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Where Have All the Golf Stores Gone?

Over the past decade the golf equipment business, not unlike most of the US Retail environment, has undergone a radical transformation, with consolidation replacing expansion as the industry’s watchword.  Whereas the US golf market once had more than 1,600 Off Course Specialty stores, today only +/-750 remain.  While the Off Course channel remains the heart and soul of golf club sales and sells more than its fair share of bags, balls, shoes and apparel, its overall reach declined substantially with the closures of nearly 100 outlets in 2016, the bulk of which were formerly Golfsmith stores.  Even though roughly three dozen Golfsmith’s were recommissioned as Golf Galaxy outlets, there are wide swaths of prime US golf markets that are currently operating with few, if any, Off Course Specialty stores available to look at new product, to try new product, or to be fit prior to buying.

These rapid changes in distribution channels leave golf companies and retailers asking a lot of questions:

*With fewer Off Course Specialty Stores available, where are golfers going to purchase their new golf clubs?  To be fit?  To be exposed to new concepts and products?

*Where are golfer buying their golf balls?  Golf Shoes?  Apparel?  Online from their couch or from a bricks and mortar outlet?

*How much impact have Online Retailers had on the traditional brick and mortar golf retail business?

*What golf products are selling well thru Online Retailers?  Which are relatively “slow”?  What kind of golfers buy online?

*Every product category in American retail is concerned over the potential impact of Amazon…what has Amazon’s impact been in sale of golf equipment and apparel?

*How has the Green Grass channel fared in 2017 as their Off Course competitors have faded away? (Spoiler Alert:  Very well as a channel thru the first half of the year)

*And what of the remaining Off Course Specialty stores?  Is their business booming with fewer competitors?  Or are they being impacted like the rest of American brick and mortar retail by declining store visits and lower sales volumes?

*Sporting Goods, once the fastest growing golf channel, is also undergoing consolidation as Sports Authority went bankrupt in 2016, and Dick’s Sporting Goods grew even stronger in their role as the dominant player in the channel.  What kind golfers are going to Sporting Goods stores? What are they buying?

*What new channels are emerging?  While companies frequently cite the impact of Online Retail, what about the newly emerging category of Club Fitting Specialists?  Using the latest in high tech equipment this channel has become significant as more and more golfers decide to get their clubs fit to their particular swing and playing ability.

Golf Datatech attempts to answer these questions and many more with the recent release of the  the “2017 Serious Golfer Buying and Shopping Study”, a deep dive into how the golfing public goes about the shopping and purchasing process, understanding their attitudes about the various channels, and their likes and dislikes down to the individual retailer level.  Over 2,500 respondents form the basis of the analysis that covers a wide range of challenges facing the golf industry in 2017 and beyond.

To inquire re: purchasing the Study please contact Suzie Phillips at info@golfdatatech.com.

Blog by John Krzynowek, Partner Golf Datatech, L.L.C.

http://jkgolfdatatech.com/2017/08/07/where-have-all-the-golf-stores-gone-part-1/