Skechers USA Inc. is winning.
And its not the kind of win made by a shoddy team that nabs a stroke of luck at the buzzer in the game’s fourth quarter, either.
By all accounts, the Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based footwear company has a strategy for strengthening its brand image and expanding its global share that is both steady and calculated.
In fact, that winning strategy has propelled Skechers passed competitors like Adidas Group, Asics and New Balance to right behind the athletic footwear market’s leader, Nike Inc.
Hot off of a solid first quarter, in which the firm posted 40 percent gains in sales, obliterating the Street’s forecasts, the company has no plans to slow down.
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In the its first major business strategy-related announcement since Q1, Skechers said it has forged a new partnership with European golf legend Colin Montgomerie. The winning Ryder Cup captain will appear in Skechers Go Golf print, digital, outdoor and in-store marketing campaigns.
The move, the company said, will help build the brand’s presence in the golf community in the U.K., Ireland and Europe.
It’s the third golf endorsement for Skechers, which also has PGA Tour Champion Matt Kuchar and LPGA Pro Belén Mozo on its roster.
Why is Skechers taking a bet on a sport that many say might be faltering?
Rick Higgins, SVP of merchandising and marketing for Skechers Performance Division, doesn’t see a reason not to. During his Q&A with FN, Higgins shared why he’s confident in Skechers’ ability to win in the golf market, too.
Tell me a little about Skechers’ Go Golf line and some of the product offerings.
RH: Skechers Go Golf is part of our Performance Portfolio, and we’ve been able to leverage several of our key platforms from running and training into golf, with our main emphasis being on the athletes’ needs and keeping comfort as part of the equation.
What are the most popular styles?
RH: The overall line has done very well. We’ve been pleased with our signature Pro style worn by Matt Kuchar and Colin Montgomerie on tour, and on the women’s side, we’ve seen a great response to that assortment, too.
Are there any new products coming?
RH: For Spring 2016, we will launch our Go Golf Elite and the Go Golf Drive 2.
Tell me about the endorsements the Go Golf line has been able to secure — Matt Kuchar, Belén Mozo and now Colin Montgomerie. How do endorsements fit into the strategy to grow your golf line?
RH: All of our athletes are at the core of our 360-degree strategy. Right from the start, they are part of the process — in design, development and then driving into the market — each of our pros is key to our golf business. We’ve had such a great time working with Matt for the past couple of years. He has provided us with a wealth of knowledge that we’ve been able to build on. With Colin and Belén on board, they have created energy for us on the global level.
What insight can you share on the business strategy for expanding Go Golf?
RH: We’ve focused on growing green-grass accounts during our initial rollout phase, and now we are focusing on specialty golf channels.
Why ramp up the effort now?
RH: Skechers Performance has a lot of momentum right now, and we keep attracting more and more consumers and retailers due to the power of our products and marketing, so it’s really an ideal time for us.
Are there any major campaigns on the way?
RH: We just launched our series of Golf Tips commercials with Matt Kuchar and will be releasing the others in the series. We also partnered with Golf Channel for their new show, “Altered Course.” We are a key sponsor of the show, and that’s been very exciting for the brand. You can see our footwear throughout the series.
There has been a lot of industrywide pressure on shoe companies to pull out of the golf business — which many say is declining and will continue to decline in the foreseeable future. Does Skechers Performance Division feel that pressure?
RH: Honestly, we really haven’t felt that pressure. We’ve just come into the golf market and are very happy with our results so far. We’ve got a strong message that is resonating with the retailer and the consumer from what we can see, and there is still market share out there for us.