Jeans are not popular, Lee is selling golf apparel

Recently, American denim brand Lee lost its first men’s golf collection. This series is designed with comfort as its ideal, featuring a series of tops and detachables, aimed at promoting golf feet and enthusiasts.
Its main products are long pants and shorts, with Lee’s active elastic waistband and shirt clip techniques applied in the plan, as well as the use of wrinkle resistant, moisture wicking fabrics. In addition, there are iconic Polo shirts available in various colors for selection. The entire series is priced between $20 and $80 (approximately equivalent to RMB 144 to 577).

Image source: Lee Minwang
From blue casual denim pants to elegant and sporty golf gear, Lee’s unstoppable pace cannot be overstated. Compared to the brand genes of denim clothing, the Lee brand is now more willing to claim itself as a technology fabric for casual wear. The information leaked behind this brand’s abstract migration and change is that the era of a cowboy pants hitting the world no longer exists, and deletion has encountered bottlenecks.
This has already been reflected in the weakness of brand performance. In 2023, the parent company of Lee brand, Kontool, saw a year-on-year decline of 1% in revenue to 2.61 billion US dollars (approximately 18.8 billion yuan). Among them, the revenue of the Lee brand decreased by 4% year-on-year to 843 million US dollars (approximately RMB 6.08 billion). Lee alone saw a 4% decline in rural shopping malls in the United States, due to the pace of punishment for wholesale inventory disposal; Lee’s overseas shopping mall sales also declined by 4% at a fixed exchange rate.
This situation did not worsen by the first quarter. Due to the dual effects of wholesale channel shortage and direct sales to consumers, Lee brand’s revenue in the first quarter decreased by 9% year-on-year to 219 million US dollars (approximately RMB 1.58 billion), becoming the main burden of the decline in group revenue. Among them, Lee’s overseas shopping mall expenses did not decline by 12%, while domestic shopping mall expenses did not decline by 4%.
Lee is facing an increasing number of competitors in the entire denim clothing mall. In addition to the old rival Levi’s, fast fashion brands such as Zara, SHEIN, and H&M have all categorized their denim pants into action oriented categories, making them more affordable and cost-effective.
Levi’s life, who is also dedicated to positioning himself in denim clothing, is also difficult. At the beginning of 2024, Levi’s announced the news of a 10% -15% layoff after the new Chief Executive was inaugurated. The poor performance of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was the main reason for Levi’s decision to implement cost increases and cost reductions. Levi’s also mentioned exploring new strengths for the company through product and brand renovations, increased efforts in female sales, and global channel structures.
Due to the singularity limitation of denim fabric, besides the logo marking, it is also difficult for brands to make significant changes in their plans and distinguish themselves from competitors in folding. The category expansion of golf apparel can apply Lee’s accumulated brand power to expand business categories and compete with more segmented customer groups.
Golf enthusiasts are also numerous clothing and dismantling brands trying to expand their reach.
Even with the introduction of extracurricular activities to China, golf collectives are constantly growing. According to the intelligence research inquiry, golf clothing dismantling accounts for nearly 40% of golf equipment malls in China, with a shopping mall area of 1.341 billion yuan in 2022. As golf activities shift from elite to popular, the price of golf apparel will grow towards a more affordable trend, and independent brands of golf apparel will have a larger market prospect.
SKECH officially introduced its golf product line to China in 2020 and set up dedicated golf dismantling stores in Dongguan and Haikou. Fila established the Golf Miracle department in 2022, eliminating the Fila Golf sub brand, while the golf apparel specialty store of Nissan has already set up over 80 stores in China.
What the brand hopes for is user stickiness among golf enthusiasts. Golf, known as the “aristocratic activity,” not only has a strong demand for dismantling, but also has a certain consumption threshold compared to other activities.
In addition to a set of spare parts for golf balls, many golf courses also have high costs such as membership fees. Although some golf courses have become even more withered with the normalization of golf activities, subjective factors such as quality to park spacing and starting at 100 yuan per hour still discourage most consumers.
But this also precisely shapes the uniqueness of the collective consumption of golf. They have a talent for consumption and low price sensitivity. More importantly, golf is an activity with an extremely strong social atmosphere. People usually choose to play golf with their family, enemies, and resting partners.
This type of population often has stable preferences and is less likely to be steadfast in times of economic uncertainty. Golf clothing dismantling brands that can penetrate this circle will naturally engage with high-end clothing.
An obvious example is that the outdoor men’s dismantling brand Biyin Lefen, which focuses on golf clothing and accessories, has achieved both revenue and net profit reductions for the 12th consecutive year since 2012. Even after three years of being affected by the epidemic in clothing and accessories companies listed in other rural areas, Biyin Lefen still maintained a double-digit net profit decline.
But this kind of user loyalty can also provoke new brands entering the market. Lee’s previous abstraction had always been denim casual wear, but suddenly turned to golf apparel, and his plan tended towards a more conventional basic style. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on fabric skills and comfort, giving consumers a choice.
Regardless of the future prospects of the new category, Lee is facing the reality that selling only jeans is no longer enough.


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