It’s been a solid summer for Srixon.
Of course, Shane Lowry’s big win at Royal Portrush in July was the highlight. It was Srixon/Cleveland’s 2ndmajor title (Keegan Bradley’s PGA in 2011 was the brand’s first), and it was made sweeter by the fact that 12 of his 14 clubs were Srixon/Cleveland, and he gamed a Z-STAR golf ball.
June was solid as well, as Srixon released a surprisingly good 2-piece ball in the Q-STAR and the company also leapfrogged Bridgestone into 4th place in the ball unit market share game, peaking at around 8.6%. True, it’s units and not dollars, and the jump was mostly due to a big Z-STAR buy one-get one promo, but momentum is momentum.
September is gearing up to be a hectic month for the brand. You can expect a symphony in five parts from Srixon/Cleveland over the next few weeks, starting with today’s overture: a bright, colorful little number called the Soft Feel Brite.
Soft ‘n Brite
I know it sounds like laundry detergent, but Srixon says the Soft Feel Brite is, well, soft and bright. It’s also Srixon’s most popular ball worldwide. The Soft Feel (in white and yellow) and Soft Feel Lady (in white and pink) were updated last year, and the only thing new in this offering is color: the Brite’s are very, very bright, in matte red, orange and green.
Soft Feel Brite is what it is: a 2-piece, 60 compression Ionomer cover ball. It features Srixon’s Energetic Gradient Growth Core (softer in middle and firmer towards the outside, like a Tootsie-Pop) for a high-launch, low spin trajectory, along with Srixon 338 Speed Dimple patters for lower drag.
It’s fair to ask what’s the difference between this 2-piece, Ionomer cover distance ball, and Srixon’s other 2-piece, Ionomer cover distance ball that came out in June, the Q-STAR. The short answer is even though they’re similar, they’re different enough to be in separate categories. The Q-STAR is intended to be a higher-performing 2-piece ball. It’s still soft (72 compression) compared to Tour-level balls, but has enough technology (in this case, Srixon’s SpinSkin with Slide-Ring Material) to provide a surprising amount of spin on approach shots.
The Q-STAR’s are $26.99/dozen and compete head-to-head with the Wilson DUO Spin, the TaylorMade Project (s) and the Titleist Velocity. If Tour-level balls are Tier 1, and near-Tour Level (Srixon’s Q-STAR Tour, Bridgestone e12, TaylorMade Project (a), Callaway ERC, Wilson DUO Professional, among others) are Tier 2, then the Q-STAR and its brethren are Tier 3.
The Soft Feel line is a clear Tier 4 ball. It’s a good bit softer (60 compression) and lacks additional spin technology other than a very thin cover (which really isn’t that thin compared to tour-level urethane offerings). OEMs sell a ton of balls in this category, and it’s populated with the likes of the Wilson DUO Soft, and Callaway SuperSoft. This ball category is aimed squarely at the recreational golfer who loves the soft feel, doesn’t hit the ball very far, appreciates the price, and for whom eking out a few more RPMs of greenside spin isn’t really important.
Yes, soft does equal slow. But as we learned in the MyGolfSpy ball test, as swing speed drops the distance difference between firm and soft drops as well. For the Soft Feel target golfer, the feel is the thing, along with color and price.
Soft Feel Brite will retail for $19.99/dozen, same as the existing Soft Feel lineup, and will be available October 1st.
Market Share Games
As we mentioned earlier, Srixon did jump ahead of Bridgestone into 4thplace in ball unit market share in July. It’s important to note that jump is in the number of balls sold, not dollars. The jump was mainly due to an aggressive BOGO promotion for the Tour-level Z-STAR.
Buying market share with what amounts to a 50% price cut will move product, but once the promo is over, sales volume will level back out. It’s inevitable and totally expected by those doing the promotion. Srixon has slid back into 5thplace since the promo ended, but that doesn’t mean the program was a flop. Sales promotions in any business are designed to grab market share, knowing the full bump is unsustainable and share will regress once the promo is over. The hope, however, is you retain a reasonable number of customers who tried your product because of the deal, and found they liked it enough to keep buying it at the regular price.
According to Srixon, the company has retained enough of those sales through July and August to be closer to 4thplace Bridgestone today than it was before the promo. Sure, we’re only talking single-digit market shares, but if the promo gives you even a small – but sustainable – jump from a 6% market share to a 7% market share, that small jump represents a nearly 17% increase in volume that’s being purchased at full price, and at full margins.
If that’s your goal, who really cares if you were #4 for only a month before sliding back to 5th?
When it comes to promos, the question is simple: can you take the temporary margin hit in hopes of grabbing some lasting market share gains? Unless you’re Titleist, that’s the ball game you play.