Derek Richford, managing director of Golfstream, explains his company’s alliance with Greenhill and what it means for the power trolley market.
Earlier this year, Golfstream and Greenhill joined forces to collectively manufacture and market trolleys that are made in Britain. Tell us about that?
It’s a strategic alliance between two popular and well-respected trolley brands from which both benefit by sharing resources and economies of scale. By sharing manufacturing, sales and marketing resources, the new group offers the world’s largest range of quality, reliable electric golf trolleys that are 100 percent designed, manufactured and built in the UK.
All Golfstream and Greenhill trolleys are manufactured entirely from UK-made components by world leading engineering company Standel Dawman – who have been supplying the golf trade for over 30 years.
While the trolleys are built in Nelson, Lancashire, all sales, marketing, administration and customer care is handled by Golfstream in Ramsgate, Kent. Golfstream also handles the supply of all spare parts and accessories for both brands.
How does this benefit the trade customer?
Firstly, sharing resources means both brands can operate more cost-effectively and this enables better margins for our customers. Also, when golfers buy a Golfstream or Greenhill trolley they know they are getting quality and reliability that is not compromised by parts that are mass-produced in China. Every component part that goes into a Golfstream or Greenhill trolley is made in Britain. Spare parts, for example, will not go obsolete. Anyone who owns a Golfstream or Greenhill trolley can be sure of total support for the lifespan of the trolley. There is total reliability across the board – in product quality, in product supply and in after-care.
And it has also enabled you to develop new products?
Yes. We’ve already launched two new trolleys – the DV.8 remote and Duo. The DV.8 is now our flagship product and is a fully remote controlled trolley meaning it can go forwards, left, right, faster slower and even in reverse from the touch of the handset button. It has a fold under front wheel as well as a fold under anti-tip wheel at the back. This makes for a really small storage envelope. The golf bag is held at the top by the side arms and not by the central beam so bag twist is eradicated. Added to this is twin motors, mudguards and sprung suspension, plus a high-powered lithium battery that offers the very best lightweight long life power source available in golf today.
The Duo is our latest mid-range machine and we are really excited about how well it has been received at launch. The Duo has two fold points so folds smaller than a single fold machine. In addition the side arms are used to hold the bag rather than the central beam, eliminating bag twist, just like the DV.8. It has full digital functionality – but if any customer wants a basic stop/start, faster/slower machine the Duo can be programmed to be exactly that.
Golfstream is well-known for its spare parts business – is that still important?
Very much so, as we now have the biggest range of spare parts available anywhere in the UK and sell many parts which have been discontinued by other leading manufacturers. A lot of golfers come to us initially for spares and are so delighted with our service that we are first choice when their old brand trolley finally gives up altogether and they’re in the market for an alternative make.
What other trolleys make up the Golfstream range for 2014?
The Evolution is the entry level machine, full digital functionality with a single fold. We sell a huge amount of these as rental trolleys in clubs all over Europe and when we do so we always set the machine to have ‘simplicity mode’ where it has just faster/slower on/off, the golf clubs love it! Then there’s the iconic Golfstream Revolution, the trolley that started it all for us. With a Gun Grip handle and uniquely fast folding mechanism there is still nothing quite like a Golfstream Revolution if you want the best British engineering can offer; four very different machines that offer real choice in style, price and function.
What sets the Golfstream apart from the rest?
When we started in 2008 it was wholly because all of the ‘big boys’ had moved their component sourcing, and in many cases trolley build, to the Far East. I wanted to keep manufacturing of the golf trolley in the UK and we have proved over the last five or six years that it is not only viable but exactly what the consumer wants. So, what makes us different? We buy all of the trolley components in the UK and we build here in the UK. That gives the customer 100 percent confidence in quality and reliability – and on those rare occasions when a part does break, a replacement is always in stock and not on a ‘slow boat from China’.
What will be the next big thing in trolley design?
Lithium batteries have been the must-have for 2014. At Golfstream we sell the CaddyCell brand and have to say that demand has gone through the roof. There are always tweaks and developments in trolley design but they’re never really ground breaking. Bigger strides can be made in trolley electronics and batteries.
How would you assess the UK golf trolley market?
It’s very interesting. Fifteen years ago and it was dominated by just one main brand, but today there are at least six serious players in the market and the ‘big boys’ are much less dominant than they were before the recession. From our own perspective, Golfstream is a genuine alternative to the two brand leaders in the sector and our sales are growing every year. Trade customers want reliability and the best customer care they can get. We believe we beat everyone else on those two aspects of business – and this is reflected in our growth.
Lithium batteries seem to have taken the market by storm. How will battery technology develop?
It’s phenomenal really and we’ve seen a tremendous uplift in sales of CaddyCell lithium batteries. We’ve got to try and forecast what our growth will be like in 2015 and that’s an interesting challenge – although a nice one to have. Initially a basic Lithium Ion battery was used in golf, this could offer around 300 cycles (charges and discharges) which at the time was great. Nowadays we use LiFePO4, this is a lithium polymer battery that will offer over 1,000 cycles and is a fraction lighter too. I would urge all customers to research what battery they are being offered – even by some of the big players. Li-ion is to be avoided, LiFePO4 is the only way forward. The general trend going forwards will be for batteries to get lighter and smaller while delivering more power. But for now LiFePO4 is proving to be superb.
Why has the trolley market grown so quickly and trolleys become so popular?
I think golfers now truly understand the health benefits of using a powered trolley – as well as the positive impact that then has on their golf. The risks of short term muscle strain and more serious long term damage to the spine caused by carrying of around 15kg of golf kit on your shoulders is obvious. Any golfer who regularly uses an electric machine won’t go back to carrying – even for just for one round. Many golfers who carry bags will tell you that by the 15th or so hole their back and shoulders are tired and their swing suffers when they carry. There are no such issues with an electric trolley. When they first came out, electric trolleys were seen as the domain of the elderly or infirm! Not any more.