Why TaylorMade are backing the retail custom revolution

    Golf Retailing sits down with TaylorMade EMEAP Managing Director and VP, David Silvers for a candid interview on the current market, recent impactful strategic decisions and the future of the TaylorMade business.

    Has the 2023 golf market played out as you forecasted?

    I think as an industry we have many reasons to feel positive about 2023. For starters the UK golf market has been very robust in the face of all the macro-economic factors that have emerged. Cost of living crisis, global unrest, erratic weather conditions, you name it we’ve had it!

    Yet if I look at this year’s sell-through numbers on clubs and balls via Golf Datatech, the UK golf market is 1% up versus last year and over 25% up on 2019, the last pre-covid year. I think that is an incredible result and underlines the great resilience of the golf market in challenging times. We have more golfers playing more often. Importantly they have a younger age profile, they like to spend money on premium products, and they are fuelling the growing trend towards customisation. What’s not to like about that!

    And for TaylorMade?

    To use a golfing analogy, I would say we have shot level par this year on a very tough course!

    We have just come off the back of 6 years of incredible growth both in terms of market share and sales, so our pace of growth was always going to slow down at some point. The great news is that we are still the number one club and ball brand in the UK and I firmly believe that is because we are focusing on what our retail partners want most – great product with compelling storylines backed up with consistent service combined with support instore and in fitting bays to allow them to add value to their proposition.

    From a product standpoint our introduction of Carbonwoods over the last 2 years has yielded great success and, looking ahead, the runway a carbon face gives our R&D team in terms of head design and performance is very exciting.

    We continue to be the leading iron brand in the UK thanks to Stealth irons performing very well in year 2 of their lifecycle and the recent introduction of a brand new P790 has injected some late season excitement into the category.

    Our golf ball business is really gathering pace now. We have very commercial golf balls at all the key price points and, with Tour Response Stripe and TP5 Pix, we are leading the way in the ever growing visual-technology space. We have big plans for our golf ball business, our pre-books are very strong for next year so hopefully your readers can see the excitement we are generating in this category.

    Other brands are now selling hardware directly to consumers, why has TaylorMade decided not to follow?

    Well first of all we don’t follow!

    Not only do we have to choose the right direction for TaylorMade, but we have to do what is right for the market. So, from our perspective it is simple. We have to give golfers what they want and need.

    There is certainly a growing trend for consumers to connect directly with brands. However, these same people also demand experiences and expert guidance, especially when considering premium products. In our industry that sought-after experience for the golfer is delivered best by the extensive network of high-quality retailers. A very high proportion of these top locations are our TaylorMade Select-fit partners and stockists.

    Working together with our retail partners, we fully intend to continue to lead this custom fit revolution and provide golfers with a great experience. So, we want to make it clear that we want to continue on this path together and therefore we are not offering our inline clubs for sale on our own UK website.

    And you will continue to sell soft goods, golf balls and limited-edition products on your website?

    Yes, we will, and I believe this works perfectly with our stance on inline clubs. It goes back to what the consumer wants.

    People visit our website if they cannot find a particular product they are looking for at retail. This could be a more unusual colour of golf bag or a funky golf ball hotshot. By offering choice in these categories or exciting them with a cool limited run product we create TaylorMade loyalists. By creating more brand advocates, we will create more demand for TaylorMade custom clubs in the future and we will continue to drive all of these golfers to our retail partners and fitting experts.

    Custom has been a noticeable focus for TaylorMade over the past few years, how will you continue this trajectory?

    It is the cornerstone of our strategy. We are injecting further funds to take our custom capabilities, service levels and consumer experiences to a whole new level to further enhance the added-value proposition that PGA Pros and fitting experts can provide for golfers.

    As one of our main competitors is now selling clubs directly at higher margin we are now at a competitive disadvantage so moving forward we are naturally looking for even more support from our retail partners. By investing in the custom experience we very much hope we can garner that support. We have got some cool stuff coming so watch this space!

    What industry trends do you predict in 2024?
    Well, there is going to be more than a sprinkling of colour and vis-tech in the golf ball market that is for sure!

    As always, I think the club market will be very competitive, which is a great thing for UK retailers. We have some spectacular products on the way which I believe will drive lots of people instore so I am very hopeful that we can play our part in the golf market maintaining 20% growth levels on 2019.

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    As an avid golfer since the age of eleven Dan lives and breathes all things golf.  With a current handicap of eleven he gets out and plays as often as his work life (and girlfriend) allows. Dan confesses to still being like a kid at Christmas when it comes to seeing the latest golf equipment. Having served as GolfPunk’s Deputy Editor, and resident golf geek for the past 13 years and working for golf's oldest brand, John Letters Dan brings to GOLF RETAILING an excellent understanding of the sector.