2005: Bag Boy makes Dynamic recovery
David Boardman, a top executive at push cart maker The Bag Boy Co., couldn’t be happier about the news he has been receiving lately.Club professionals, many of them from high-end facilities, have been sharing with Bag Boy their lobbying efforts before committees and boards to allow walking and push carts on their courses.
Their refrain is summed up by Bob Elliott, head professional at the Northwood Club in Dallas.
“People are more health conscious today,” says Elliott, who currently is in discussion with his club’s committee about adding a fleet of push carts for his membership. “It’s important to them . . . plus, if you pay $85,000 to join (a club), you ought to be able to play golf anyway you want.”
Such comments are music to Boardman’s ears.
The retro movement of golfers desiring to walk is responsible for fueling a remarkable turnaround at Bag Boy. One of the pioneers in bringing push carts into the 21st century, Bag Boy has capitalized on the walking trend and revitalized a brand that’s been part of the game since the 1940s.
The company’s most recent invention: A push cart with an innovative mechanism, which with a single pull folds the cart neatly in half.
Bag Boy’s uncanny knack to consistently develop user-friendly improvements also has allowed it to make inroads into other categories as well, including golf bags and travel covers.
The cart maker – one of three entities along with The Baby Jogger Co. and AMF Golf that comprise Dynamic Brands – is privately held and does not discuss its financial performance. But its growth can be measured in other ways: During the past seven years, its account base has grown tenfold to 5,000 from 500, according to Boardman, Dynamic Brands’ chief executive.
(The company is branching out even further by helping swing guru David Leadbetter manufacture and distribute his latest training aid, the Swing Setter.)
Regardless of product, however, there’s a single theme in how Bag Boy conducts business: Listen to consumers and give them what they want.
It’s a lesson the company learned the hard way during the mid-1990s when Bag Boy was acquired by Bill Goodwin, who also owned then-ailing Ben Hogan Co.
Bag Boy, which operated as a division under Hogan, suffered much neglect as officers focused their attention on resuscitating the club brand. Boardman, who was then Hogan’s director of business development, says Bag Boy was “all but forgotten.”
“I always use the analogy that it was like a tick on a dying dog,” he says. “You’re trying to save the dog, but nobody cares about the tick.”
Goodwin sold Hogan to Spalding in 1997, but held Bag Boy out of the deal at the request of Boardman and another former Hogan executive, Leighton Klevana, who wanted a chance to rebuild the business themselves. Goodwin retained a 50 percent interest in Bag Boy, while Boardman and Klevana, now chief operating officer of Dynamic Brands, each gained a 25 percent share.
“So much of what went on at Hogan at that time was not about the customer,” Boardman says. “Decisions were made based off of the fact that ‘We’re Hogan. And it’s irrelevant what anybody else does; it’s irrelevant what anybody wants; it’s irrelevant what’s going on in the marketplace.’ And you can’t run a business that way.”
Even in its state of neglect, Bag Boy still had brand equity, Boardman and his partners believed. They set out to make it a viable business again by reinventing its product offerings, which had become dated and overpriced.
“For the most part, manufacturing and assembly was still done in the States,” says Craig Ramsbottom, Bag Boy’s president. “We found a fantastic supplier in Asia, which enabled us to
add value, features and benefits, while lowering the price at the same time.”
With production costs lowered via outsourcing, the company turned to its next task: expanding its product menu.
Bag Boy was among the early developers of the hybrid bag – an all-in-one protective travel case that doubles as a lightweight carry bag. Its newest model, the Hybrid HC, features a crush-proof PVC top, equipped with a zipper, that opens like a clam shell, making it easy to slip over clubheads.
“They’ve really designed a lot of innovation into their carts and their bags,” says Jeff Caraway,
vice president of merchandise at Austad’s Golf. “But they’ve done it in such a way that the pricing is strategic for the retailer and the consumer as well.”
In November 2003, Goodwin purchased The Baby Jogger Co., maker of top-end jog strollers for the past 20 years.
“We knew (Baby Jogger) had a tremendous amount of intellectual property and patents, which we hoped we could also use in a golf cart,” Boardman says.
Those patents led to the company’s new EZ Fold 12 push cart, which features the one-pull folding system. Storage is made even easier because the cart also comes equipped with quick-release bicycle style wheels.
With its product lineup in solid shape, Bag Boy is focusing on increasing pro shop distribution. (Off-course specialty shops represent the bulk of the company’s clients, while pro shops and and sporting goods stores each account for roughly 25 percent.)
That’s where company officials say they can capitalize most on the walking trend. They’re even considering a fitness theme for a marketing campaign next year, when Bag Boy celebrates its 60th anniversary.
One idea: A national walking day.
“It’s truly a better way to play,” Ramsbottom says.