Galvin Green are renowned for their high quality outerwear, but where do you go when your product is 100% waterproof and breathable? You innovate further, so when Galvin Green launched their new C-Knit range, I met up with UK & Ireland Managing Director Greg Pearse to find out what was new.
Hi Greg. We are here at the launch of Galvin Green C-Knit range, so what makes it unique?
C-Knit is a first for golf. It is our first three layer fabric and we are incredibly proud around what that offers our brand and ultimately golfers. It was debuted at the 2016 Ryder Cup by the European Team and what it gives golfers is a lighter fabric that 'slides and glides' with the golfers swing and clearly comfort when golfers wear the waterproofs is paramount and we believe that this offers the ultimate in that.
At Galvin Green we are obsessed with making sure that golfers can perform on the golf course no matter what the weather and C-Knit is the next level of advancement in Gore-Tex technology. It is a three layer fabric which is a first for Galvin Green and which is exclusive to us and what it gives the golfer is the lightest possible Gore-Tex fabric and comfort wise it is on another level.
It allows golfers to swing with a huge amount of comfort as the fabric slides and glides with the golfer's other layers and we are incredibly excited about giving golfers the opportunity to use it on the back of it being showcased by the European Ryder Cup team in Hazeltine from which we received some great feedback.
You mentioned that this was the first 3 layer fabric for you?
Yes it is the first for us, there are a few other three layer fabrics out there, but nobody else has the C-Knit backer. Traditionally we had lined Gore and Paclite, Paclite being the ultimate packable material and lined Gore being the slightly warmer jacket with a mesh lining.
This three layer uses the C-Knit construction, C-Knit represents the ‘circular knit’ which makes it very soft. So you have an outer layer, then you have a Gore layer and finally you have C-Knit layer. If anything the acid test is always trying it on and playing in it and we are confident that when people experience this jacket they will understand what we are excited about.
So where did C-Knit come from?
C-Knit was developed by a small Japanese company and the owners of Gore-Tex were so impressed when they discovered what they were doing that they actually bought the company. It has appeared in the outdoor category and we have been searching for some time to find that next level of performance within Gore.
We have had various versions that we have tested over the last 5 or 6 years, some were too stiff, some were too heavy, and then when our creative director Mats Lundqvist discovered this fabric we really felt that we had hit the jackpot because this was everything that we have been looking for with its lighter and more breathable qualities.
How do you go about finding or discovering a new fabric?
The guys will literally go to fabric and fashion shows across the world. It is not just people walking down catwalks, there are people showing different fabrics and we have an incredibly close relationship with Gore.
We have worked with them for over 30 years and they recognise what we bring to their business with regards to our scale within the game of golf and that relationship and that constant pursuit, with us constantly asking, almost nagging them, saying we want more innovation, meant that we were able to get our hands on this first.
Of course having the fabric is great but then you have to build it, you have got to construct the actual garment and a huge amount of detail goes into how we actually build our products.
The C-Knit range includes the Argon and the Aldrin jackets. Can you also buy them as a whole suit?
Yes although it is possible to buy them separately. Ultimately our goal is to show why the product is so strong that they need to buy the jackets and the pants. A lot of people focus on the jacket but the pant is incredibly important with the amount of walking you do, when you are bending down to look at the putts, the stretch that is required and so the Arn pant also uses C-Knit.
There is a huge amount of adjustability in the Arn pant and we have changed the position of the zip on leg, moving it from the side to the back, which gives additional comfort when you are taking the pant on and off.
In general, a lot of people will buy the complete suit, some people may buy just the jacket, but that is part of the fun in seeing the consumer’s reaction really, so we will see what the golfers decide once they have tried the product.
You are obviously at the top end of the market in terms of cost, so how often do you see people replacing a Galvin Green jacket?
Yes it’s a good question because I think in any piece of equipment, maybe with exception of golf balls, every golfer has got a driver and every golfer has got a set of irons and most golfers have got a set of waterproofs. From our side what we want to do is encourage people to come back and buy again based on the performance of the product so it is no different to the hardware market. Nobody is going to buy a new driver unless they see a performance benefit and for us the best way for us to do that is to introduce new technology.
We are not a company that obsesses that every year we must have a new Gore-Tex technology at all costs. If there is something that isn’t good enough then we won’t introduce it. We certainly find that the ultra-keen golfer, the guy at the top of the pyramid of influence, the club champion or the Assistant Pro, every year they want the latest and greatest which is great.
The average golfer may look for new waterproofs every 3-4 years and that is probably no different to the timescales that they would look to buy a new driver, but again if the product is strong enough we feel that maybe we can accelerate that cycle and get people to purchase more often. However as you know we are not a business that is obsessed by sales and numbers, we want to build great products and let the consumer decide from there.
You took over as Managing Director of Galvin Green in UK & Ireland 18 months ago. What has changed most in that time period?
We have really re-focused our business to make sure we mature our brand in the right way. We have had a huge period of growth over the last 15 years in the UK and what is really important as a brand is that we continue to remain special. That means special product and that the brand remains aspirational and the distribution of where you find our products is really important.
We want to make sure that where golfers find the brand it is presented well and they are given the multi-layer story so we have made a few tweaks there and we are really excited about the coming years. We are making decisions now for the long term for ourselves and for our valued customers because we know that if we work hand-in-hand with them then ultimately that is going to ensure that we have a successful long term business.
The principle of what defines our brand with regards to never compromising on the product, nothing has changed there. I don’t have a huge influence on product design or the make-up of the product. My job is to make sure that we take this fantastic product and we distribute it in the right way, that we market the brand in the right way and we connect with core golfers. It has been a really enjoyable 18-months and I am excited about the future.
You mentioned you have tweaked some of the distribution and you have come out of several on and off course retailers this year. Can you tell us some background on that?
Over the last year we have stepped away from just over 10% of our existing customers, all very amicably, and that includes customers of all sizes. We want people to support the layers story and we are very consistent with that approach and there is no arrogance with that.
I use the example of Apple a lot and if you phoned them up and said that you just wanted to sell their iPhone, they would say look we have got iPad’s, we’ve got iPod’s, we have other accessories and so on and therefore we come as a brand.
This is how we view Galvin Green and our strategy wasn’t about singling out a specific customer or walking away from anyone, it was more us re-affirming what we wanted and if the retailer wanted to support that then great but if they didn’t that was ok and we would both move on which is fine.
We see some other fairly technical brands doing a lot more in the market like now, like Oakley and particularly Under Armour. How do you view their emergence?
I think there are a lot of really good brands in the market place. Amongst the technical brands, if you go back maybe five years ago there were maybe just a couple of sports brands and ourselves. Now, it has changed dramatically and there are probably another ten brands talking a technical story, so it is increasing the amount of competition.
I think if you look in any form of industry you tend to have a “good, better, best” model and we want to be at the top end of that. We want to be the premium brand and we want to be the brand that is constantly innovating. Because all we do is make golf performance clothing we can be really focused on that.
There are a huge amount of good brands out there but we believe that when people try our products, and when they feel all the details that we build into the products and the quality, then there will continue to be a core golfer that wants to wear and play in Galvin Green.
As I keep stressing we are not a business that is obsessed with numbers and every brand will find its position within the market. We are just very focused on what we are doing and we are very excited about that as well.
Looking to the future we are starting to see technology integrated into clothing, for example GPS in rugby and football shirts. Is that something you could see coming into golf?
Yes. The whole concept of continually innovating is embedded in our culture so we are always looking to advance products and whether it is new fabrics, intelligent fabrics or new collections, I am fortunate to have seen product for 2018 and some of 2019 and there is a lot of new news coming and I think it is our job to ensure that we keep surprising the customer with what we can produce.
The classic story from the car industry is that if you asked somebody what they would have wanted 100 years ago they would have said a faster horse and wouldn’t have even thought of a car. So as much as we want to get feedback from golfers it is our job as well to think beyond maybe what they are thinking and surprise them with new technology. It is really important that we do that because we can’t talk about being leading, premium and innovative unless we can actually back it up.
Thank you Greg