How Silvermere struck retail gold

Last May, Prince Andrew opened the remodelled Silvermere driving range at Cobham in Surrey. The range has 52 bays on two tiers with four private fitting studios equipped with Foresight Sports Game Changer 2 technology (see full feature on page 32). It’s a pretty impressive set-up and Silvermere director Terry Sims talked to Glyn Pritchard about this £2 million investment at the Silvermere Golf Complex.

Also on the Silvermere site is the Doug McClelland Golf Superstore covering 6,000 square feet. Sims explains the background to this remarkable establishment. “Silvermere and Kingswood golf courses are owned by Tom Hilliard OBE, and until recently I was director of golf at Kingswood. I also operated other golf retail ventures including the Left Handed Golf Store and the Internet Golf Store, which also had a high street premises. Doug McClelland was Tom’s retail partner here at Silvermere. Last year we brought all the retail operations together at Silvermere and I joined Doug in the running of the merged operation.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 12.28.39Following the bringing together of the retail operations one of the first imperatives was to develop a corresponding online presence. “Silvermere didn’t have an online operation, so it was essential to set one up. We do sell online but that wasn’t the principle reason. We needed to have an online catalogue that customers could refer to. I would not expect our online sales to ever exceed ten percent of turnover, because what we offer is personalised service and of course custom fitting.”

In fact Silvermere is a Callaway Regional Fitting Centre, Cobra Centre of Excellence, Mizuno Regional Fitting Centre, Ping nFlight Fitting Centre, TaylorMade Performance Studio, Titleist Advanced Fitting Centre, Wilson Staff Advanced Fitting Centre and Yonex Performance Centre. “We have no fixed displays in our custom fitting studios and all the club heads and shafts are stored in closed cabinets. That means we can set up the custom fitting studios for any one of our equipment suppliers and use the electronic displays in the studios to project each manufacturer’s branding and marketing messages.”

Asked why Silvermere has made such an investment in custom fitting Sims says, “Customers that play golf regularly now understand the benefits of custom fitting and how it can significantly improve their game. Beginners may still opt for the starter sets that come with a bag, umbrella and so on. But the keen player knows that professional custom fitting makes the clubs work for their swing.” Silvermere has eight PGA pros qualified for custom fitting. “We will try to match the fitter to the customer so that they feel comfortable talking about their game and get the best advice”, Sims confirms.

For retail sales the Silvermere Golf Complex is segmented into separate areas with the Doug McClelland Golf Superstore, Left Handed Golf Store and Planet FootJoy shoe shop. “Segmenting the areas allows us to keep the retail operation fresh. Customers know that there should always be something new to see. In the main store we are moving towards having concession style displays which I think looks more professional and helps customers to navigate the store more easily.”

Sims is particularly proud of the Planet FootJoy store. “In the high season we stock every style, size and colour in the FootJoy range. We hold over 5,000 pairs of shoes in stock. Since we opened the store in May sales have shot up. This October we were up 157 percent against October 2013. People come in and purchase two or even three pairs at a time, something we hadn’t factored into our forecasts.”

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In addition to his retail operations Sims has also developed lucrative sales concessions at the London and Manchester Golf Shows and with House of Fraser. “It demands a lot of hard work, particularly the Golf Shows, but it’s worthwhile. At the last London Golf Show we took £125,000 of revenue in 20 hours. This month with the show at Bluewater we hope to do even better.”
So how does a professional golfer become a retail entrepreneur? “You have got to have a drive and hunger to succeed. Apart from what I’ve learnt from Doug I’m pretty much self-taught. Essentially it’s a question of effort. When I was running Kingswood with a small team, I had to do the Left Handed Golf admin in the evenings. I was doing paperwork at 1.30am one night and got an email enquiry from a guy in Scotland about Vokey wedges. We got into an email exchange and I sold him two. That’s why Left Handed Golf does £1 million sales a year and that either motivates you or it doesn’t. Now I’m at Silvermere we have a team of 40, so the pressure on me is reduced. But except for the occasional pro-am, I don’t get time to play much golf. Not every head-pro wants to work that way.”

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Looking to the future Sims says, “I don’t see us opening more stores off-site. We don’t want to be a retail equipment chain and we already sell apparel around the country through our House of Fraser concessions. We will be opening a new short-game studio early next year, so we can stimulate sales of putters and wedges. There’s always something fresh to retain customer interest and we work hard to please our customers and give them the personal service that they can’t get on the internet.”