I started my golf journey with a golf scholarship at the highly academic, Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Playing golf at a competitive level encouraged me to pursue a golf career as a “Class "A” PGA professional. After 14 years, I moved away from the golf professional side to the business side. I pursued a career in golf sales, as an independent golf manufacturer sales representative. These experiences led me to become a golf sales manager of several nationally known brands such as Reebok, Ashworth and currently as the VP of Sales North America for Duca Del Cosma.
The Gray Story --
As a youth I was always very competitive and played team sports. Baseball was my best sport and I was catcher. I liked being a catcher as you see the entire field, call the pitches and was involved in every play. What I did not like about team sports was the coach could take you out the game. I didn’t like being out of the game.
My father introduced me to the game of golf at the local public golf course. I found I had some natural ability and team sports were in the rear-view mirror. I had found a sport where the coach could not take you out. So, I practiced with great rigor and got better. When I was 16, I won the first flight of the city-wide championship. It was at that moment; I knew golf was going to be my life pursuit.
As it turned out I was not the next Jack Nicklaus but golf gave me a college education, started my career as a golf professional and led me to find success in golf through other avenues.
Who is your customer? How are you seeking to expand your reach?
Our target customer demographic is a core golfer, mostly affluent. A sophisticated golfer between the ages of 25 to 45 with discerning taste. They appreciate fashion, Italian designs and performance.
What's business been like during the pandemic and what are the projections for 2021?
We launched the Duca Del Cosma brand this year in the US market. A tough year, due to the pandemic to introduce a new company, but with that being said we have assembled a strong US and Canadian sales team. We have developed an important retail partnership with PGA Tour Super Store and BPG Boutique Pro Golf buying group in Canada.
In addition, we have grown with numerous smaller retailers, on-line sites as well as with green grass businesses.
We are very optimistic about the reception of the brand and look to have a strong 2021. To support those projected sales, we have doubled our footwear inventory. The trade loves the look and quality of Duca Del Cosma and when the time is right -- we see our sales booming.
How does Duca Del Cosma distinguish itself from your competitors -- most notably FootJoy, the industry's 800-pound gorilla in the category.
We are not a FootJoy and nor are we trying to be. Duca Del Cosma has many features and strengths that they do not. Once you see our shoes, the quality, the craftsmanship and the style, they distinguish us from them. Our shoes are designed in Italy, handcrafted in Portugal and made with finest Italian leathers available.
It takes over 200 steps to make our shoes and each pair are sold in an elegant box that includes a personal note from our Chairman – Frank van Wezel. Duca Del Cosma represents Italian fashion at its best.
Is there a gender difference in what men and women place as the most important priority in footwear?
Yes, men are more performance driven and then look for a classic design. Women are more in tune to the fashion but still appreciate a high-performance golf shoe. Our women’s collection is just as, or perhaps even more important, as the men’s collection. Where other brands focus more on the men’s collection.
Plenty of shoe companies are opting to emphasize one side of the equation over the other. Specifically, the "look" versus the "functionality" dynamic. How does Duca Del Cosma meet that challenge?
We accommodate this challenge with the company’s five core tenets: quality, fashion, performance, comfort and selection. We design and manufacture a high-performance shoe that is stylish and striking.
How valuable a role does endorsements play from those playing professionally and will Duca Del Cosma be going this route?
Endorsement by a tour player validates the performance aspect of our brand. It obviously helps us become more visible and builds our brand. We will announce the new Duca Del Cosma professional staff member on December 15th.
Many companies routinely tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the manner by which you go about implementing.
We like to think of this as the customer experience which includes every account and consumer touch point. For the account, it is ease of our order process and fulfillment from our fully automated facility in Atlanta. We ship orders within 48 hours of receipt and in most cases 24 hours. We provide an electronic order acknowledgement, and email tracking when the order is shipped and immediate accurate invoicing. As for the consumer, we provide return details if the shoes are not right for any reason and in fact, our Chairman Frank van Wezel’s personal email is the lead inside of every box should any customer wish to communicate directly to the man at the top.
Given the products you produce what role does customer feedback play and how do you include that in your future efforts.
Well, from the fact that our Chairman’s email is on every box we greatly value all customer input. We send every customer an invitation to review our services and products via Trustpilot. Currently, we have a 4.6 out of 5 stars. 92% reviews with excellent.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally -- what would it be and why?
Big question and depends on what topic. I would like to see more ease of access and for there to be an emphasis on fun. The more people that can play -- the better it is for the future of the game. If they have fun, they will be back.
Best advice you ever received -- what was it and who from?
Well, it is not really advice from someone I know it but is rather a quote that resonated with me. “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
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