How TravisMathew is Growing Beyond Golf on Way to $500M in Sales
TravisMathew polos and cotton pants – that look for on the course – has the hardcore golfer covered. Pieces such as the men’s four-way stretch denim or women’s cropped pants with pintuck detailing are making the Huntington Beach brand relevant for off course and helping carve a path to $500 million in sales.
Now, as CEO and employee No. 1 Ryan Ellis looks out at the business, it’s about steering the ever-expanding golf label, which saw net sales of more than $300 million and adjusted EBITDA of more than $50 million in 2022, as it scales. Much farther out, TravisMathew has aspirations of growing to a $1 billion business.
“It’s shocking,” Ellis said of where the business started, when most everyone else involved with TravisMathew was a pro golfer, in comparison to today’s team of executives with corporate experience and product and fabric expertise.
Adjectives such as “excellent” and “phenomenal” have been used to describe the TravisMathew business more recently by parent Topgolf Callaway Brands Corp. President and CEO Chip Brewer during recent earnings calls.
It’s not just one area of the business that’s doing well.
Golf’s popularity surged during the pandemic. Last year also saw the brand expand in key retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Nordstrom and Scheels where TravisMathew’s presence ballooned across doors and store floors. Now, it’s about continuing to feed those newfound customers with more product in more selling channels.
“In 2020 we doubled down on retail and said, ‘Hey, what we’re finding is if we build a multichannel approach with retail, it lifts up all channels,’” Ellis said.
Multichannel for an Expanding Assortment
To support the growth, TravisMathew went on an executive hiring spree this year, following the more than doubling of its overall workforce in 2022.
In January, TravisMathew hired Vice President of Operations Ellen Hwang, who was most recently senior director of global digital portfolio and programs at Vans; Vice President of Human Resources Angela Deskins joined in February, bringing past experience at companies such as Adidas and Nike; Shea Louie, the former Athleta head of store strategy and operations, joined as vice president of retail in August; and Bill Brown was hired in October as vice president of sales, with past experience at companies such as Stance and Nike.
The more the business grows, the more diverse the consumer mix becomes.
It’s why Ellis says the key is to maintain the brand’s roots in golf as it further transforms into a full lifestyle brand.
“Nordstrom,” he said by way of example, “is certainly helping that. We’ve got a huge presence there. We have one of the fastest-growing brands in Nordstrom and they’ve been great partners to us. They’re introducing us to lifestyle consumers.”
The more than 40 TravisMathew U.S. stores, similarly, appeal to not just the core golfer but the lifestyle consumer.
The fact that denim is the top-selling category across all of the company’s stores speaks to that.
Ellis said when the company decided to get into denim, the team carefully approached how the product would be positioned in the market, setting itself up to compete against premium brands such as AG Jeans, 7 For All Mankind and Paige.
“We’re a product company. We make great product. I wear and test every single product that comes in,” Ellis said. “(Denim) is one of those pieces that all the guy has to do is try it on and he will purchase, or he wants to purchase. It’s been pretty surprising.”
Next year, TravisMathew footwear will relaunch with a revamped lineup built around the casual Daily shoe style, further building on the product offering.
The company will open seven stores this year. It’s likely opening between seven to 10 doors annually is doable, with an opportunity farther out to reach more than 75 locations. However, Ellis underscored there isn’t pressure from Topgolf Callaway to have to stick to that.
“We’re in a really great position with Callaway where they don’t force us to find revenue,” Ellis said.
Work to expand certain flagships is also happening. The brand’s Fashion Island store, for example, grew from roughly 2,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet. The company’s Scottsdale store also saw an expansion to accommodate the growing line.
TravisMathew Women’s Momentum
The ballooning women’s business is a big part of the push to expand flagship stores to allow shoppers a full presentation of the assortment.
The women’s story has been better than expected for TravisMathew and now serves as the company’s fastest-growing business segment.
The company launched women’s in May 2022 to such strong demand, it had to rebuild inventory and relaunch the line in October of that year. Wholesale mirrored that success, launching to retailers in May of this year, in addition to a full direct-to-consumer rollout, with the line selling out and then later relaunching with replenished inventory.
“Women’s has become one of the most exciting parts of the business and it took us 15 years to develop,” Ellis said.
The line has gone from around 50-60 SKUs for spring/summer 2023 to more than 200 for 2024.
The company opted to carefully build out the women’s vision to strike a balance Ellis described as “something that doesn’t look so loungey, but is comfortable and something that is active but doesn’t look so sporty.”
Whether women’s grows to be as large as men, or perhaps even more, Ellis is cautious in setting targets.
“I don’t want to put that type of pressure on women’s,” he said. “We’ve got a 16-year, established business in men’s…. We want it to be relevant for her and so we’ve built a different team from the men’s team. I’m not putting the expectation that it has to be what men’s is.”
Even still, it’s set to quickly become more than 10% of the overall business and could easily reach more than a quarter of total sales in the longer term.
Outlook and Evolution
Even as activities that surged during the pandemic now see some slowing from the peak, the general excitement around golf hasn’t faded, according to Ellis. He pointed to the metric of rounds played being up this year as a good indication.
Promotional activity for TravisMathew is likely to be higher than last year since the business wasn’t marking product down in 2022, but largely in line with 2019 sale activity.
TravisMathew will, for the first time, participate in Singles’ Day sales in China this month, which Ellis sees as a good opportunity to get a read on how Black Friday and the broader holiday season may shape up.
Even with the industrywide retail headwinds that have set in this year, the long-term outlook for TravisMathew remains upbeat as the business continues to mature into something Ellis and early employees never saw coming.
“Certainly at 26 I didn’t feel like I was going to be the guy to run the business and do everything we’ve done, but we spent a lot of hard work the first couple years to say, ‘Hey, we do have something here,’” Ellis recalled of those early days getting TravisMathew off the ground. “I think we envisioned a really nice business in a real gap in the market, but where it is today is highly evolved from that idea.”
Kari Hamanaka can be reached at email@example.com.