TravisMathew isn’t a golf brand. It isn’t a surf brand. Despite emerging from the shores of Surf City USA in Huntington Beach, California, in 2007, TravisMathew is finding success in its niche as lifestyle performance by bridging the gap between performance and casual.
With a shift to a more casual workplace culture that was magnified by the coronavirus pandemic, traditional slacks and button-down shirts are being replaced by more business casual attire of polos and T-shirts that prioritize comfort and multi-functionality.
“You have the performance brands on one side and casual brands on the other, and now athleisure’s sneaking in there, but it still looks athletic,” TravisMathew CEO Ryan Ellis said. “You’re not going to wear athleisure to dinner, so that’s where we’ve bridged the gap. We’re not a dressy brand but at the end of the day we have this lifestyle performance where it performs for your everyday life but it looks casual and it also can look dressy.
“I haven’t seen anybody in the industry take a hold of that or follow us in that path which is great. I think people need their own niche of ‘What does your brand stand for?’ and no one’s stood for that except for us and we’re going to keep driving it.”
Popular up and down the West Coast, TravisMathew continues its eastward expansion thanks to a combination of brand awareness, working with athlete and celebrity ambassadors, highlighted by top-ranked PGA Tour golfer Jon Rahm, and the increasing demand for comfort and adaptability with attire.
Despite facing “the worst year we’ve ever had” in 2020 due to the pandemic, TravisMathew doubled down on its retail presence, expanding from 15 stores to 30 around the country. Having checks and balances across a variety of distribution channels including e-commerce, wholesale and retail helped TravisMathew stay afloat during the pandemic despite top customer Nordstrom suffering a 50% drop in business.
According to Ellis, TravisMathew, which was acquired by Callaway Golf Company for $125.5 million in an all-cash transaction in 2017, doesn’t have a single distribution channel that’s more than 22% of its business or a single customer that’s more than 12% of its business.
“Before the pandemic we made a lot of plans in 2020 to pop out in ’21, but ’20 was really about ‘let’s right-size this ship,’” Ellis said. “We pivoted to plan for ’21 to make sure when we come out of this, we’re whole—we don’t have off-price, there isn’t a ton of inventory laying around and we continue to have the freshness with the brand.
“It was a tough ’20, but ’21 has been absolutely on fire. I can’t believe the moment with the brand we’re seeing.”
The brand, which has seen 100% growth in sales since 2019, hopes to ride its momentum into 2022 and beyond beginning with a new Eco Collection debuting today. Utilizing new fabric blends featuring at least 98% organic cotton or at least 62% polyester made from recycled plastic water bottles, the Eco Collection is part of a larger concerted effort to create a more sustainable company. Their Orange County headquarters will increase its environmentally friendly efforts via reusable cups and utensils, office-wide recycling programs and more energy-conscious lighting.
From September 21 through December 15, TravisMathew will donate 100% of profits from the Eco Collection with a minimum donation of $100,000 to the Surfrider Foundation, which is dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans and beaches.
“Younger people care about sustainability a lot more than a lot of people who might be past Millennials,” Ellis said. “It’s great these younger people are taking initiative and they want their voices to be heard, and they should be heard. I think it’s bringing a lot of awareness, especially to companies like us, that we can make a huge impact. We aren’t a small company anymore, and it’s really exciting knowing we can make that impact, so I think it’s very important to our customers and very important to people in our building as well.”
To celebrate the new Eco Collection, TravisMathew and the World Surf League hosted The Life on Tour Challenge—a surf and golf competition featuring 12 professional surfers including Kelly Slater, Josh Kerr, Kanoa Igarashi and Anastasia Ashley, and a dozen celebrities and athletes including Rob Riggle, Alexandra O’Laughlin, Luke Rockhold, Jax Taylor at the Huntington Beach Pier and Huntington Golf Club on September 19. The event will air at 11 p.m. ET on October 17 on ESPN2 following the U.S. Open of Surfing.
“The event is literally us doing a typical day when I go and hangout with the boys, but we invited some of the best surfers in the world and some great celebrities and names to enjoy a typical day we’d normally go and do anyway,” said Kerr, a former Air Show World champion. “This is literally our normal day, but a bit more of an enhanced experience with everyone being part of it.”
TravisMathew is also listening to its consumers by introducing a women’s line in spring 2022. According to Ellis, 25% of the brand’s direct-to-consumer customers are women. The plan isn’t to “shrink it and pink it,” but to introduce new products and new branding under the TravisMathew name. The women’s line won’t be a golf line or an active line competing for consumers in an increasingly crowded space, but like TravisMathew overall, the new line will be situated between casual and performance inspired by the California coast.
For Ellis, the brand that “at one point was more of that boys’ club,” the increased prioritization in sustainability and inclusivity will only further expand TravisMathews’ presence across the United States and beyond.
Improvements in supply-chain disruptions, recent performance trends and deferred operating spending has caused Callaway to raise its full-year and third-quarter revenue and earnings forecasts with the TravisMathew owners expecting full-year revenue of $3.07 billion to $4 billion, a rise from previous guidance of $3.03 billion to $3.06 billion.
“We’ve become a truly continental U.S. brand,” Ellis said. “We’re big on the East Coast now; this isn’t just a West Coast brand. We have West Coast roots and we have golf roots, but we’re a lifestyle brand becoming a global lifestyle brand, and really throughout the United States the brand recognition is higher than ever. That, coupled with the successful launches we’ve had and how we treated Covid and came out of it, this is the best year we’ve ever had like 10 fold.”