Worldwide Golf Brands live up to their name

    Editor Dan Owen caught up with Graeme Stevens, founder and Managing Director of WWGB to find out how they are looking to expand their business following a year of investment and growth.

    How have the last 12 months been for WWGB?

    Last year was fantastic. The whole industry had a great 2021. Whatever stock you had sold almost instantly. We’re still doing well this year, but business is back to 2019 levels. Our sales are strong, and with the addition of the new brands, we are up on last year.

    However, we’re having to be more efficient. The season hasn’t really started just yet. If you had forecast another increase on last year’s sales, you might not achieve that this year. Last year, brands had opportunities because competitors didn’t have their usual stock levels, but this season everyone is well stocked.

    People are also spending on travel rather than new equipment, which isn’t all bad for us as it means we’re selling travel covers hand over fist. We’ve got containers of them coming in constantly, but stock is going out as soon as we can get it. Last week we sold 12,000 of them. But if you take package sets, which were like hen’s teeth last year, retailers now have plenty of stock.

    Then if you add the war in Ukraine, plus the rising cost of living, the market isn’t as buoyant as the last couple of years. It’s levelled back to the pre-pandemic boom a bit quicker than the industry probably hoped for.

    How have the new brands done?

    It’s been a really good start. Big Max is doing well, it’s a really premium product range that gets us into some different doors.

    Farah Golf has started strongly. It’s been performing really well and the signs are that it could be a great brand for us. We just need to open some more doors to take those next steps. I’m looking at adding to the WWGB sales team, so we can cover the country more efficiently. When our Sales Agents are looking after a big area with five brands, it can be difficult to get the most from each brand.

    And like everyone we have had stock issues. The majority of provinces we deal with in China have had at least a six week lockdown with Shanghai the most severely shutdown. That has a big effect on production. If one of our suppliers gets their buttons from Shanghai for example, that could have a serious trickledown effect on our business.

    You’ve invested heavily in business infrastructure, how is that going to help the retailer?

    Last year we moved into our new offices and warehouse. It’s a huge space, but it means we can hold more stock than previously, which has been very useful with the pandemic boom.

    We’ve invested over £1 million in an SAP system that goes live in July. It’s a huge investment but it should revolutionise the efficiency of the business. It’s taken a year to integrate and train our staff on how to use it and make the most of it.

    It’ll speed up everything we do. It gives us easy access to all of our sales and logistics data, which we’ll be able to analyse for much more accurate forecasting. It cuts out human error by automating the order process, with orders going directly to the warehouse rather than through the office. Orders are scanned every step of the way to ensure the correct items are picked.

    We’re also working hard on improving our returns service. I want to apologise to our retail partners, as it has been a weakness, but we’re investing heavily to radically improve it. A new bespoke computer system that we’ve had created for WWGB is now being integrated, and we think it will set the standard for the golf industry.

    Returns are something that currently takes a lot of time internally, but the new system will automate the majority of the process. All returns can be logged online, credit notes can automatically be generated. It’s much more streamlined. Consumers will also be able to deal with us directly on returns, helping the retailer by cutting them out of the process. The system is very easy to use. It allows the consumer to upload pictures of any faulty products and we can get replacement product to them the next day.

    Tell us about your plans for Stuburt?

    While Stuburt will always be a brand offering great value to the retailer and consumer, which is something we never want to lose, we are going to be moving the brand positioning a little higher over the next two years. We’re going to use better fabrics and utilise different factories. The styling is going to be cleaner. It’s more of a lifestyle take on golf. It’s going to be slightly more limited in distribution, we’re going to invest more in point of sale and we will have a Tour presence. We’re still going to be at lower price points than our competitors, but we are raising the price so that we can invest more into the quality of the product and make it more desirable to the consumer.

    As well as apparel, we’re working hard on the footwear. All our shoes will be spikeless and waterproof, they’ll be a multi-purpose hybrid. We think they will appeal to the outdoors market as well as golf because of their versatility. We want Stuburt shoes to have a strong identity and be something that you’ll feel comfortable wearing away from the course as well as on it.

    How are you looking to grow WWGB?

    We’re currently in the process of adding more directors to the business. We’re recruiting for Finance and Operations Directors using Rowan, a leading headhunting firm in Manchester. They’ll add vast amounts of experience to the company, and they are being recruited from a pool of people who have experience in doubling the turnover of companies our size.

    Part of the recruitment process has involved a psychological analysis of myself, to understand my strengths and weaknesses, plus interviews with all my management team to help recruit the right people that complement my strengths. I can focus on product development and sourcing, which are two areas I excel at, but haven’t been able to focus on as I’ve been overseeing every area of the business.

    The Operations Director will take on a lot of my day to responsibilities. It’s common as businesses grow and expand for the founders to try and do everything, but this can hold the business back. You need people who are better than you in different areas to continue that growth.

    We’re also being offered new brands all the time, but I don’t want to take them on for the sake of it. We have a strong selection of brands that cover most areas of the industry so rather than focussing on acquiring new brands, we are busy expanding the reach of our current brands worldwide. We’ve just come back from the Golftech international sales meeting, where we presented to Golftech’s international distributors. Golftech only work with the #1 or #2 distributor in each market. These distributors are taking on MacGregor, Stuburt, and Oscar Jacobson where they haven’t already got a competing brand, and we will have new distribution across Europe, Australia, and India. International expansion will grow the business more than just focusing on the UK ever will.

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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.