“Japan is a key element of our business – but if we can properly develop the market, Japan could be one of the most important parts.”
Michael Morton, founder and acting managing director of MD Golf
MD Golf first entered the Japanese market in 2008, but is looking to dramatically increase its presence in the world’s No. 2 market for the sport.
And it has another iconic British name as its secret weapon after signing an exclusive licensing deal with Aston Martin Sport to produce a range of golf products for a brand that was in 2008 named as the coolest in the world.
Michael Morton, who founded the company in 1996 and presently serves as acting managing director, first visited the Professional Golfers’ Association of Japan show in 2003 and says he immediately realised how huge the sport is here.
“The real difficulty is finding people to work with in such a different culture and also having a brand that is attractive enough to work there,” he said. “That aside, we identified it as the No. 2 golf market in the world and felt we must find a way to get started there.”
MD Golf signed a global licensing deal with Seve Ballesteros in 2008, with the late Spanish star of the sport still hugely popular in Japan, where he designed a number of courses.
But working with Japanese partners was not always easy, Morton admits.
“You have to be immensely patient doing business in Japan and my impression is that people really, really like to know who they are dealing with,” he said.
Undeterred, MD Golf now has an exclusive deal with World Golf and presently does around $1 million worth of business with the Japanese company every year.
The next aim is to introduce Japanese players to the Aston Martin range of golfing equipment.
“We already sell to all the Aston Martin car dealers in Japan, but recognise we need a distribution hub there to properly develop this business,” Morton said. “Aston Martin as a luxury brand will very much appeal to the Japanese consumer, who is interested in prestige as well as performance.
And the potential is huge, Morton believes.
“I believe we can multiply our business 20-fold in the Japanese market if we can get into the right retailers,” he said.
And that is where the knowledge and know-how of the UK Trade & Industry team at the British Embassy in Tokyo comes into play.
“Up until now we have done this on our own, but we hope that now the link has been made we will get the UKTI behind us,” Morton said. “Knowledge of the market is vital and it is not easy to make the right contacts with the right people.
“Japan is a key element of our business – but if we can properly develop the market, Japan could be one of the most important parts,” he added. “Hopefully UKTI can help us realise this potential.”