SFIA Member Spotlight — UST Mamiya
What is UST Mamiya?
Schikner: We are a composites manufacturer with expertise in the design and manufacture of tubular structures, primarily graphite golf shafts. We design, develop, brand, market and sell graphite golf shafts, which is our core business.
In addition to our core golf shaft business, UST Mamiya has two separate operations. UST-ESSX manufactures and sells pole vault poles throughout the US and around the world. Our RECOIL-branded pole vault pole is currently being used by one of the top vaulters in the world, Sam Kendricks. Sam won the Bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics, and most recently won the Gold medal in the 2017 World Championships held in London.
UST Composites designs and sells tubular composites, such as hunting and target arrows, curling broom handles, archery stabilizer bars, percussion handles and industrial rollers used in paper conversion and plastic bag manufacturing.
Do you sell solely online?
Schikner: If you look at the majority of our business, it’s direct business to business. We’re selling the majority of our product directly to the golf club manufacturers. We also have distribution channels where we sell our branded after-market products. Those would be sold to some of the larger distribution customers. We also have a specialized distribution channel for golf shafts that we call TSPX, and that’s geared more towards high-end club fitters. Our ESSX pole vault poles can be found on our website, as well as through specific distributors and dealers.
When and where was the company founded?
Schikner: We were founded in Dallas in 1991 as United Sports Technologies (UST), the U.S.-based subsidiary of our parent company in Japan, Mamiya-OP. Mamiya-OP had a brand in the Japan market, and they were making very good product. They had a factory in Asia that they needed to help fill up, and with the U.S. market being the largest in the world, they felt an increase in their sales and distribution here in the United States would obviously help to fill that need.
We have been operating as UST Mamiya since 2009, when we combined the names of UST and Mamiya into one global brand. We both had been part of the same company, but we were operating separately in the U.S and Asian markets. With globalization, it made sense to combine our efforts worldwide to create and promote our brands.
What was the inspiration behind the inception of the company?
Schikner: It was an opportunity to start and create a brand from scratch in the United States. The access to the manufacturing from Asia was extremely important, but there was no previous groundwork laid for UST-branded product here in the U.S. So, the access to the manufacturing at a good cost and the ability to create a brand from the ground up was extremely enticing to get us started.
How many different shaft brands do you make and what differentiates them from each other?
Schikner: Currently, we have about 10 different golf shaft brands. What differentiates our products in the market is price and performance. I wouldn’t say we try to be “all things, all people” in the market place, but if you look at the overall golf shaft market, there’s a couple different segments. If you go back to the distributor model I talked about earlier, shafts under $100 sell best in that category. The TSPX dealer network that I mentioned, typically that’s a higher priced channel, so the more expensive shafts, $100 and up, these could be up to $400, and they sell better into that channel. Then, for the club manufacturers, we’re developing brands with a higher price point, but it’s also a higher perceived value that they can then put into their golf clubs that will actually help make their product more attractive in the marketplace. Price is one differentiator, performance is also another differentiator — if you look at just shafts within a similar price category. You have to have different types of performance aspects, based on the type of golfer you’re trying to fit into your product.
What is your most popular product?
Schikner: Currently, it’s our RECOIL iron shaft. RECOIL is a technology we developed about 12 years ago and we brought it to market 6 years ago. It took a while to finally get everything to where we needed it, but the RECOIL product has become the #1 graphite iron shaft within the entire market worldwide. It’s a very unique technology. Through testing, we found that in order for graphite shafts to perform better than steel iron shafts, we had to reimagine the design of the shaft. Our engineer found some unique performance characteristics of steel iron shafts, in terms of how the shaft walls deflect, or recoil, and we realized the graphite shaft didn’t do that just based on our design methodology. We reinvented how we designed our graphite shafts so that it actually reacted more like a steel iron shaft. What we’ve done is developed a product that actually feels more like steel, gives you better shot making ability and improves accuracy. We have been able to switch many players from steel iron shafts into RECOIL, helping us to capture a significant market share with the RECOIL brand.
Do you have any new products about to hit the market?
Schikner: We do have a few products. We have one product that’s been in the market and we’re just going to bring it out with some updated graphics. It’s called HeLIUM, which is a lightweight shaft, obviously the name connotates lightweight. HeLIUM is different from other lightweight shafts in the market in that it is a lightweight performance shaft. Golfers of all levels will benefit from the stability and lightweight shaft to get more club head speed, which will turn into more ball speed and distance without sacrificing control. It’s something that we’ve been confident enough in the performance and how well it works for better players and higher swing speeds that we took it out to the PGA Tour and we had some success with the product with certain players. It’s kind of unique from that standpoint, other manufacturers I don’t think really have a better lightweight product they’ve been able to take out to tour and have success. So, we’re really excited about that because it’s part of the market and nobody has really developed this performance lightweight shaft, so we think we’ll have very good success with that. We have our international brand that we’ve been selling for 10 years, called ATTAS. The latest version, called The ATTAS, will launch in the U.S. in the next few months. It is our 10th generation ATTAS shaft and it is our highest priced point shaft that we sell here in the U.S. market. We’ve had great success in Japan and Asia with the ATTAS product line.
What other products does UST Mamiya manufacture aside from golf shafts?
Schikner: As I mentioned before, we’ve been making pole vault poles for about 5 years now under a brand called ESSX. Within that product line, we also have a product called RECOIL. The same kind of considerations we had on the golf shaft side, that same concept translates very well into the pole vault side because what it is about is how quickly that pole recoils back to straight to vault the pole vaulter to higher and higher heights. We’ve done extremely well in that side of the market with continual increase in market share within the pole vault pole segment.
Where, on a global scale, does UST Mamiya operate?
Schikner: The U.S. is the largest golf market in the world, but we sell our golf shafts all around the world. Europe is a big market for us, obviously Japan and Asia is huge, as well. Wherever people play golf, we sell our shafts.
Do you sponsor any professional athletes?
Schikner: Not on the golf side we don’t, but on the pole vault pole side of our business, yes, we do. We have multiple athletes we sponsor as part of our Team ESSX. As I mentioned earlier, we have the #1 U.S. pole vaulter, Sam Kendricks, who is on our Team ESSX staff.
For golf, we have UST Mamiya representatives on the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour, and also on the Japan and Asia tours, that are out promoting our products every week on Tour. These reps promote UST Mamiya shafts to the professional golfers and work closely with the players to get our shafts in play. So, we don’t sponsor athletes directly, but we’re out our Tour every week supporting them with products and trying to service their needs to improve their game.
Where do you see UST Mamiya in the next 5 years?
Schikner: We have done a good job over the past several years looking at other industries for inspiration and how we can apply the same technology in the different platforms we are involved in. We believe this is a good strategy moving forward that helps us stand out from our competitors.
I see us continuing to grow. As I said before, our RECOIL brand for iron shafts is extremely strong and our goal is to continue with the strength of the brand and the market share that we have. I think our upside is on a couple of different channels with the TSPX channel that I mentioned on the high-end fitters, that is a growing market in the United States. There are multiple companies that are opening more stores and locations, which will obviously increase the size of that market segment. Even the wood shaft; we’ve had some good brands in the past, but we haven’t had any relevant brands recently, but I think we have some good things in the pipelines, starting with the Helium shaft that we think will do really well out there and then some other new concepts that we currently have under development that will help us grow our market share on the wood side, which will give us a lot of upside in the business. So, I see some substantial growth in the next 2–5 years.