This International Women’s Day, Women & Golf speak to Elaine Wrigley from American Golf to find out why this year’s theme of #InspireInclusion is so important to the retailer.

Having spent over 38 years working in retail, Elaine Wrigley joined American Golf as Retail, Operations and People Director six months ago. From starting her career at M&S to her most recent role as Head of People Experience and Inclusion at New Look, her passion has always been around inclusion.

At New Look, Elaine developed and built their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy, the first one they'd ever had, which was built by a very small team. This consisted of a three year roadmap which was shortlisted for a Drapers and Retail Week awards.

A non-golfer coming into the industry but with three sons who play, Elaine now calls herself an enthusiastic beginner. Editor Emma Ballard took time to speak to Elaine, to find out why she joined the golf industry, her role at American Golf, what the retailer is doing in the women’s golf space and more on the EDI programme that she is spearheading.

What led you to come to American Golf from New Look?

To be honest, it was the opportunity to come into a business at a point in time where it is really transforming itself. I've gone from a business that was 95% female to a business that is 95% male. So a complete shift.

The opportunity to come in and support the business’ progress and build a team for the future, is what excited me about the role. It's why I love retail so much, because it's just very varied.

I'm here to support, develop, and provide the environment for my team, so we've got all the amazing skill sets to be successful. It really was the challenge of coming in at a point in time where the business is really moving at quite a pace. It is genuinely an exciting time to be in American Golf.

American Golf advert

What does the role of Retail Operations and People Director entail?

I look after the stores and the store teams, the warehouse and logistics and the properties. I am also responsible for the customer service team and the people team. So it's a broad role. The reality is the success of any business is all about the people and my role allows me to be in contact with the bulk of the people across American Golf.

What has happened in the women’s golf space at American Golf over the last six months?

I think probably a lot that we need to shout about a bit louder, to be honest with you, because there's been a lot going on in the business. In short, we have supported some young women starting their golfing journeys and sponsored them. We have worked with a Facebook group called Ladies Golf Lounge. Not only have we gained fantastic feedback from them, but also been able to support them with clothing and competition prizes.

The key area we have worked on and I’m sure this will be of interest to your readers, is that there has been a complete review of our own women’s clothing designs. The offering that's coming through for this Spring/Summer is much stronger, and it will be launching within the next four weeks.

I'm genuinely excited about the products and I'm sure our customers will be when they see it. I went into the product review and walked away wanting to buy it all. That’s what fills me with confidence. Because when you're a retailer, you know instantly what will work and what won’t.

It’s worth noting that we're focusing on having the women’s lines in 40 stores across the UK and Ireland. So we're not going to have it in all stores this year, because we are making sure that we get it right, due to all the feedback we have been given. We will have the full range available online.

American Golf in store Ladies section

Alongside this, we have also got a female category manager now, buying the product as well. Which is definitely making a difference.

Finally, we are also looking at the age diversity and the cultural diversity of our marketing campaigns because coming into the business, it definitely was not as diverse as I would have liked it to be. I am excited about the campaign that's coming up in the summer because it isn't only about women, but it's about age diversity, it's about disability and cultural diversity. I think customers will definitely see a really positive shift. I'm also delighted to say that we're going to be supporting Pride for the first time this year, that's going to be a really positive step change for us.

An awful lot going on, in terms of women, but broader inclusivity generally. To be a successful business we need to make sure that we are actually appealing to all our customers.

Tell us more about the new EDI programme

The most important thing when starting on the EDI journey, which is something that I have always been passionate about, is that you know who your customers are, who your team members are and what is important to them.

We are gaining a deep understanding of who our customers are. I'm delighted to say we have a wealth of data on our customers here at AG, better than I've had in lots of other businesses, which is exciting.

But we also need to understand what is important to our store teams, in our warehouse and head office teams as well.

We're going to be building out a programme called Fairway (pun intended). It's how are we really fair and equitable and accessible to everyone.

You know the benefits of golf and playing golf are enormous and it's how do we make that accessible to everyone. We have a new Head of People, she joined us in December.

American Golf initiative

We're starting to gather data from our teams, we've done listening groups right the way across the business, which have been fantastic and have given everyone at every level, the chance to have a voice and bring their ideas and we have listened to it all.

We're now in the process of pulling it all together and starting to think about how that shapes our approach for the next three years and beyond. How do we bring our store teams on that journey, but also our customers as well because everything that we're doing needs to resonate with both of these groups of people.

We're genuinely excited about it and will be partnering with an organisation called Includability. We will be working with them to gain accreditation for all we do in the inclusion space. We’re starting to think about how we provide an environment where we can allow our store teams and our office and warehouse teams to be involved in what we're doing and that it isn't just a Support Centre led initiative. It needs to be about who we are as a brand.

You’ve been working in the golf industry for six months. What are your feelings about the industry?

Coming into the industry, I didn't really know what to expect, if I am honest. I'm delighted to say it's been incredibly welcoming. That's not only been our teams, being the retail director I get the opportunity to talk to lots of customers. It’s great to hear how positive people are about women's golf. They desperately want American Golf to be taking the lead.

I think there are exciting things in terms of there being more female role models for women's golf, generally, and that they're being celebrated more. That just needs to grow and grow, because there is still so much more that can be done to really shout about the women that are championing the sport.

There is real positivity out there and it genuinely feels that there is excitement building. Everyone is talking about growth and the potential size of that growth that might come in the coming years. If you look at women's football, and how that suddenly exploded, I believe there is a real opportunity for golf to start to explode in the women's golf space as well.

In my team at AG. I think our store teams are inspired because they're not only seeing role models outside of the business, but they're starting to see more female role models within the business. It is so important that there are those role models that you can aspire to be. But genuinely, it feels like we're on a positive upward turn with women's golf.

American Golf event

What else have AG done or are looking to do to focus on inspiring inclusion?

Recently our Eastleigh and Telford stores invited women from a local club for an experiential evening, which were both tremendous.  It’s a great way for AG to start to build that relationship between us and our customers. There will be a lot more of that coming in terms of starting to partner with golf clubs and golf industry.

I think we talk a lot about accessibility in inclusion, but one of the things we've been talking about a lot as well is affordability and really making sure that the entry level for new golfers is easier to access.

We’re looking to build on our New To Golf campaign that we launched last year. How we really enable someone to make it easy for them to come into our store when they're starting on their golf journeys.

When we're talking about women in the golf industry, we're really looking at the mix of our store teams, and where do we have the opportunity for our store teams to be a bit more diverse. I am sure you'll hear it from your readers, but actually, it does make a store seem slightly more inviting if there's a diversity of team members in the store. I know when I was first going into golf stores, it can be a little bit intimidating when you're new.

We are really thinking about that whole affordability and accessibility piece.

We've had a lot going on this week internally for International Women's Day. There have been lots of posts about our teams on LinkedIn and Tik Tok. We have some golf influencers that have spoken about women and golf and then there'll be some things happening for Mother's Day.

Any final thoughts?

The worst thing you can do is do it at a moment in time, like International Women’s Day, because it's seen as being the right thing to do and then it doesn't happen again. Whatever American Golf are doing, it is going to be about really being authentic and how we build on it through the year. So you will definitely see a lot more happening about women in golf this year, which I hope you and your readers really start to enjoy seeing.

Interested in finding out about a career at American Golf? Find out more here.