Golf Retailing Editor Dan Owen caught up with Joe Miller, European Product Manage at SRIXON Sports Europe, to find out about their new Centre of Excellence at Hartford Golf Club in Cheshire.
Tell us about the new Centre of Excellence?
We’ve been getting a huge volume of enquiries into customer services and online about wanting to try the product. We don’t have as big a network of retailers as some of the other brands, but those that we do have, we really want to look after them. With our three brands, we have a large portfolio of products, and often a retailer may only stock one or two of the brands, but have customers who want to try the other product. It’s been a difficult time to make such a large investment, however, these plans were in place before the pandemic, and we knew it was right to carry through with them.
Having centres like Hartford gives us venues where those customers can try all of our products in every possible specification. A good example would be utility irons, where we have two huge bags of demo product, where ordinarily they might be lucky to be able to try one club. We have over 140 shafts in our demo matrix, the fitting combinations are almost endless.
The fitting sessions can be booked through a retailer, so the customer gets the experience they want and the sale of any product goes through them. Rather than having one central fitting centre, we are regionalising them. Golfers are willing to travel a couple of hours for a proper fitting. This centre is great for the North of England. A second will be opening in the South. No expense has been spared on either site, and we will be opening more over the coming years.
How has 2021 been for SRIXON Sports Europe?
We’ve had a fantastic first half of the year. There is a real demand for our products. Our wood sales have increased, having two major wins with our driver models in recent years has really helped validate the product. And there are still many tour players using Cleveland wedges with no contract, which is a great showcase for the product.
How have you dealt with product shortages that are effecting the whole industry this year?
Shipping is a major issue. Like everyone this year, we’ve had some product shortages, but we’ve been airfreighting components where possible, absorbing the costs ourselves to ensure our retailers have product as quickly as possible. But factories had to close for months. And then when they reopened they were only at 50% capacity. We’re pleased that we’ve sold more hardware than ever before, but we are aware we could have sold even more if it wasn’t for the problems getting the product into the country. Where we are lucky is we have two factories producing golf balls 24/7, so we’re very fortunate not to have any shortages there.
Which of your products has caught the public’s attention?
Our CBX 2 and CBX Full Face wedge models have been good. There is an acknowledgement that they aren’t just mass-produced chunky golf clubs. There is a lot of technology in them, that helps the average golfer, and we have seen other brands introduce cavity back wedges.
Our ZX iron range has been even more successful. The new ZX4 iron offers that hollow-bodied distance iron that is so popular, but it’s not as chunky at address as many of our competitors. It has really opened SRIXON up to a wider range of golfers.
Why is custom fitting so important to SRIXON?
SRIXON is a brand targeted towards serious golfers, golfers who are considered in their approach to hardware. Players who have an idea of what they want, but also want to have that backed up with data. They want their specific grips, they want their choice of shaft, so we are here to help accommodate that. The Cleveland golfer is more recreational, so fitting is less important but still offered. Then we have XXIO, which although isn’t fitted in a traditional sense, is very targeted in its approach and who it is designed for.
Why should a retailer want to stock your products?
If you look across the three brands, we offer some of the highest quality equipment, and we offer something for everyone. We cover all bases, including seniors and ladies. There’s growing consumer demand for what we offer. And importantly we offer a much healthier margin than most hardware brands do, especially ones that there is a demand for. Generally, the golf brands with the strongest demand have the lowest margins, but we offer great margins on products golfers are seeking out.
I think our long product cycles are good for both consumers and retailers. It’s always two years, and sometimes 2 and a half between product cycles. That gives the consumer confidence that they won’t suddenly be replaced and made redundant. For the retailer, it means they won’t have to deal with closeout product. And when we launch a new product, we’ve had a significant amount of time to improve upon it, which with 12-month cycles, isn’t always the case.
What can we look forward to from SRIXON and Cleveland going forward?
I’m really excited for Cleveland. In the next 12-14 months there will be some new products with strong technologies and expanded offerings. It’s the best Cleveland hardware launch we’ve ever had. And AD333 is being refreshed shortly and that’s such an important ball model for us. GR