Editor Dan Owen traveled to Whitefields on the outskirts of Manchester to take a tour of the new Worldwide Golf Brands Warehouse and Showroom, in a year where they’ve taken on significant new brands and are expanding the company’s reach globally.
With the larger brands dominating the marketplace, it’s sometimes difficult to stand out in the golf industry. However, one company that has been making moves in 2021 is Worldwide Golf Brands. Since taking on the license for Oscar Jacobson the group led by Graeme Stevens has gone from strength to strength, taking on BIG MAX and ZOOM as well as preparing to launch Farah Golf next season.
To further strengthen that growth the company have recently moved into a new facility. The huge 120,000+ Sq. Ft building houses a huge warehouse that has lots of capacity for growth, new office facilities, and a flagship showroom that highlights the brands in the best possible light. We made the journey up from the south coast to speak to Managing Director Graeme Stevens, and Andrew Jones, Apparel and Footwear Brand Manager, to find out about the bright future for the company.
“We’ve had a fantastic year, and our business has grown massively” explained Stevens. “Like everyone we’ve been fortunate with the bounce in golf. We could have doubled our sales with MacGregor if we could have got hold of more stock, but it is what it is. As soon as stock landed, it was out again.
“Oscar Jacobson’s growth has been phenomenal. People doubted us at first, we were known for Stuburt and MacGregor, brands at the lower end of the market. But part of the puzzle was for me to have a premium brand. Many people have seen me as someone who takes premium brands and re-packages them as value brands, but the difference is with MacGregor, Stuburt, and Ram before that, they were struggling in the marketplace when I took them on.
“Oscar Jacobson was stacked with potential, and we’ve helped grow that. We’ve done that through multiple lockdowns, premium apparel is a sector of the market that hasn’t benefited from the golf bounce, and we’ve more than doubled the turnover for the brand in the UK. And we’ve done it properly, cleaning up the brands’ online presence, having the right retail partners, and not dropping the prices. We’ve put a new salesforce in place, we’ve opened the right new accounts, and we’ve freshened up the collection. From an initial 5 year UK license, within the year we were granted the European License, and within 2 years they’ve trusted us with a ten-year European and US license.
With the future looking bright for WWGB, the move to Whitefields was taken with an eye to continued growth. Andrew Jones came on board as Apparel Brand Manager earlier this year, following stints at Ping Collection, Glenbrae, and Ted Baker Golf. He was tasked with getting their impressive new showroom up and running
“We’ve been here two months now,” explained Jones. “The simple truth is we outgrew our last site. Taking on more brands, plus needing capacity for expansion, we had to make the move. It’s 120,000 square feet office and warehouse facility. Which is nearly treble the space of the old site.”
The highlight of that is the new on-site Showroom. The six brands have been given distinct areas in the huge, modern space, with plenty of room to walk around and really take in the products on display.
“One of my big projects was to create somewhere we could really showcase our brands, a strong showroom that celebrates what we have and allows us to host our customers in comfort” continued Jones. “Eight weeks ago this was just an empty shell. It was blank canvas for me to put together a showroom that would represent our six brands. We worked with Replan to create a contemporary modern, premium showroom that was uniform across our brands.
“We’ve got workspace and a large meeting desk, as well as slat walls where we can help a retailer mock-up their display. Some of the display features, such as the light-up plinths for the shoes haven’t been done before. We’ve had such a good response that I want to try and figure out a way to take elements of this showroom and use it in-store to elevate the brands at retail.
“The advantage of having all the brands in here is that suddenly retailers will come in to find out about Oscar Jacobson, and they’ll leave with ordered for ZOOM and BIG MAX as well. People are tripling their orders for OJ when they see the whole collection. I’m not massively keen on the phrase one-stop shop, but with Oscar Jacobson, Stuburt, MacGregor, BIG MAX, ZOOM, and with Farah launching next season, we really do offer something for everyone. One source, one rep, one invoice, one customer service team. It just makes us a much more attractive proposition.”
Relatively new to the company, Andrew explained how his role had already grown. “I joined the company in April to look after the apparel brands with design and production. But that has quickly expanded to footwear, and everything that goes towards branding and marketing. Graeme has been the lynchpin that has put all this together, doing a lot of this work personally, but for the company to keep growing he has to focus on the bigger picture. As well as myself we’ve taken on a QC manager, a second designer, with a third joining in January.
“The whole business is gearing up for where we want to be, not just where we are now. We are planning on really accelerating our growth over the next few seasons. We’re investing in personnel across sales, marketing, design, customer service, and our digital offerings.
“We are revamping Stuburt for 2023. We’ve brought in a new footwear design agency to look after the designs. We’ve gone back to basics, figuring out what it is we want to do. We need performance options and casual options. We are just figuring out the DNA of the brand, by looking at its heritage.”
A tour of the warehouse makes you feel tiny with forklifts buzzing about, unloading and loading products at great heights, but also because it’s such a vacuous space. The room for growth is obvious. As is the appetite for it from within the company. With a few more minutes left before the long slog back to Brighton, I had one final chat with Graeme.
“We’ve spoken to a number of top PGA Tour players to wear Oscar Jacobson. We want to get a player in Europe wearing Farah, and potentially I’d like to have a player on Tour in Stuburt as well. We are really looking to elevate all our brands, and tour endorsement is still a key part of that puzzle.
“There is so much potential for growth with our brands that I’m now looking to consolidate. I’ve been offered premium hardware brands, I’m just not sure they are a fit for the business. BIG MAX is relatively untapped in the UK yet they dominate in the German speaking nations so there is a lot of potential there with both bags and trolleys. Farah is a big focus next season, as it’s a hot high street brand that I believe we’ve got at exactly the right time. And the potential for Oscar Jacobson going forward is huge with North American market opening up. But despite all of that, I do have an itch for a golf ball brand, that really would complete the line-up. So never say never…” GR