Head golf professionals can’t read minds, but when it comes to buying apparel, they wish they could. For those who don’t have extrasensory perception, education is the key to successfully merchandising soft goods and accessories, especially to women.
In the last year, Tony Chavez, Head Golf Professional at Mountain Vista Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif., has seen a 15 percent increase in apparel sales in his pro shop. Of that number, the most significant change was in ladies’ apparel, he says. He attributes the increases to educating himself on what women want.
“My main source of information has come from conferences, my own experience at the club and just going to the mall to see how big-time retailers do it,” he says.
After attending a seminar conducted at the PGA Fall Expo in 2002, Chavez changed his strategy on buying and displaying clothes when one speaker suggested that women would have the most buying power in the future—a trend he’s seen at his club.
“Ladies have the checkbook,” he says. “Most of the ladies [here] are baby boomers who had a career, they have money saved through retirement plans, and now they have an income and time to buy things for themselves and their husbands.”
To attract more women to his pro shop, Chavez dusted off the racks of women’s clothing and brought them to the front of the store. In addition, he began buying fashion collections, instead of a smattering of separates.
“We had comments here at our club that ladies’ apparel was always in a corner and not purchased in a fashion group,” says Chavez. “That was not very appealing—for me, either.”
|Tony Chavez, Head Golf Professional, Mountain Vista Golf Course|
Mixing It Up
Creating the right mer-chandising mix is one of the biggest challenges for most pro shops.
“The business is so hard,” says Courtney McDonough, Merchandising Manager at Wayzata (Minn.) Country Club. “I buy tight collections, especially for women, and I just keep trying to [sell] it. It makes it harder because either you have a size 2 or a size 14. We can’t do the size run we used to.”
In the vast majority of pro shops around the country, the average spending per round by gender skews higher to men than women. That makes managers a bit wary about investing in a large selection of ladies’ apparel, notes John Stutz, Head Golf Professional at Purgatory Golf Club in Noblesville, Ind.
“Because there are more rounds for the guys than the girls, some places don’t go as in-depth for women,” Stutz explains. “But one of our co-owners is a lady, and she has always been frustrated with other shops that don’t have a selection. We made somewhat of a commitment to make that available. It’s our feature.”
Purgatory’s pro shop offers ladies’ apparel in a variety of colors and sizes, including plus sizes. “The ladies get catered to,” Stutz says. “A lot of public courses don’t go to the trouble.”
The award-winning course (ranked as one of the top 100 public courses by Golf Digest) was designed with women in mind, too—from its well-manicured forward tee boxes to the restrooms spaced every 2 or 3 holes on the course.
The female-friendly environment creates opportunities to drive traffic into the pro shop.
“We do stuff to promote the game to women,” Stutz says. “When the weather gets colder, we also play nine holes of indoor golf games—Frisbee golf or ‘Tic Tac Putt.’ At each station, the ladies have an opportunity to earn dollars in the pro shop.”
|Merchandise Buyer Beth Ann Riecke led a session about merchandising to women at last year’s PGA Fall Expo in Las Vegas.|
Let’s Make a Deal
One thing women like more than earning money is spending it—especially if there is a sale. Purgatory Golf Club offers a new discount, special or promotion every week. The pro shop at Wayzata Country Club schedules two large sales each year, timed to coincide with major ladies’ events in the summer.
“[Women] love the benefit of the sale,” says McDonough. “We have come to look forward to it, because there are lots of guests.”
On top of regular store promotions, Mountain Vista now offers 10 percent discounts to its members on their birthdays. The club’s point-of-sale software has made it easy to offer this benefit.
“If you’re a member and the screen says your birthday is coming up, I’ve empowered the staff to offer the discount on their next purchase,” says Chavez. “I have not met a lady who has refused that.”
Try Before You Buy
In-store transactions aren’t the only way to promote and sell apparel and soft goods. Trunk shows have their benefts, too—not only for customers to preview new products, but also for pro shops to gauge interest in a particular line of clothing, accessories or shoes, says Beth Ann Riecke, a merchandise buyer for pro shops.
And, Riecke adds, when the pro shop takes advantage of a vendor’s buyback program, the risk of being unable to sell the merchandise is reduced significantly.
For example, if a pro shop commits to buying 36 pairs of shoes from a vendor that agrees to buy back 18 unsold pairs at the end of the season, the shop can often get enough orders at a trunk show to cover the first half. “If you get 18 orders on a member/guest day or ladies’ opening luncheon, you only have to buy 18 other pair,” Reicke says. “And you can sell back the 18 you ordered if you don’t sell another pair the whole year.”
For Chavez, trunk and fashion shows are a necessity due to the lack of space at Mountain Vista, which only has 700 square feet of retailing area. “Our golf shop is very small,” he says. “We sometimes have to sell outside the pro shop.”
Wayzata Country Club takes the trunk show concept to a whole new level when the pro shop takes over the club’s ballroom once a year. “We have five other vendors besides me set up, have cooking classes with hors d’ouevres, and a wine tasting,” says McDonough. “It’s good for sales, but better for the PR. That’s what this business is all about. We’re here just for the service.”
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