily discounted within a year.
Lastly our pre-book is really appealing to the retailer as we do not over stock and we make sure they are comfortable with the volumes they are buying.
Fitting cart update kits, 22 August
Building and shipping, 1 September
MP-5: £115 per iron
MP-25: £115 per iron
For further information on the MP-5, the MP-25 and Mizuno’s full range of golf equipment, apparel and accessories visit: golf.mizunoeurope.com