Fair Play for the Fairway
… and then the businessman woke up in a bathtub filled with ice only to find his kidney was gone! Eating Pop Rocks and drinking Coke will cause stomach damage! Walt Disney has been cryogenically frozen!
The best urban legends revolve around some rather unsavory themes, don't they? Here's one more you might not have heard: "Golf" is actually an acronym for "Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden." Not true.
In fact, 2010 marks the 60th anniversary for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). And while Michele Wie might not quite be a household name, according to a "Top 10 Endorsement Superstars" listing in Fortune, she raked in an estimated $19.5 million in 2007, placing her ahead of Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning.
You don't have to be Wie, however, to make money on the golf course. Top-ranking CEOs and sales professionals have been doing it for years, but these days whether it's on the fairway or the boardroom, the "old boy's club" is starting to take some new members.
According to Bill Gardiner, vice president at Grandview, Missouri-based Zorrel International, the change is taking root in academia. "You can tell by the graduation rates from school. Women are going through university at a higher rate than men. … We have to be reactive to that change," he explained. One way of doing so is by paying close attention to the design of women's golf apparel. One silhouette does not fit all. The details are what separates the women from the girls in the golf apparel sector.
Gardiner identified three areas where ladies' styles differ: they're shaped at the waist, feature capped sleeves and have a narrower placket. But unless you're wearing the garment, the placket is what most sets the women's half of a companion style apart from its mate. Some of the current incarnations include multiple buttons, open johnny collars or even a zipper. Matt Waterman, senior marketing manager for Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Hanesbrands, parent company of Outer Banks and Hanes Printables, emphasized its importance. "Probably the most distinctive difference is in the women's placket. [It] comes in a variety of forms … which helps distinguish that it is not a man's shirt," he said.
Offering brighter, more fashion-friendly colors is another way to appeal to this market. Lea Robinson, vice president of sales and marketing at Dallas-based Staton Corporate & Casual, named apple green, butter yellow and aqua blue as just a few new hues for this year.
Interestingly, Robinson also explained a key difference between ladies' polo shirts and performance golf shirts on the whole. On sport-specific performance polos—higher-tech apparel which both Robinson and Gardiner pointed to as the future of golf gear—"The sleeves are hemmed and not tapered," she said, which means they fall naturally as opposed to gripping the arm. The shirts are also longer in length and include moisture-wicking and antimicrobial properties, she said. Though the price point is slightly higher on these styles, she emphasized that in this case, samples can quell objections. "It's important for the customer to feel the difference in weight, texture of fabric, length of sleeve and design," Robinson said.
But despite increasingly technical properties, fit will always be the deciding factor for women's apparel. In the effort to maintain what Robinson called "curve appeal," it's important to remember there's a niche within a niche. Waterman was quick to point out that being able to accommodate multiple sizes within a women's golf promotion just might make the sale. "While that tight, little cotton-spandex polo might look cute in a catalog, it may not be a good fit for everyone," he said. "Distributors need to think about the fit for all of the women participating in the promotion."