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The Daily Pulse August 19, 2013…  Golf Datatech, founded in 1997, is dedicated to providing the golf industry proprietary research on a variety of topics. It may be best known most recently for providing coverage of rounds played on a national level. Its wide-ranging research is considered the standard by which many company executives for years rely on in their planning. The Daily Pulse contacted Tom Stine, Co-Founder and Partner of Golf Datatech, LLC for a few insights into recent market trends.

The weather has been blamed for a slow start to the year for golf. Historically, what are the busiest months that see the majority of rounds played throughout the country? TS: “Like it or not, the weather is always the biggest impact on rounds played. The months that have the most rounds played nationally are July, June, August, May, September and April, usually in that order. In the first six months of 2012 rounds were up over 12% because of incredibly mild weather in the Midwest and Northeast, two markets which are usually ‘out of season’ for the first three months. Golfers in Chicago were playing in shorts in February and March (2012), how often do you see that happen? The second half of 2012 had more ‘typical’ weather and will be easier to comp against in the second half of 2013, so we are hopeful things will improve.”

Which equipment category appears the strongest in 2013 at retail in terms of either price or units sold? TS: “Shoes are up 8% and Irons are up 4% in total dollar sales, and that’s coming off big 2012 increases where Shoes were up 16% and Irons 7%.”

Does discounting retail prices of drivers in the summer, historically, influence unit sales positively (such as it accelerates) for a vendor in the remainder of the year? TS: “I don’t know why they would do that unless it did influence sales. Typically the spring and early summer months are the biggest selling months for all equipment categories. Discounting prices extends the selling season and clears the decks for next year’s models. No company wants to try to sell new products into a pipeline that is still full with last year’s models.”

What percentage of overall driver sales for the category would be classified as new (something introduced 12 months or less) each year? TS: “Its hard to answer that. A driver model could be on the market for 12 months and still be ‘new.’ Not all of the top companies put out new models less than 12 months apart. We know from our consumer research reports that the ‘average’ serious golfer buys a new driver every three to four years, if a company launches a new model every year that means that golfer skips buying three or four new models.”

Would you classify consumers spending on equipment up, down or the same, year-to-date in 2013? TS: “Here’s an interesting fact in relation to that question, especially in light of battling through the recent recession and the negative press and comments about the golf industry languishing. Total equipment sales through the first six months of 2013 in the On and Off Course retail channels was $1.41 billion, compared to 2012 when it was $1.44 billion. The 2013 $1.41 billion total is the fifth highest since Golf Datatech began tracking retail sales in 1997, but we are still 7% below peak levels. So, I’d say we’ve had better years, but we’ve had a lot more worse.”

Is golf footwear sales, in general, still trending towards alternative/non-spike models or has it flattened out? TS: “Spikeless, non-spike, alternative, call them what you like, models of golf shoes continue to grow in popularity as the shoe companies continue to develop more models and styles. We see more being worn on Tour as well. We estimate spikeless shoe sales currently in the 38-40% range. And the ultra-lightweight/minimalist design shoes have also aided in growing the golf shoe market.”