Why three brands are better than one…

    Editor Dan Owen spoke to Joe Miller, European Product Manager at Srixon Sports Europe, to find out why it is an advantage having Srixon, Cleveland, and XXIO under one umbrella.


    Signing Brooks Koepka was huge coup for Srixon. Has it made an impact already?
    Definitely, Koepka is our biggest player signing in years. We’ve probably missed having that American marquee player previously. He’s got a huge following and he’s not afraid to say what he thinks. And that honesty translates into his belief in the Srixon equipment he is now playing. It has translated into increased awareness and much bigger pre books for 2022.
    We exhibited at the Birmingham Golf Show, and in my 17 years with the company I have never known for there to be so much interest in Srixon product. I think that has to partly be down to Koepka.

    There was some expectancy as people were surprised when he switched in to our irons last year. But it has been a long process, and our team in Japan have been very respectful toward him, making sure he wasn’t mentioned prior to him signing. We needed to make sure we had a ball that he liked before we would sign him as the ball is integral to Srixon’s business. And he loves the Z-Star Diamond. He’s playing Cleveland wedges now and he’s using the ZX Driver which is huge for us. But so are Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama. These are demanding players who require the best tools in the game and we deliver that.

    Can you explain where Z-Star Diamond fits into the range, and why it might appeal to their customers?
    While it is new to retail, Z-Star Diamond has been available to our tour players for a little while. At its most basic level it fits between the Z-Star and Z-Star XV. But that really doesn’t tell the whole story. We took tour player feedback to find out what they wanted from a golf ball. Obviously driver distance was key. But so was the ability to hold the green with long to mid irons.
    It has the compression of the XV at 102. And it has the cover thickness of a Z-Star at 0.6mm. We know that a higher compression ball will spin more, and we know that large core will it’ll retain ball speed. But it’s not as simple as just using the Z-Star cover with a XV core. The cover has a different hardness to either ball. It features a different dimple pattern which helps get the ball through the window the pros like to see.

    How sales been for the three brands so far this season?
    We’ve had our biggest ever prebook. I’ve been with the company for a long time and have watched it grow but it’s been an unprecedented start to a year.
    I think as a business it helps us that we have three brands that aren’t on one year product cycles. Each brand has a target audience. Srixon are for serious golfers. XXIO offer equipment for a player looking for the best of the best who may have lost some distance. Cleveland offer forgiving product for golfers who just want to enjoy their game while being at a competitive price point. Of course there is some crossover, but they all have distinct audiences.
    We aren’t always rushing new product out, but we still have exciting launches every year. As a Japanese company we want to ensure our customers are happy with the product and feel like it is worth what they have paid for it. The two year cycles really help club fitters get behind products and understand them inside out. We tend to believe in evolution rather than revolution. It takes a long time to create equipment with genuine improvement.

    Last time we spoke you had opened a new Centre of Excellence. Has it been a success and are their plans for more?
    The Centre of Excellence at Hartford Golf Club has been fantastic and it is constantly booked out. We want to build a network around the country and across Europe where golfers can be fit from all the available options. There are over 150 shafts in the fitting matrix for example.
    This is just the start. We opened a centre just outside of Paris. There will be a new centre opening in North London in the coming months. We have a centre planned for Glasgow. Spain and Turkey are also being discussed. We want golfers to be able to be fit with no restrictions into our three hardware ranges.

    How has reception been to XXIO 12?
    Worldwide XXIO is growing at an incredible rate. In Japan XXIO dominates the market. It’s growing massively in the USA. Across Europe XXIO is on a real upturn. Ernie Els has been a great signing for the brand as he resonates with the target audience.
    Here in the UK we’ve had our best ever sales. We aren’t trying to be stocked in every pro shop. It’s a premium product that needs to be placed in the right accounts. XXIO 12 has real benefits to those golfers looking to find some of their old distance. The new X line up is great for the better player trying to regain some lost yardage. Again with the two yearly cycles, we are now getting repeat customers, asking how we can help them even more this time around.

    Last time we spoke, you were really excited as you had seen the Cleveland product. How has interest been there?
    The golf industry for many years has worked on clubs for tour pros first, and trickled back designs to work for the club player. The Cleveland Launcher XL woods and irons are designed for average golfers. They are lighter weight. They are built with high MOI for forgiveness. They’re designed to get the ball airborne and stay in the air. They taken some tricks learnt from XXIO such as the counterweight technology in the shafts to help improve consistency. Clubs such as the Halo iron have returned which have a cult following for their ease of use. Most importantly they are very keenly priced compared to most of the market.
    Cleveland are known for their wedges. But we are seeing a real upswing in sales of our cavity back wedges. Why should club golfers use bladed wedges like tour players? It doesn’t make sense. Our CBX ZipCore line up are designed to add consistency and forgiveness but still look great behind the ball. They are built at lighter weights and built to flow into a modern set of irons while offering versatility around the greens.

    What are you doing to help your retail partners this year?
    There is a lot of new POS material going in store, especially around Brooks Koepka and Z-Star Diamond. There are new stands going in for Cleveland Launcher XL line. We’re going to be advertising more this year, again mainly around Brooks Koepka. And like the supply issues with hardware, there have been logistic issues on that front too. Rest assured that we are going to capitalise on this strong start to the year and you will see us with much a much stronger presence in store. GR

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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.