Wallaroo Hat Company was founded in 1999 with the idea of fashionable, yet functional sun protection. We immediately thought of the many outdoor activities and sports where people need protection from the sun, and golf is one of them. Baseball hats, which have been the fashion trend on the golf course for years, do not protect the player’s ears, neck, sides of the face or tip of the nose from the sun’s UV rays. Many long-term golfers we know have suffered from the long days in the sun with precancerous and cancerous spots. Specifically, Leynya’s father-in-law, had many spots removed over the years after playing golf for over 7 decades. We hope to increase the knowledge of skin cancer prevention through education and making it more fashionable to wear hats with brim while playing golf.

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Matt Ward: Are consumers better educated versus 10-15 years ago in protecting head and face from sun exposure?

Stephanie Carter / Lenya Shore: Consumers are definitely more aware of skin cancer prevention and the benefits of wearing hats and clothing with a UPF rating.  Wallaroo Hat Company was founded in 1999 when there were very few companies that were providing hats with a UPF rating.  The general population while more aware, seem to still embrace baseball hats and visors on the course, specifically the younger male golfers.


MW: Given the number of different players in the head wear category – how does Wallaroo separate itself from the clutter in building its brand?


SC / LS: Wallaroo Hat Company offers fashionable, yet functional, high quality hats for women, men and children. Many of our hats have a UPF 50+, which blocks 97.8% of the sun’s UV rays.  Wallaroo offers many different styles, fabrics and colors to choose from and all of our hats have an internal hidden drawstring to allow for a custom fit.  We also feature a variety of brim lengths. 


MW: From a production standpoint — where is Wallaroo head wear produced and explain how the elements used in the creating the array of hats produced exceeds that of your competitors?


SC / LS: Wallaroo Hat Company has collaborated with an Australian hat designer since its founding in 1999, and all the fabric that receives a UPF 50+ rating is tested in Australia by the Australian Radiation Protection Agency.   The Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) shows how well a fabric protects your skin from solar UV.  All of our hats are manufactured in China and we travel to our manufacturers and meet with our Australian designer twice a year to work on new designs and fabrics. We continually strive for the highest quality in our manufacturing and with the fabrics we choose.


 MW: What’s the profile of a Wallaroo customer?


SC / LS: Wallaroo customers are women, men or parents on behalf of their children that are looking for fashionable hats that can be worn every day to many types of events and activities. Our customer, initially when we founded Wallaroo, tended to be women 40 and older looking for attractive, sun protective hats for themselves or their family members. Over the years, we have attracted a growing younger population of women and have also gained many male customers, as our selection of men’s hats has grown significantly over the years.


 MW: What’s the difference between when women shop for head wear versus men? How much a role does fashion play versus functionality for both sides of the gender aisle?


SC / LS: While one might think that women are looking only for fashion and men for function, we have witnessed that women and men are looking for both. A hat needs to look attractive, fit comfortably and be the appropriate size and material for the activity in mind. Women are certainly interested in a variety of color choices more than men are, but still want the hat to be functional.  


MW: How does Wallaroo solicit customer feedback and what role does it play in future product development?


SC / LS: Wallaroo Hat Company attends 10-13 trade shows annually in many different market areas such as golf, resort, boutique and garden, where we meet with our retail partners and are able to hear the customer feedback multiple times throughout the year.  We also talk to our customers daily on the phone and via email and take suggestions and feedback to the design table for consideration.


 MW: Do endorsements matter from PGA and LPGA Tour players and does Wallaroo look to seek them out in order to expand overall visibility and credibility?


 SC / LS: Wallaroo values our PGA retail partners and is thrilled to be a sponsor of Liz Wendt, a 2015 Symetra Tour player.The Symetra Tour Tournament is the official development tour of the LPGA Tour. The LPGA and PGA Tours offer great exposure and an opportunity to encourage golfers to wear sun protective hat with brim to prevent skin cancer.


 MW: What’s the estimate percentage breakdown for sales — green grass shops, brick and mortar outlets and on-line?


 SC / LS: Our wholesale business accounts for about 80% of our overall sales.The remaining 20% of our sales are internet and Amazon. We have about 3,000 wholesale accounts across the United States in varying industries including garden, resort, golf, among others. 


 MW: What kind of trends do you see happening — both short and long term in head wear evolution?


 SC / LS: Currently, over the past several years, the smaller, brimmed fedora hat has been quite popular, but we continue to see interest in the medium-sized brim for more sun protection on the golf course for both women and men. For women, the mannish shape fedora crown has grown in popularity with varying sized brims. Men are looking for a fashionable, lighter weight, comfortable hat with medium brim.


 MW: You attended the recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. How would you characterize the mood of the show and how do you see the ’16 season will faring for Wallaroo specifically and broader golf industry in general?


SC / LS: The PGA Merchandise Show this year was extremely busy all three days and seemed to attract an even larger and more enthusiastic crowd than last year. We had many repeat customers, but also met many new customers and saw an increase in interest from International customers. Our golf business is continuing to grow and we are excited to see many more small clubs and larger resorts carry Wallaroo hats in their shops.


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