It’s no big secret that I play golf in ECCO golf shoes. I have always been curious about how Ecco is able to gain a foothold in the international golf shoe market. That’s why I thought I’d ask Michael Waack, the Head of Golf at ECCO.
What motivated ECCO 25 years ago to enter the golf shoe market?
It’s an interesting story and, as Dieter Kasprzak, the former CEO of ECCO, says, ECCO GOLF might never have been created if his father-in-law and founder of ECCO shoes, the late Karl Toosbuy, hadn’t been given a set of clubs for his 60th birthday.
From there, Toosbuy and Kasprzak developed a love of golf and the ambition of creating comfortable golf shoes that would allow the golfer to concentrate on their swing rather than their feet. That’s what set ECCO off on the first step of the journey into the golf shoe market.
How did COVID-19 & Brexit affect sales?
Whenever anyone asks me about the previous two years, I describe it as being like a roller coaster ride. We had an excellent start to the 2020 season, but when in April the situation became dramatic and unpredictable, we received many cancellation requests that we agreed to.
In April we also had the Global Golf Conference for SS21 in which we received a sales forecast for the coming season from all of our markets. It was of course not very satisfactory as almost all markets could not foresee how the pandemic and our business would develop.
But, incredibly, what we actually saw was golf participation go through the roof as people looked for a way to enjoy themselves safely, outdoors. Sweden was then the first market to have an incredible boom in golf products, other markets worldwide followed, and we were sold out very quickly.
Of course, this was also influenced by the fact that we had reduced production according to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
How has the pandemic changed the sales strategy?
We are not a company that plans with a markdown strategy; we plan ahead and make our decisions based upon what we believe we can realistically sell full price during a season. Obviously, as I mentioned, over the past 20 months we have had reduced levels of production, but we are continuing to see the markets bounce back, which is reflected in our approach.
One thing that we will never do is compromise our ethos and the principles that ECCO stands for as we pride ourselves on using the very best materials and production methods to create shoes that are reflect a true passion and expertise for shoemaking.
Put simply, we will continue to provide our customers with premium products that they know will withstand the test of time and provide them with ultimate comfort, performance, and style.
Where is ECCO in digital transformation?
ECCO is selling shoes in 99 markets around the globe, and we continue to develop all digital platforms. Our new digital team who are dedicated solely to amplifying our virtual presence is now made up of 25 individuals. With a strong global presence, keeping up with the changing consumer behavior has been made easier with the technology we have to connect across our offices.
The pandemic has certainly pushed more consumers into buying online and has accelerated the digital process. This change does not take away our focus on traditional retail channels. Our Greengrass accounts are still at the heart of our distribution network, and we continue to support pro shops around the world with this dynamic market.
We understand that pre-ordering products can come with risks for professionals and retailers, but I still strongly believe that a huge amount of reward comes with it. Through this ever-changing climate, pro shops seem more inclined to pre-order products for them to have stock to sell and this is something we are here to support.
The North American sports footwear market is growing. How is it affecting golf shoe sales?
We have seen golf interest continue to spike, and I would say so have ECCO GOLF shoe sales. The North American market alone has had high double-digit growth, but this is something that we have seen in a variety of markets across the globe.
“We don’t know where sales would be if the pandemic didn’t halter production in our industry.”
We don’t know where sales would be if the pandemic didn’t halter production in our industry, but I think that this trend of sales will continue through to next year. Both the Spring/Summer collection and Autumn/Winter collection are expected to continue to prosper.
In the North American market, sales come from 65%/35% males to females, which has traditionally been the split in this region. Consumers continue to show confidence in ECCO GOLF, and we look forward to seeing where this confidence can take us.
How has the golf shoe market developed over the last 25 years? What future trends do you see?
We are always looking to innovate and to bring out new products. We want to come up with something that no one had been expecting. We’re making so many consumers happy with our shoes, and that’s driving our energy at ECCO GOLF.
“…in 25 years the hybrid will still be the ultimate golf shoe….”
We want to carry on doing that. We will never stop exploring and innovating in this changing environment. I’m confident that in 25 years the hybrid will still be the ultimate golf shoe. We envisage that, eventually, the spiked shoe will disappear because the hybrid is so universal, and it offers so much freedom with design.
Over the next quarter of a century, we’ll continue to innovate with leather and continue to explore simplicity and our design language. We are already known as a brand that isn’t afraid to break boundaries, and we will continue to develop our pioneering new designs in the future as we build on that reputation.
What does ECCO do to produce sustainable golf shoes? When will they become 100% sustainable?
We are a very environmentally focused company, and we are always looking at ways in which we can help to protect our natural surroundings. In particular, we are very concerned about global water scarcity which is why ECCO has developed the ground-breaking ECCO DriTan™ technology, which reduces the amount of water and chemicals that are used in the tanning process.
Many ECCO Leathers are made using DriTan™ and are indistinguishable from traditionally tanned leathers. We pride ourselves on the quality of our leathers, but we know that this also comes with a need for the highest level of corporate responsibility.
ECCO’s leather partner, KT Trading, is responsible for sourcing the raw material for leather – animal hides – which are by-products of the meat industry. KT Trading is also responsible for the conversion of hides to leather.
ECCO and KT Trading pursue a policy of high animal welfare standards from suppliers, with KT Trading opting to buy raw material from a select group of suppliers who all have demonstrated the highest level of animal welfare.