Sunice, a golf apparel firm known for its amazing technical outerwear—rain pants with a built-in chamois to clean clubs; a “pro-trim” fabric that eliminates belly bulge during the swing—is gearing up to make a splash in the American market.
Until this month, Sunice had been part of the TaylorMade-adidas golf juggernaught, having been acquired in the deal that brought Ashworth Golf to TaylorMade in October 2008. That agreement called for Ashworth to market the Canadian-based Sunice’s products in the U.S.
But perhaps the Sunice designs got lost in the shuffle. This month the company announced it had pulled out of the deal and began hiring its own team of U.S.-based executives. Howie Ellis, the widely respected former director of apparel sales at Callaway Golf, will be named executive vice president of Sunice Golf USA. He will be based in Boston.
“We essentially exercised an option to repurchase our trademark,” said Mark Fletcher, the president of Fletcher Leisure group, the Montreal company that owns Sunice. “We wanted to focus on the American market more directly.”
Coincidentally, the apparel end of Callaway, one of the largest golf equipment manufacturers in the world, has been dormant because its most recent licensee (or apparel partner) was, again, Ashworth Golf, which, as mentioned, was sold to TaylorMade-adidas last year. It wouldn’t do for Callaway’s clothes to be made by a division of one of its main competitors, TaylorMade.
There is a good deal of musical chairs in the golf apparel licensing realm, and it sometimes leaves big businesses temporarily without a product, or at least without a clear direction going forward. Callaway is readying its catalogs for Spring 2010, the first season of its new golf apparel collections, to send to vendors in the next few weeks.
Ashworth and the Solheim Women
Meanwhile, Ashworth Golf is not letting the grass grow under its spikes. The company designed the uniforms for the victorious U.S. women’s Solheim Cup golf team, including those patriot-colored shirts, windowpane skirts, and trim-fitting shorts. The American women were noteworthy for their cleverly layered outfits, featuring sleeveless “beach polos” and “sand shorts,” sometimes double and triple layered with compression undershirts and tank-style sweater vests.
The European uniforms were supplied by Abacus, a preppy Swedish sportswear company that is making a push into the American golf market.