Swedish company Galvin Green has been one of the leading technical innovators in golf outerwear clothing over recent years and to find out what makes them tick I met up with their CEO Christian Nilsson at the 2018 Ryder Cup course at Le Golf National in Paris.
Hi Christian. What would you say that Galvin Green stands for?
Galvin Green are golf. We are coming from golf from the beginning. The first collection from the brand came out in 1990 and since then we have developed the Nordic countries and after that country by country in Europe.
I think you were one of the first brands to bring style to the functionality. How do you create the designs you bring to the market?
We try create something that the consumer didn’t know existed, new fabrics, new technical details, which has always been very important. We are always looking to the future. What are the best fabrics and what is the best thing for us.
You say that Galvin Green is golf. Is there any reason you don’t look outside golf and develop products for other sports?
Well, we have done. Before Galvin Green, the company that owns the brand had been dealing with different sports and activities. The bad thing about that is that it was a compromise, we didn’t really succeed with a single brand. It was only when we started Galvin Green as a golf only brand and focussed on one thing that we were successful.
You position yourself as a very technical brand and recently we have seen a number of other brands pushing the technical message, such as Under Armour. How do you view those companies?
We don’t really look into the different categories. You mention Under Armour, but they are a multi-sports company and they do that very, very well. They have different sports activities. Again we just focus on the fact that we are golf, we are nothing else, and we are probably one of the only clothing companies that are doing that today.
So if you are sticking within golf what are the areas of expansion for you going forward?
Well, we could do shoes …
I was going to ask you about shoes actually!
Obviously we have been looking at different things. We have the distribution, we have a fantastic number of retailers around the world who I think would be interested in that kind of product, but then you have to think internally and it is a totally different business for us so I think someone else has to do that.
What about the business in the United States? I know you have made moves into that market.
That is an interesting one. We got several calls and e-mails about why we weren’t available in the US and in a typical Swedish way, maybe we weren’t ready at that point to have a conversation about starting up in the US.
When we did and when we finally took the decision in 2013 we did it by ourselves. We established Galvin Green US Inc. setting up our own organisation, moving very slowly, but it has to be about golf. We did that from the very beginning and we have very high expectations for the future.
Is business different over there? I suppose in Europe you are thought of as an Outerwear company first who also does shirts and trousers, but I presume in America it must be the other way around?
Yes and that is very different from state to state as well. In the southern states it is only shorts and polos, but in the more northern states we definitely have gone in with the full layering system.
Are you looking at selling direct to your customers online?
If I say no to that I would be foolish because I think we are going more and more digital, but we need to be sure that we continue to deal with our core retailers and partners. We are definitely trying to do our best with online customers as well, and I think there must be some possibility in the future to do something ourselves in combination with all our existing retailers.
Are there any global trends that you see in your market?
I definitely see a global trend in consumers asking for higher quality and looking for sustainability. Kids these days are growing up with recycling being the norm, separating papers into one bag, and glass into another bag and how different activities affect the planet.
That kind of age group are going to be our customers of the future in 10 or 15 years and they will be asking us questions like how we colour the fabric, how much water have we used and so on, so I think that is a very important consideration for us.
Which impacts not only the products but also the packaging and distribution. Are you talking about that now?
Yes we actually talked about it this month in terms of what type of company cars are we using and we thought that if we installed solar panels to create our own electricity we could power electric company cars, so that is an example of the thought processes we have to ensure that we are doing all that we can do in this area.
In terms of technology and products I see a lot of products in different sectors with GPS and sensors and wearable technology. Have you ever looked at putting that sort of tracking or measuring device in an item of clothing?
Yes definitely. The technical part is taking over. There are fabrics that can measure strength or stretch in your body and how that changes during a shot so definitely it is something that we are looking into.
How far away do you think products like that are from coming to the market, not specifically from you, but generally?
I would say maybe in 3 to 5 years we will see products like this or some type or prototypes.
What type of things will be at the forefront? Something to measure swing, or distance or lifestyle data like steps?
I think the first things we will see are things we can learn from ourselves. We can learn how fabric actually reacts to different persons' swings so you can do a swing analysis to ensure that your seams are on the right spot and things like that. And obviously if as a result of this type of analysis people can drive the ball further then great that would be amazing.
How much of your designs are new fabrics or new structures to the garment?
That depends from season to season. If you look at the garments coming in January and February 2018, 95% are using fabrics that are already in use. Next year we may have developed a little bit more with a different type of fabric, but we may have actually done more on the design and put in more details, so it depends from year to year and from season to season.
Galvin Green is the Official Outerwear Supplier to the 2018 European Ryder Cup Team. How much does that endorsement help the brand and ultimately help to drive sales?
Well, first of all we are very proud to be associated with the biggest event there is and one thing that I have noticed for us is it is actually gets everybody in the company involved and the involvement is so exciting for everybody. It lifts everybody up which means that we can then do even better.
In a marketing aspect the answer is that we really don’t know yet. The first Ryder Cup we were sponsor for was in the United States where we are not actually allowed to sell the product itself and with this type of sponsorship you need to see it over three, four, five years period and hopefully we can continue it over the next two years as well.
As the 2018 Ryder Cup is in Europe will you be more involved in the process?
Probably we will have the same involvement in terms of with the product itself and with the Captain and with the Ryder Cup committee. What will change is the business side of it and the marketing side of it and the event itself on the whole market is going to be much bigger for us.
It was a warm Ryder Cup last time in the US. How much attention to long term weather forecasting do you pay in terms of planning products or even planning advertising?
We don’t. For our development we need to create the best product. At the last Ryder Cup it was sunny Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but in the week before when the team was practicing it was quite wet and cold in the mornings so the gear was used quite a lot.
I was thinking also in terms of the general market when you are forecasting sales or for the quantity of materials you buy. Do you ever look at the weather for that?
No, we don’t but you can say that we are more affected by the weather situation than we are by the economy in the world. So if it is an extremely hot June and July for example then we would see that reflected in our figures, yes. But saying that we are going into 2018 where we have developed a bigger range of the lighter products, so we believe that we are going to be stronger whatever the weather is.
So apart from more rain, if you had one wish for the game of golf what would it be?
I think just getting more fun out there and making sure everybody enjoys playing golf and understands the game and has fun doing it.
Is there anything you think that could help boost that?
Better apparel, from Galvin Green!
Of course! Let's wish for that then. Thank you Christian
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