FIT FOR THE COURSE
THOSE WHO ARE intimately involved with the complexities of the golf game are generally interested in the latest and greatest golf equipment, including clubs, practice tools, ball markers, golf bags and the like (see page 22). However, when was the last time anyone heard the announcer at a golf tournament highlight a player’s high-tech polo or fancy footwear? Other players in other sports get it. Consider tennis’ famed Williams sisters who gained worldwide acclaim (aside from their wicked backhands) for the more-stylish-than-usual mini skirts and cropped tops they donned during each match.
Well, consider this as golf apparel’s runway debut. According to two industry suppliers, a golfer’s apparel is just as important to his or her game as is the equipment. And these days, promotional golf apparel is outfitting players in top-quality garments from head to toe that are sure to improve one’s game, both on and off the course.
WHEN THE SHOE FITS (THE PROMOTION), WEAR IT
The hottest and newest things to hit the promotional golf apparel market this year are custom golf shoes, according to Taryn Householder, graphics and marketing manager at Cleveland-based Par One Golf Specialties. She said the company’s MyJoys Contour and DryJoys Tech shoes can be custom-designed in a range of colors with personalization, a corporate logo or event information on the heel. By offering short lead times and low minimums, Householder said the shoes “are becoming more popular every day.”
She further pointed to FootJoy apparel as being one of the leading clothing lines for golf. “I think trends in golf apparel are ... new materials, textures and fibers to help [regulate] body temperature and dryness,” she said.
THE DRY TRUTH
Speaking of dryness, by now, everyone should know high-tech fabrics are what’s driving golf apparel. In fact, Dennis Rhodes, corporate and promotional sales manager at Pro Am Golf, St. Louis, said all the new trends focus on “lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics” as what are keeping players comfortable on the course. “[These fabrics] also give UV protection, as well as [have] anti-microbial features woven into the garment,” he explained.
Besides high-tech fabrics, Rhodes said golf apparel has evolved over the years to include more fashionable styles and color options. He said elements of “brighter, more fashionable colors are being used, along with more tapered cuts, which moves away from the more traditional looks of the past,” namely the standard cotton piqué polos.
CUE INTO QUALITY
But, everyone’s talking about the overall improved quality of golf apparel. As many name-brand companies have entered the promotional market, they provide a strong selling point for distributors looking for the top brands to sell and the highest quality for their clients, Rhodes pointed out.
“The quality of the garments has gotten so much better, it has become a great way for the customer to make a strong presentation for any event,” he said. “Most end-users are looking for the best quality available at a competitive price.”
Householder agreed, adding, “End-users are looking for well-made apparel they feel comfortable wearing and purchasing. Quality is key.”
Due to higher-quality choices and fashion elements being added to golf apparel, both Rhodes and Householder said the garments have unmistakable crossover appeal. Said Householder, “Comfortable pullovers and wind shirts can be worn on or off the course, getting corporate identity shown just about anywhere.”
In addition, she noted the usefulness of golf apparel in the wild world of business. “Many business meetings take place on the course,” she said. “What better way to continuously put your company in the mind of your client throughout the game, even when you’re not ‘talking shop’ during a long putt?”
For customers wanting to look great at a great price, both companies offer a variety of garments for every budget. Pro Am Golf carries outerwear, T-shirts and moisture-wicking garments at varying price ranges, with top sales coming from its Nike Dri-fit Tech and Adidas Clima-cool polos. “We see another strong year ahead for both of these popular garments,” he assured.
At Par One Golf Specialties, Householder said the company sells a selection of golf apparel and accessories, including golf shirts, mocks, windshirts, jackets, pants, sunglasses, watches, caps, shoes and gloves. “FootJoy gloves are probably [our] most popular, since they are the No. 1 glove in golf, and most golfers use a glove,” she said. While the items are not logoed, Householder also pointed out sunglasses are a big seller for corporate programs. Furthermore, she said distributors should consider selling uniform programs to high school and collegiate golf teams, as well as to women’s leagues. “There are very low minimums for apparel and I think some distributors miss these markets,” she said.
To help distributors sell golf apparel more effectively, both Householder and Rhodes offered valuable advice.
“Many distributors only think of golf apparel when a customer comes to them for a golf event,” noted Householder. However, she said “corporate incentive programs and employee reward programs are great areas for selling premium golf items.”
In an even more creative twist, Householder suggested distributors approach companies with such programs to find out not what the company itself is about, but what its workers do when they are not at work. “These are the items employees will value when they are away from the job,” she said.
Rhodes offered a slightly different approach. He said golf apparel could be included as part of a package of other items as a gift or promotional tool. He said golf apparel could also be used as a means to enhance a bigger goal or sales promotion. For example, if a customer orders 48 polo shirts, the customer could then receive a $100 gift card, good for use with the distributor’s company, according to Rhodes.
FORE THE FUTURE
While he does not particularly believe in making predictions, Rhodes said he sees “continued growth in this area based on the effort [of] manufacturers to keep placing new and innovative products in the marketplace.” He praised golf apparel manufacturers’ commitment to stay at the forefront of the latest technology, in the same way as the golf equipment industry strives for innovation.
Householder, on the other hand, was not shy about her predictions: “Sales are going to keep growing,” she stated.
With all the apparel choices out there, it is clear that looking good has become a priority on the links.