Golf Business News – THE GBN INTERVIEW: Elaine Wrigley, Retail and Operations Director at American Golf

Golf Business News - THE GBN INTERVIEW: Elaine Wrigley, Retail and Operations Director at American Golf


GBN talks to Elaine Wrigley, the recently appointed Retail, Operations and People Director at American Golf, about the remit of her role at the UK’s leading golf retailer, and what the company is doing to promote diversity within its staff and attract a wider audience to the sport

What is your background in retail?

I’ve worked in retail in the UK, Europe, and Australia, for the past 38 years, and have been lucky enough to work across fashion, GM, DIY, and FMCG businesses.Championing women within retail, and broader business sectors, has been something close to my heart for many years. I’m an active mentor for the Northern Power Women, and Power Collective, and was honoured to be a finalist for Mentor of the Year 2023 at its awards. I mentor for the Princes Trust Million Makers initiative and am on its Alumni Board. I’ve also mentored, on numerous occasions, through the Modern Muse Program, and won the Specsavers Everywoman in Retail Award for Leadership, which was in recognition of the work I’ve done to inspire and lead diverse teams.Prior to this role, I developed and led New Look’s first Equality, Diversity & Inclusivity strategy, ‘Our Kind of Inclusive’. It was a huge honour that the work the whole team and I did was short-listed for the Drapers and Retail Week Awards 2023.Most importantly, however, is leading by example, and being an authentic leader. Giving time to coach and support women in their early career does make a difference. I’m proud to play a small part in inspiring inclusivity and championing women in the workplace.

What attracted you to apply for the job at American Golf in the first instance and what do you think made you the right candidate?

I was approached for the role due to my varied experience across multi-sector retail. I’ve also gone into a number of businesses and built successful teams, leading through change and transformation. What attracted me to the role? American Golf is the largest golf retailer in the UK with 50-plus years of heritage, and when the opportunity arose, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t say no to. Golf is become more and more inclusive and accessible, and I want to be part of, and accelerate, that transformation – starting with the amazing work we will evolve at American Golf.

What is the remit of your role and what do you see as your immediate main priorities in terms of affecting change?

I oversee our People, Operations, and Retail teams, while also sitting on the Board. My main priorities are to further invest into our stores and people, simplify processes and the way we work. We have started to build out our EDIB strategy ‘Fairway’ and will be partnering with Includability, the home of inclusive organisations, to work towards being a fully accredited business for inclusion. We’re also taking part in The Princes Trust Million Makers initiative, which supports disadvantaged young people and social mobility.

How many women are currently working for American Golf? How many of these are customer facing roles working in stores or coaching and fitting staff and PGA Professionals?I’m pleased to say that 46% of our leadership team are female. We have some incredible women working in our stores that are both passionate golfers and retailers. However, 90% of our store teams are male, so we absolutely need to review representation in this area.

American Golf’s flagship store in New Malden, Surrey

What would you like to see American Golf doing to make female consumers feel more welcome in your stores?

In terms of promoting diversity within the sport, we will be hosting a ‘Celebrating Ladies in Golf’ event this year. Our summer campaign will be all about celebrating diversity within golf and we’re looking to work with England and Wales Blind Golf and Black British Golfers. In addition, we’re supporting the Leven Gold Medal, which supports golfing at grass roots level.Finally, we have reviewed our full ladies offer, and have a new female Category Buying Manager, and are also looking at affordability, which is a critical factor in helping to make golf even more inclusive and accessible.

Do you work with any professional female golfers as tour ambassadors for the brand?

We’re in the process of securing a female ambassador – so watch this space. In particular, over the last 12 months we have been sponsoring a number of female golf societies, such as The Ladies Golf Lounge; from listening to their audience and offering them exclusive experiences, to sponsoring their events with clothing and prizes. We also work with up-and-coming women in golf and give them a platform to grow both their own presence and diversity within golf.

American Golf has recently appointed a new female Category Buying Manager

What message would you like to send out to other parts of the golf industry in terms of their attitude to employing women in senior roles?

Diverse leadership teams deliver improved business performance. Gender balanced boardrooms are almost 20% more likely to improve business outcomes.

Do you play golf? If so, what has been your experience of being in the golf club environment?

I don’t play golf, but you could describe me as an ‘enthusiastic beginner’. I have been to numerous golf clubs and they have generally been welcoming, but inevitably they are extremely male dominated.

Who are your business mentors or people in business you most draw inspiration from?

I’ve been fortunate to work with many inspirational leaders during my career. Alistair McGeorge, with whom I worked at New Look and Big W, is a standout in terms of inspiring people and teams to deliver outstanding results. Sandra Green, from the Women Leaders Association, has been an amazing coach, and mentor; while Sally Hopson, when I worked for Asda, developed, and challenged me and truly championed women in the workplace, and Mark Axon, for always challenging me and stretching my creative thinking. They have all been instrumental in supporting me to be the person, and leader, I am today.

If we were to speak again in two years’ time, what would you see as success in terms of your role at American Golf? 

As a team we’ll have delivered outstanding business results, through inspiring and engaging our teams to be the best that they can be. We will be an inclusive employer, and brand, and our customers will enjoy world-class service.


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