NEW YORK — Golfwear is getting a fashion pick-me-up from Fila and Puma, which are both swinging into the category for spring with trend-driven and directional lines.
Boosted by younger, stylish players such as Michelle Wie and Grace Park, the golf category has been attracting women in their teens and 20s, and fashion companies have heard their call with the introduction in recent years of colorful and stylish merchandise. More companies have entered the golf category, which now includes sport brands such as Nike and Adidas; lifestyle labels including Polo Ralph Lauren, Burberry and J. Lindeberg, and traditional golf lines like Cutter & Buck and Ashworth.
Nonetheless, Puma and Fila believe there is room for them in the crowded sector, and both are positioning their lines as sport lifestyle collections.
“We wanted to confront a very traditional and conservative sport and make it more accessible and visually appealing for today’s consumers,” said Robert Philion, business unit manager for Puma Golf. “We also feel that golf is the single-largest game that combines sports and lifestyle, which makes it a perfect fit for our overall mission.”
Last year, golf manufacturers had sales of about $2.6 billion for categories excluding apparel, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association. (SGMA and other research organizations don’t track golf apparel sales.) And the game clearly attracts the affluent: The average household income for a woman who plays golf is about $92,000, according to SGMA, and golf tournaments are often sponsored by upscale companies such as Cadillac and Rolex.
For Puma, golf is part of the company’s long-range growth strategy, as spelled out recently by its chief executive officer Jochen Zeitz. The golf line combines Puma’s sports heritage and lifestyle direction, and is making its debut this spring in the U.S. and around the world.
The collection includes colorful footwear and apparel, and many of the items have stretch properties and technical features such as moisture management and ventilation patches. Among the performance offerings for women are mock turtlenecks made in bright colors, polo tops, miniskirts and a golf dress with a thick belt, all made of a polyester microfiber. Lifestyle looks include cotton T-shirts and tank tops with large polkadots.
There is also a selection of accessories, such as a kelly green golf bag, visors and caps, and a golf umbrella. For those who want to step out in style, the footwear comes in hues such as bright yellow, orange and green, some of which have spikes.
Suggested retail prices for the apparel collection range from about $40 to $65 for tops, $50 to $65 for bottoms and up to $150 for outerwear, said Philion.
While Puma has recently pushed its fashion offerings and lifestyle looks over traditional sports merchandise, the company is not abandoning its performance roots, he noted.
“We are known for the fusion of sport fashion and lifestyle, and our golf collection is the perfect example of that,” he said. “It combines performance pieces with technical details that have the brands’ signature style.”
The company declined to give sales projections, but said the golf line is part of its strategy to almost double its current size in the next five years. Puma said recently it believes it has the potential to generate 3.5 billion euros, or $4.2 billion at current exchange, in sales by then. Puma had sales of $1.99 billion last year.
For distribution, Puma is targeting boutiques on green grass resorts and golf clubs, as well as resorts and golf specialty stores in addition to its mix of fashion and lifestyle stores. Last week Puma executives exhibited at the PGA golf show to meet with buyers and generate interest in the line, noted Philion.
Fila, meanwhile, is returning to a category it was in about 25 years ago, and its entrance into golf is part of the firm’s relaunch as an upscale athletic brand rooted in its Italian heritage. Fila, now owned by Sport Brands International, rolled out a selection of men’s golfwear for fall, and women’s is rolling out this spring.
“Golf is an important introduction for us, and one of our top growth strategies now,” said Jim Reilly, a senior vice president at SBI.
Fila’s line includes technical outerwear, polo shirts and woven pants, as well as cashmere sweaters. Many of the items have special touches, like a UV finish for sun protection, stretch knit panels on outerwear and seam-sealed, waterproof zippers on rain jackets. There is also a selection of accessories and footwear.
“We are positioning our golf line as the new version of sport luxury,” Reilly said. Wholesale prices for Fila Golf start at about $55 for polo shorts and go up to $110 for some of the outerwear pieces. He said the company has aggressive sales goals for the golf collection.
Fila is also targeting green grass shops located at resorts and golf centers. To kick off its entrance into the category, Fila was a sponsor at the recent Seven Trophy golf tournament in Dunham, England, and outfitted players, marshals and staff at the event.
While Fila and Puma are eager to tap the potential of the market, some golf retailers say it isn’t limitless.
“People make the mistake of thinking that the golf market is larger than it is,” said Charles Rhee, general manager at New York Golf Center, one of Manhattan’s largest golf stores. “It’s already overcrowded.”
Rhee said he has seen an uptick in sales of technical merchandise with performance properties and has continued to increase his selection of women’s offerings, which accounts for about 40 percent of apparel sales.
“Everyone already has the core golf shirt,” he noted. “There has to be a real reason to buy something new.”