2002: Business - FootJoy tightens grip on glove market

By John Steinbreder

With the sluggish economy and a general lack of growth throughout the game, there aren’t many golf companies setting records these days. And it’s hard to believe that a business could thrive in the current environment, which industry veterans describe as one of the toughest in memory.

But FootJoy is making the best of the situation in the glove category – mostly at its competitors’ expense. FootJoy recently achieved its highest share ever in the glove business at on- and off-course retailers.

The brand posted a 47.7 unit share of the glove market for August, according to Maria Bonzagni, director of marketing for FootJoy gloves and accessories. She cited numbers provided by Golf Datatech, the golf research and consulting firm based in Kissimmee, Fla., that also show FootJoy’s closest competitor is Titleist, also owned by the Acushnet Co., with 9.7 percent. Together, they dwarf their nearest rivals, Nike and Etonic, neither of which can claim double-digit share.

“Our previous high was 47 nearly three years ago,” says Bonzagni. “And needless to say, we are happy to get over that mark.”

Company executives also have to be pleased with their overall performance for the first six months of 2002. Datatech numbers provided by FootJoy show that it had a 46 percent unit share of a market in which approximately 1.1 million dozen gloves are sold annually and a 51 percent dollar share of a business that will produce about $125 million in wholesale sales this year. Again, the closest competitor in each case is Titleist, with shares of 9.5 and 12, respectively.

No business has done as well with gloves as FootJoy, which has 65 sales representatives and makes all its products in a factory it owns and operates in Thailand. Titleist has an impressive second-place share of the on- and off-course market, and Nike has made great gains since Tiger Woods has helped spur purchases from the company’s entire product line. Also, Callaway has made its presence felt with a more than 2 percent unit share in August.

The reason for FootJoy’s success? Many retailers say the company makes good, consistent products along with great distribution and service. Plus it offers a wide range of products and price points.

All told, FootJoy has 11 glove models, and the two best sellers are their two oldest. The leader is WeatherSof, a combination glove made mostly of synthetic leather that was introduced in 1990 and retails for $12. According to Bonzagni, it became the top-selling glove after only four years and continues to hold that position, with an 18.8 unit share of the August on- and off-course business. The all-leather Sta-Sof, which has been around since 1980, had an August share of 13.1 and is the top-selling leather glove in the world.

“You can’t say enough about having those two models,” says Ken Morton Jr., director of retail for Haggin Oaks Golf Shop in Sacramento, Calif. They have been out there for so long, and done so well, that they have become a given in many people’s minds, like Oreos when consumers think of cookies.”

Despite its huge lead, FootJoy plans to keep pushing hard. Bonzagni said the company expects to launch new products in January, among them a next-generation combination glove.

The hope for company officials, of course, is that the new items will help FootJoy set another market share record in the near future.



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