THE SHELDON BACKGROUNDER —
During the past 16 years, I have enjoyed progressive responsibility with documented success in brand management, marketing strategy, and product design, developing over 50 patents in golf equipment. In my current role as GM for HONMA US Ltd, I have overseen the implementation of building a US team to help build brand awareness here in the USA. Over the last 12 months, we have built sustainable growth initiatives and channel strategies to support the company’s global growth goals. Honma is a company which has the heritage and craftsmanship built into its brand which allows us to differentiate our products from other businesses within the industry and we believe in this competitive advantage.
MATT WARD: What separates Honma from your competitors?
ADAM SHELDON: Our products are completely different from many main stream products and Honma sees an opportunity to fill a void that has existed and continues to exist in the U.S. Market. Honma is also unique in the fact that we have our own manufacturing facility in Sakata, Japan. In this manufacturing facility, we make our own shafts and do all of our own assembly and finishing. This allows us to improve within and make some of the highest quality products in the market. Our product strategy is also different in that we believe in designing products for golfers through nine different segments, each segment listens to the golfers needs, ability, performance, aesthetics, price-point and the importance of fitting.
MW: For a number of years Honma was on the sidelines regarding the American market — what prompted the return?
AS: Honma has been around since 1959 and we have had some presence in the U.S. market using a distribution model. Under recent new ownership, the company decided to expand our products into more channels and partner with key green grass and retail locationswhich can share the brand image of Honma which has tremendous heritage and craftsmanship. By working directly with these retailers, it allows us to differentiate our products from other businesses within the industry, and we believe in this competitive advantage. At Honma, we believe in aspiration, on the golf course and in the equipment golfers use. Our products truly standout due to the heritage of our brand, and how we have been able to bring craftsmanship together with performance. We have been around since 1959, and we still make our wood head masters out of persimmon wood.The average tenure of our craftsmen at Honma is 37 years. We believe there is an art to making golf equipmentwhich can be seen in our manufacturing and design process, which is the heart of the Honma brand.
MW: In approximate percentage terms — what is the focal point for the company via retail outlets, green grass shops and online efforts?
AS: Our main focus is with our key retail partners — small off course and green grass locations. There’s a pretty even split between these channels.
MW: Describe the Honma customer?
AS: Our customers are aspirational and they know exactly what they are looking for in their lifestyle, as well as in their golf equipment. At the end of the day,Honma Golf believes in giving golfers what they want and the performance they needbased on their personality and skill level. If you look at most brands outside of the golf industry, they allow the consumer to aspire within their brand and Honma is unique in this waywithin the golf business.
MW: What role does customer feedback have for Honma in terms of future club production?
AS: Everyone who touches our clubs, from professionals to amateurs and retailers,they give us feedback and we incorporate all feedback where itcan be helpful when it comes tothe design and the feel of our products.
MW: Customer service is mentioned often by many companies. Define the term and how Honma differentiates what it does versus your competitors?
AS: Honma is about choices,andwe have one of the widest ranges of golf equipment in the business,which helps differentiate us from other manufacturers.Our customer service starts with our craftsmen who make the clubs. As I mentioned earlier, the average tenure of our craftsmen is over 37 years, and crafting golf cubs is their life. Once the club is built, the passion for excellence stays with that cluband we excel to offer that same level of service throughoutour customers’ experiences with Honma Golf.
MW: How important is it to have a presence on the PGA, European and LPGA Tours?
AS: Currently we have close to 40 professional players, mainly on the Asian tours around the world,andwe work closely with these players to develop and test all of our products.Right now we are focused on building our distribution and in store presence here in the USA, we do get requests every week from tour playersinquiring about our products,and eventually, when we feel the time is right, we will provide more support to Tour players on more tours around the world.
MW: If you can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be?
AS: I think it would be the time it takes to play a round..For example,I remember playing 18 holes in 2 and a half hours when I was achild.
MW: Golf organizations are striving to get Millennials, women and minorities to actively participate in the sport. What would you advise?
AS: I actuallybelieve there are a lot of women participatingin golf who are not given the same attention in product selection as men. This is where Honmareally stands out, as we have one of the widest varieties of clubs for women, if not the widest selection in the business.The same goes for different levels of players, be them millennials or not, providing them with the correct type of equipment is key to give anyone the best experience on the golf course. Honma believes in this strategy and that is why we have options for all player types, not just one size fits all. If you give people the best, they tend to enjoy the game more, get better results, and want to play more often.At Honma Golf, we want to give everyone the bestopportunity to enjoy the game, which meansmoving away from the mass produced equipment model, and more into getting the correct fit forevery golfer’s enjoyment and lifestyle.
MW: What’s the short and long term challenges for Honma and what steps are being taken to achieve both?
AS: The short term is all about building out our operations and service teams to support our growth initiatives and branding.In the long term, you will see a different face at retail and we plan on telling the true Honma story, which will educateconsumers on why we do what we do, and why we have been doing it for 60 years.
****WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?