Editor Dan Owen caught up with Lionel Caron, President of Srixon Sports Europe, at the opening of their new Centre of Excellence at The Hertsmere, to find out how the brand is expanding its reach in the UK and beyond.
Tell me about the new Centre of Excellence?
We are in the process of opening Centres of Excellence in all the main European countries that we look after through direct distribution. We opened our first one in the UK in Hartford near Manchester at the tail end of last year. There are plans in place for Scotland and Ireland too. Because the English market is so large, we decided to open another one in the South of England at The Hertsmere, near Watford in North London.
We chose The Hertsmere as we wanted a facility close to London. But we also wanted somewhere modern and progressive. The facilities are fantastic, and with the addition of Toptracer, it attracts both serious golfers and newcomers to the game.
The Centres of Excellence are fantastic facilities, where the end consumer can receive an in-depth fitting across the three brands of Srixon, Cleveland, and XXIO. We offer an incredible amount of club heads, custom shafts and grips to really fine-tune the fitting process to help create the golfer their perfect set of clubs.
How have sales been for the three brands this year?
Obviously, we are facing some of the same logistical issues with supply as other brands due to the restrictions in place in Asia due to Covid. We try to face all of the challenges in front of us. We have some facilities in Japan which haven’t been affected too heavily by Covid. But for product manufactured in Vietnam, we’ve had a lot of lockdown related issues to deal with.
Despite that, it’s been a great start to the season, and our new products are selling fantastically. XXIO 12 has launched across the UK and Europe and that has had a
strong start. The Cleveland Golf Launcher XL line up is also just hitting stores. It offers the game improvement category real performance and help, at a more palatable price than many of our competitors. I’m excited by how this range will perform for retailers as the clubs are so easy to hit. Srixon has launched a few new golf ball models, but the Z-Star Diamond as used by our new signing Brooks Koepka is the key one, it’s a different type of tour golf ball.
Has the Brooks Koepka signing helped so far?
Definitely. He’s a great character. He’s a strong player who is very charismatic. He has already brought attention to the brand in a way that I’m not sure any other player has in our history. And it’s important that he’s not only playing the golf ball. He is using Cleveland wedges. He is playing Srixon irons. He has the ZX5 driver in play. He trusts the equipment throughout the bag and that is a great indicator
of the performance of our equipment.
How does the UK market differ to the European market?
The UK market is much larger than each of the individual Continental European markets. Golf culture is much stronger in the UK, you see golf as a competitive sport. Generally, across Europe it’s seen more as entertainment, a leisure activity. There are more casual golfers. That’s a very different mindset and creates differences in what they want from their golf equipment.
From a business perspective, distribution in the UK is much more focused on the on course, green grass retailer. The professional in the UK has a very strong personal relationship with their members and consumers. Across Europe off course retailers are the stronger channel.
XXIO has been a great success across Europe. We made the decision not to put the brand everywhere, and selected retailers we felt had the right audience for the product. We wanted to build some geographical exclusivity and protection for each retailer. The product matches very well with the demographic of the European golfer, they are so easy to hit, incredibly powerful, and offer plenty of help that the more casual golfer will enjoy. There is a real WOW effect with XXIO, and when golfers try it they cant believe how easy to hit the product is. It really comes down to getting the product in the hands of the golfer.
We have started to emulate that across the UK. We want no more than 50 doors over the next 12 months, and 100 retailers over the next two years. We want the brand in the best locations, working with reliable business partners who want to push and promote the brand and build it to the level it is in Continental Europe. XXIO is a very strong performer for older golfers and ladies, and we believe that’s a market that isn’t being catered to very well. Post covid we are seeing a lot more women coming to the game and we aim to capitalise on that.
What is the advantage of having three brands?
Our strength is that we carry a portfolio of three different brands. Most of our competitors put everything under one brand. We can really target the consumer for each of those brands, rather than having to be all things for all people.
Cleveland is dedicated to the game improvement players, as well as being short-game specialists. Srixon is our tour brand, dedicated to serious golfers with beautiful, forged irons and powerful drivers. XXIO is dedicated to the affluent golfer, and the lower swing speed older golfer and lady golfer. The only negative is it means we have to split or marketing three ways.
Why should a retailer stock your products if they don’t already?
I always want to reiterate that we have a B2B approach to the business, and never want to deal with the consumer directly. Most brands are trying to explore ways in which they can deal with the consumer directly via their website and personalised product, but we do not want to do that. I don’t believe the golf market in the UK and Europe is big enough to be able to offer B2C retailing. We want to support the retailers; we want to make sure that the retailer makes money with our product – XXIO is a product with strong margins for retailers. The more support we can offer the retailer, the bigger the brands will become. GR