CMO Fred Lecoq discusses the programs and partnerships that are meant to drive more women and youth to its stores.
“We don’t want to be seen as a warehouse of golf, we want to be seen as a house of golf, a home.”
According to Frederick Lecoq, chief marketing officer at Sporting Life Group, Golf Town wants to make a closer connection between “golf addicts” and the brand, echoing what president Chad McKinnon said in a release that he wanted the store to become a hub for the golf community.
And part of making that connection, says Lecoq, is hosting public events to support both Golf Town’s messaging and promote the brands it stocks in store, as well as reach more women and families.
Lecoq says the brand has been working to improve its kids offerings (through things like Golf Town’s First Swing partnership that launched this May with the Canadian Junior Golf Association, and which teaches boys and girls the game’s fundamentals), and also to speak to more women, who Lecoq concedes represent about 25% of its sales.
And there is opportunity for the brand to connect more with the female demo because of young, homegrown talent who are helping to grow the game.
On July 2, for instance, a Golf Town outlet in Aurora, Ontario hosted Smiths Falls golfer and three-time Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year, Brooke Henderson. Henderson, the first Canadian to win a major national title in 45 years, is inspiring next-gen women golfers and corporate sponsors are taking note: her list of major backers includes Rolex, MasterCard, RBC and Ping.
According to Lecoq, her popularity gave it a chance to “tell the Ping story,” by giving away 250 Ping-branded “Brooke’s Brigade” swag to fans of the young player, who, at 21, is already the winningest Canadian golfer in the country’s history and ranked in the top 10 worldwide.
“We also run women’s clinics on a regular basis with Lisa Longball,” Lecoq says. Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk is an eight-time Canadian Long Drive National Champion for women and also a golf columnist for the Calgary Herald. Lecoq says that a recent clinic drew 1,500 golfers and supported the Calloway brand (Lisa Longball is a Calloway athlete), and also helped to drive interest in the sport among women.
Golf Town recently retooled its Richmond, B.C. flagship store in April (12 months in the making), where golfers can have their clubs get adjusted or regripped. The location also features simulators to practice their swing while they wait.
He says the brand has been putting more greens in stores and that it spent one million dollars upgrading its swing technology with GCHawk and Quad Foresight (GCHawk is an overhead-mounted launch monitor that tracks a golfer’s swing using high-speed camera and sensors; while Quad Foresight analyzes touch points between a ball and when a club makes a connection with it on the tee).
In May, Golf Town also opened pop-up stores in B.C. and Alberta to test the smaller markets with smaller store sizes. Lecoq says it’s working on a specialized custom and apparel fitting concept store for downtown Toronto, and a lab concept for Woodbridge in the GTA, which includes printing machines for aficionados to have their balls customized with their name, messages and graphics.
The retailer’s business is tied to the weather and so Lecoq says it is looking to drive traffic to the store during quieter fall and winter months by organizing an e-sports competitions, which will be rolled out across its 47 stores. The way Lecoq envisions it, Vancouver customers will be able to do battle against Moncton thousands of kilometres away. The brand is going to crown a Golf Town Champion after a playoff format/round robin tournament.
When it comes to weathering the storm of the “Amazon Effect,” Lecoq says Golf Town’s strategy is not to compete with the online player by being something it’s not. He adds that part of the appeal of a retailer that’s built around a singular category, like sport, is in being in a place where people share the same passion. At Golf Town, for instance, customers often talk with staffers about which courses they’ve played and get their advice on how to approach different holes.
“I have 47 doors, as well as PGA Canada professionals in my stores, and I can get [a shopper] custom fitted and find [them] a club tailored to and specific to [their] swing – you can’t get that online,” he says of brand partnerships and programs that will sometimes see the retailer arrange a custom-fitting session or give away a matching sleeve of balls with the purchase of a new club that’s being launched in stores, for example.
“I believe that in retail, you need to play with being transactional, functional and emotional. If you’re not playing with these three, you will at some point disconnect with customers,” he says, likening the retail experience to visiting candy stores in his native France, where there are immersive smells and a sensory experience. You can buy these things online, he says, but you would miss the emotional rewards.