Interview By Matt Ward
Mark Heydon has overseen Sun Mountain’s Outerwear Division since April, 2011. He resides in Missoula, Montana with his wife and three children. Mark has vast apparel and business experience that started at Nike and spanned through a start-up, acquisition and merger.
THE HEYDON STORY —
I grew up in Missoula, MT and completed all schooling here. After graduating from the University of Montana, I was offered my first real job by Nike and headed to Beaverton, OR with my wife.
The first year I worked at Nike HQ, then was moved to Charlotte, NC. It was during this two-year stint that apparel and golf became a large part of my work life. It was tough duty, but I played golf with Nike fabric and apparel partners at places like Pinehurst. A few more moves followed, including a three-year Expat stint in Taiwan that included oversight of and golf with apparel partners in Taiwan, Vietnam, China, and the Philippines.
After 13 years with Nike, we got the itch to return to Montana and raise our children. A college buddy and I started a custom apparel company in Missoula, so we moved home and bought a house on a golf course. I have fond memories of teaching the kids to drive the cart, golf and hit the pool. An acquisition, merger and the 2008 financial crisis were the next big events that led to hitting the trifecta here at Sun Mountain: a golf company that was based in Missoula, Montana and needed international apparel experience.
What is the business climate for Sun Mountain now given the ongoing pandemic?
It’s been an interesting year, that’s for sure. Purely from a business perspective, as golf courses and golf shops were closed some accounts put advance orders on hold. Then golf emerged as a great outdoor, naturally socially distant activity. Rounds played and walking picked up, and all of the sudden golf push carts and lightweight carry bags were in high demand and continue to
be! While not as strong as bag and cart sales, outerwear has sold well through the internet and stores that offered curbside pickup.
Sun Mountain has been a major force in the outerwear area – what makes that so?
Sun Mountain is a company of golfers, designing, developing and producing products for golfers. When you use Sun Mountain products on the course, that attention to detail shows. And the heritage of the company is one of innovation. Rick Reimers, the owner of Sun Mountain, has always charged himself and his staff to constantly innovate and refine our product offerings. This focus has us always on the look out for new technologies, fabrics and processes that we can incorporate into making our golf gear better and improving the game.
How do Sun Mountain products differentiate themselves from your competitors?
It’s about the 4-P’s, right? Product, Place, Price and Promotion. We design for the needs of golfers. We sell at green grass, golf-specific retail shops and on-line golf retail sites. We’re competitively priced based upon the performance attributes of our outerwear. And, we have a nation-wide network of sales reps that keep their finger on the pulse of our customer needs.
Who is your customer?
Golfers who appreciate the benefits of performance outerwear on and off the course. That customer and product has changed in the 10 years I’ve been with the company. The customer used to demand outerwear that was both playable and looked like golf. This has evolved to our current customer that wants outerwear that plays well and has an active outdoor lifestyle appearance.
What role does customer feedback have on your future developmental efforts and how do you go about soliciting it?
Our sales reps are a great conduit for customer feedback. Golfers talk to pros. Pros talk to reps. And reps are not shy about passing that information along to us.
Nearly all major companies tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach followed at Sun Mountain?
Well, we really have several customers to service. We have the golf rros and store managers and we have the consumer. We have inside and outside sales reps who work with buyers and full time customer service folks answering calls and emails from buyers and consumers.
What’s the approximate percentage amount for Sun Mountain’s outerwear efforts via green grass shops, online and brick and mortar outlets?
Green grass: is 65%, online: is 15% and brick and mortar is 20%.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
Faster and more fun! Have you seen our sister company, Finn Scooters? We’re innovating across a lot of areas of golf.
Is there a balance line for consumers between price and quality of the product — and in what ways does Sun Mountain “thread the needle” to meet those two critical needs?
When it comes to breathable rainwear, the old axiom holds – you get what you pay for. If you never golf in the rain on purpose, but just need something for the occasional shower that pops up, we’ve got that. If rain is not your issue, but cool, breezy mornings and evenings are – we’ve got that. Often, it’s about looking for the attributes you need for the weather conditions you play in and then buying appropriately. Sun Mountain Outerwear has a broad array of price-point options for protection from temperature, precipitation, and wind.
Biggest challenges facing Sun Mountain — short and long term — is what?
Short-term, we all need to get to the other side of this pandemic. Long-term, we need to continue to innovate not only our products, but also how we do business in this ever-changing environment.
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