Man About Town: Tapping the Members-only Demographic

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Man About Town: Tapping the Members-only Demographic

By Christian Chensvold, Apparel Contributing Writer - 02/23/2017
You know you're on the right track when you're reaching the best demographic in the world. The best, that is, for you. That's how Billy Draddy puts it when it comes to his radically old-school golfwear collection, B. Draddy.

Draddy took up golf as a child and also has clothing in his DNA, as his family licensed the Lacoste brand and married it with their own brand, Izod. He went on to work at Ralph Lauren before becoming creative director at Summit Golf Brands, which owns Zero Restriction, Fairway & Greene, and which unveiled B. Draddy in fall 2013.

At that time, the golf apparel industry had almost entirely gone over to the dark side of high-tech polyester performance fabrics. When B. Draddy showed up to account meetings with fine Peruvian pima cotton, buyers were shocked, recounts head of sales Jack Lessing. "They were telling me that 95 percent of their shirts were polyester, so they were surprised. But surprise is good. We thought there was an opportunity, in the face of this tech movement, to do cotton. Your body craves cotton. When we don't have to dress up, it's our first choice."

The collection now includes a range of tops and bottoms that are subdued and basic — no neon argyles or loudmouth prints. "We try to give guys what they want and guys want navy and light blue," says Lessing. "We're not trying to do anything for shock value."

Although B. Draddy maintains an e-commerce website with cool vintage imagery, its primary market is the under-the-radar world of private golf clubs and golf resorts. For the former, members revere their club logo only slightly less than the American flag, says Lessing, with B. Draddy making shirts with each club's logo. And when it comes to golf destinations such as resorts, the target customer is someone who wants to bring home a little souvenir to wear. It's a niche market with solid "price integrity," Lessing says. B. Draddy gear ranges from $90 for a polo shirt to $485 for a cashmere sweater.

"When we launched the BD line, we targeted the mid-amateur competitive golfer — not professional — as our target customer," says Billy Draddy. "He plays golf, he has a job, perhaps a family, and he understands quality and values it in all aspects of his life. The mid-am has to work to keep golf in his life, and for this reason would have a better appreciation for our product. This is the long way of explaining why we feel we have the best demographic for us."

Golf has been going through a rough patch, however, with participation in the sport showing a sharp decline over the past decade. For young professionals, membership in a suburban country club no longer carries the prestige it once did. Nevertheless, Draddy feels that this niche market is more resilient than others. "Club members have made an investment via an initiation, therefore they are more likely when times are tough to give up a vacation or rent their beach house before they forego using their club. Of course there are people who have given up their club during tough times, but I believe it is usually one of the last cuts on someone's list."

That's loyalty any brand would envy. And speaking of brand loyalty, "I also believe that for this subset, their club is their favorite brand," says Draddy. "They are more likely to wear a polo shirt that has their club's logo than a pony or a crocodile, so they support that channel of retail first."