Opinion John Andrew – Direct Golf

John Andrew, founder and chairman of Direct Golf UK, has returned from the 2014 PGA Show full of enthusiasm, and with a little sand in his shoes…

I am writing this after returning from my annual mid-winter injection of Orlando enthusiasm. I should feel old as it was my 20th year, but I don’t! Why? Because THIS TIME IT WAS DIFFERENT.

Along with hundreds of other industry professionals and business leaders, I attended TaylorMade’s ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GOLF’ presentation. The overall message was: WAKE UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE GAME OF GOLF BECAUSE IT IS IN SERIOUS DECLINE. DON’T BE IN DENIAL!

I was told: GOLF NEEDS TO REINVENT ITSELF!

I came out of the two-hour presentation with a new perspective (which is hard to do when I have been in the industry for so long and know it all!). By the way, when you start thinking you know it all, that’s when you’re in real trouble. When I was a 16-year-old PGA Trainee, PGA tutor Jim Cristine told me: “Those who dare to teach should never stop learning”. It has always stuck with me.

TaylorMade’s Mark King introduced the ‘Hack Golf’ concept, supported by Professor Gary Hemmel and the PGA of America, and for me it was a real light bulb moment. It made more sense than anything I have listened to in a long, long time. The evening was a call to arms: ACT NOW OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES! It has stirred something inside me, hopefully for the good.

When things get tough in life and business we tend to start fighting and pointing the finger at each other; its human nature. After all, we are all fighting for a market share, but I’ve always told myself and my employees you can only run your own race; don’t take too much time watching others, and NEVER CRITICISE THE OPPOSITION! Learn from what they do – good and bad.

What’s ‘Green grass’ anyway?

I was very interested to read in the January GOLF RETAILING about ‘ON COURSE’ and ‘OFF COURSE’ retailers. To me, this classification of retailing is prehistoric thinking. We are all now in a ‘MULTI CHANNEL’ world, where anyone, anywhere can sell to a market if that market wants what is being offered to them.

We ALL happen to be in the golf business. It doesn’t matter if you are at a golf course, driving range, on the high street or online; the real question is: WHAT DOES THE CUSTOMER WANT? If you can deliver what customers want then you will succeed.

John Andrew = 1st Pro ShopI grew up in a newsagent’s shop in Howden in the 1980s, and the shop was never quiet, and I loved the hustle and bustle of a busy retail outlet, and at the age of eight it was brilliant to be behind the counter with my dad, even at 5:00am! The independent newsagent industry has taken a massive hit since the 1980s, as consumer behaviour has changed and we do our shopping in supermarkets, where it’s convenient to collect our groceries, dry cleaning, newspapers and even to have lunch while we’re at it, in clean, well lit cafeterias. Some independent newsagents have adapted and done very well, and some have given up because it was too hard. Either way, the point is that you can’t fight against the tide of consumer behaviour, and as a retailer you must listen to what your customers want.

When I became the pro at Crosland Heath in Huddersfield, I hated being sat in my pro the shop and not seeing anyone for days. It drove me mad! I wanted more and went out and got it. This was well before the internet gave me the opportunity to speak to a global audience for a simple commission on a product sale.

I adapted. Charles Darwin wrote: “Habitat tracking is when a species follows a habitat change or finds another environment similar to the one it lived in before. When a species is unable to move or change, the result is the species dying out or becoming extinct.”

I sat on an industry panel at the PGA Show in 2012, and I urged PGA pros to look out of the box and to become a MULTI-CHANNEL RETAILER; I encouraged them to use eBay and other mediums as revenue streams to increase business, rather than just waiting for the shop door to open when it’s snowing outside! Since then I have seen a few pros make a real difference to their businesses and become multi-channel retailers from a small 50-square-foot shop in the middle of nowhere. One pro I know turns over half a million pounds, but only 15% of his turnover comes from his club.

His revenue streams are:

1.Club Shop sales

2.New equipment sales on eBay

3.Second-hand sales on eBay

4.European equipment sales

5.Lesson income

6.Club retainer (Not guaranteed income though, as club is looking to reduce retainer)

The majority of this pro’s turnover comes from OFF COURSE sales, and he doesn’t care much about his classification in the industry. Oh, but I think he has some GREEN GRASS outside, which makes him a green grass retailer… except when the course is covered in snow, as it’s on the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere! The only thing that concerns this pro is whether the road to his shop has been gritted when it snows, so he can make his daily visit to the post office to drop off his 26 global orders that he received from eBay overnight!

My point is he didn’t stand there and moan about the high street, low street or any other street for that matter. He looked within and made a difference to himself and his own business.

‘For the love of golf’

I am often asked why I offer my experience to pros and other businesses in the same industry, and help them improve their businesses.

Well, my belief is that people have helped me, and lots of people continue to help me, and I love this game. It’s given me everything. I learn every day and my philosophy has always been: YOU ARE BORN WITH TWO HANDS; FIRSTLY FOR GIVING AND SECOND FOR TAKING.

I’ve been told on their deathbed, people always remember what they gave, rather than what they took. Golf has given me wealth and happiness, and hopefully it will give many more young people the opportunity I was given.

PS. I love learning, and at 46, that HackGolf launch has given me my mojo back. There is life is this old dog yet!