John Letters of Scotland, one of the oldest golf equipment manufacturing companies in the world, is taking on the golf retailers to offer their high quality golf clubs directly to the public both on the Internet and through a UK network of factory shops.
In a bold move, the Glasgow-based company, which dates back to 1918, has restructured its entire operation and will offer its entire innovative, high quality range, for which John Letters has become synonymous, custom-fitted, directly to the public at considerably reduced prices via an new online shop at www.johnlettersdirect.com.
In addition, the company is creating a stylish factory shop at its Hillington HQ, close to Glasgow's retail area and road links, which will be swiftly followed by another outlet in the north-west of England and two more are under discussion in the Midlands and the south of England.
All this activity will be supported by advertising and PR campaigns in regional, national and specialist media with ongoing, regional road shows to promote its products. To the consumer this means the company will be closer to its customers and they will enjoy direct contact with John Letters' highly experienced team of club designers with prices around 50% cheaper than they would be when sold through golf retail outlets.
Gordon White, managing director of the company, said: 'It has become increasingly difficult to offer the consumer our range of top quality golf clubs at competitive prices as the retail chains are demanding an increasingly bigger margin. American Golf Discount are truly professional retailers who understand the need to work closely with the manufacturers, sadly they are unique in the United Kingdom. When in-store sales staff are paid more commission for selling our clubs than we get for manufacturing them you have to take stock of the situation.'
'Rather than have to go down the road of offering inferior quality products in order to make a profit, we decided to go directly to the public. We can no longer supply retailers at a price which enables us to make a profit and them to make a profit whilst ensuring a competitive price and high quality product for the consumer. I don't think the public realises how many brand names the retailers actually own, very often they apply that name to cheap, off-the-shelf products, which we consider are largely untested and usually manufactured from inferior materials. These 'brand owners' can buy a set of clubs off the shelf in China for around £30, add the brand name and sell them for £299.
'John Letters is proud of its heritage and its reputation for innovative, well-produced golf clubs and are not prepared to offer the consumers anything of inferior quality.'
And he added: 'By doing this we are not only developing our club range and offer custom fitting, but we can repair and refurbish clubs from our central Glasgow headquarters, staffed by club makers with up to 40 years experience. In many cases, if the client wishes to visit the factory shop, we can do this while they wait.'
He added: 'The internet has made it possible, for the first time in our 87-year history, for us to link to the public at affordable prices. Key to the whole development is an online shop and secure payment site where customers - anywhere in the world - can select their clubs, provide us with full specifications for a custom fit and pay by credit or debit card. We are very excited by the whole development and we're sure golfers will be too.'
Gordon Rennie is co-owner of John Letters and is the company's design and development director. He is a highly respected industry figure and is one of last apprentice-trained golf club makers in the world, having worked extensively in Europe, the USA and Asia.
He said: 'John Letters has always designed quality equipment and we do not want to tarnish that image by descending to a level of buying in cheap products simply to make a profit. By doing this, it allows us to continue to develop our product range at standards which have been synonymous with John Letters of Scotland since 1918.'
The Hillington factory shop opened on February 5 with the other factory outlets opening up throughout the spring/summer, with plans to develop more factory shops in the future.We asked Gordon White if there was a danger that his company would antagonise retail outlets by the move and he said: 'We don't think so. Since this announcement we have done a deal with American Golf Discount and next year they will be carrying our new Trilogy T7 irons as the lead club in its price bracket.
'Other retailers appreciate us as a company and are still keen to work with us. And we're talking to a number of pros about them runninga custom-fit service on our behalf, so the golfer can go to the pro and be fitted, and then take their "prescription" to any of our factory shops, or the online store, and know that they will be ordering exactly the right specifications for them.'
|| 17 - FEBRUARY 2005