I started my journey in the golf business in 1992 on the beautiful Island of Oahu, Hawaii working for the distributor of Bobby Jones Apparel and the legendary Ely Callaway and Callaway Golf where I spent 20 years of my career. My career has evolved from an entry level inside sales rep, to an outside sales rep, to National Sales Manager to my current role as VP of Sales for Original Penguin Golf.
THE GARRETT STORY —
As with most careers, talent only takes you so far. Hard work, timing, and a bit of luck are how we have all been molded within our selective lives. In the early ‘90’s, a small company based in Carlsbad, CA was making Hickory Stick Wedges and Putters, and in 1992 in my first real job, I was working for the distributor of this brand. The golf equipment market was dominated by companies such as Ping, Yonex, Wilson, Titleist and Taylor Made. The turning point for Callaway Golf, and my career, was the day that US Today published a front page article with the headlines: “Bush prefers Bertha over Barbara.” For those within the golf industry, no further explanation needs to be provided. The Big Bertha craze started and I rode that wave for 20 plus years.
My career in golf apparel began seven short years ago when I was approached by my former employer to consult them about this crazy golf business.
They were an apparel manufacturer and knew how to make shirts yet knew absolutely nothing about the golf business. It was a perfect fit because at that time I knew very little about the apparel business but had an extensive knowledge of the golf industry having built a sales force, training staff and managing key accounts across the country.
We took a fledgling low price brand and built the business over the next 5 years. We created timelines, manufacturing disciplines, fashion collections and raised brand awareness. The brand quickly elevated from a low price staff-tournament option to a terrific mid-priced offering of Men’s & Ladies fashion products.
I learned the manufacturing process. How a polo shirt was constructed and all the components that went into receiving a finished product. It was an excellent education and helped build my knowledge on a piece of the golf business I had very little experience in.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
I am driven to build a dynamic sales force to deliver the Original Penguin message. Increase our market share and align key account partners to grow our business.
The Penguin name has been involved with golf apparel for quite some time. What’s the advantage and disadvantage that comes with that involvement over that period of time?
We have learned to leverage old school traditions and new school technologies. Some buyers recognize that the Original Penguin Brand was worn by their father or grandfather as being one of their favorite shirts. That heritage is leveraged and is a great advantage when getting product placed.
The new school buyers and pros are seeking an alternative to the “big boys” and are looking for active prints, hip shorts, unique color pallets and a brand identity with a great vibe. They want to cater to a younger clientele.
Who is your customer today in 2019 and how do you ascertain what they are interested in buying?
Our customer base today is wide ranging. We cater to those that understand the heritage of Munsingwear based on previous knowledge, family history or personal experience.
We also cater to the young professional that wants to be recognized. Someone that isn’t afraid to share his style on and off the golf course.
Given the array of different companies all looking to grab a percentage of the apparel category — how does Penguin differentiate itself from the competition?
This answer can be summed up very quickly: be original. Have a story. We believe we have both. Along with great design, fabrics, manufacturing technologies and finishes, Original Penguin presents itself very well. The line is unique, has great heritage and is an original. All these are helpful factors in the buyer’s decision making process to carry the line.
Do differences exist between men and women in regards to how they assess apparel and what choices work for them?
I believe they do. Men are more impulse buyers. Women tend to be much more concerned about how the outfits fit, color, look, style and of course price.
What value do professional golfer endorsements have for an apparel company? Is there value for a company to expend significant dollars needed to secure a top tier player for that purpose?
Cameron Smith wears the OPG line on tour and has turned out to be an excellent ambassador for the brand helping us to create added brand awareness.
It’s nice having a top 50 player like Cameron wearing our brand on tour and our goal and vision is to have additional player representation across all the Tours.
In terms of branding and marketing efforts – how much emphasis in terms of rough percentages is Penguin following via brick and mortar outlets, green grass shops and online sales efforts?
Our focus has been on green grass accounts. Without getting into specifics we believe a strategic approach with all golf outlets is the best strategy. We are fortunate to have excellent partners within all phases of the golf industry and we will continue to evaluate the best method to grow the brand.
Companies routinely tout customer service as a main item of concern. Define the term and the approach followed at Penguin?
Our customer service is second to none as we have a dedicated team to help assist customers, reps and consumers for any and all of their OPG needs. We want our customers, consumers and sales force to have a company that is easy and pleasurable to do business with. Nobody wants to be put on eternal hold or talk to a machine. Fortunately, OPG has the unsurpassed support of Perry Ellis International behind them. They have sophisticated systems in place, great leadership and excellent service that awards all Perry Ellis brands best in class customer service.
The biggest challenges facing Penguin — short and long term — is what?
Short term our biggest challenge is to grow the green grass account base. The golf division has had limited distribution over last 12-18 months, however, with the growth of the sales force, momentum of the brand and hard work we are now seeing increased green grass penetration. In fact, over the last 60-90 days we have already opened more accounts than we did all year in 2018.
Long term will be to maintain this momentum, stay relevant and strategically grow the line through all channels of distribution.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
Ely Callaway. “What is good in life is good in business: treat everybody right and tell the truth. No matter what you do, do your best and don’t give up.”
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