The re-generation game – Gloucester Golf Centre

The evolution of the Gloucester Golf Centre over the past 20 years has led to the shop reaching a new high this year, with a move onto a new 3,000-square-foot shop floor. Robin Barwick spoke to managing director Peter Darnell about how Gloucester Golf Centre has achieved growth in a difficult economic climate

Recent expansion and re-fitting of the retail space at the Gloucester Golf Centre provides compelling evidence of how a relatively straight-forward restructure can transform retail turnover in a very short space of time.

“The immediate results were amazing,” starts Peter Darnell, managing director of the Gloucester Golf Centre, in talking exclusively to GOLF RETAILING magazine. “Turnover has been increasing between 60% and 90% each month since May. The actual spend per customer increased by 60%, as well as attracting more customers on a daily basis.”

These are stunning results, particularly when much of the talk emanating from the Golf Show in Harrogate last month was of the UK golf trade as a whole still suffering in 2013, despite the best summer weather since 2006.

“The increased sales are due to the fact we have all our stock on display, resulting in an increased value per sale, rather than a big increase in footfall,” adds Darnell, who competed on the Safari Tour in Africa in the mid-seventies, before becoming club professional at Gloucester Golf Club in 1977. “We have also been able to reduce our stock levels as we can display slow moving stock to a larger degree.”

The Gloucester Golf Centre – not to be confused with Gloucester Golf Club – is an off-course business established by Darnell and co-director Richard Jewell, after the two PGA professionals had first joined forces at Gloucester Golf Club in 1977, where Jewell was director of golf. From the Gloucester GC pro shop, Darnell and Jewell expanded their business to incorporate a high street outlet in Cheltenham, and in the Cheltenham basement they established an operation assembling clubs from the ill-fated Tiger Shark brand.

As their business grew, Darnell and Jewell bought a plot and built their own premises in 1987, in Barnett Way, Gloucester, which is where the business remains today. They established the Gloucester Golf Centre outlet there in 1995, and as its sales began to eclipse those in the Gloucester GC pro shop, they parted company with the club in 2000.

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The latest incarnation of the Gloucester Golf Centre opened earlier this year, on May 7, after a three-month refurbishment that saw the store swapping floor space with the club assembly and packing operation of sister company Sigma Golf. Without having to close the store, it was moved from a 1,000 square-foot space into 3,000 square feet, complete with indoor swing studio and adjacent putting studio.

“We had to make the decision [to move the store] as it was very difficult to display our stock in such a small area,” explains Darnell, who along with Jewell, are founder members of the new Euro Select Golf Alliance retail group, the creation of which was first reported in the October issue of GOLF RETAILING. “Also, with a lot more business going to the internet we have to make a lot more effort to attract customers to the shop and to remain competitive.”

The custom-fitting area of Gloucester Golf Centre has doubled in size with the re-jig, and since re-opening, the company has employed PGA professional Alex Whittal to manage the custom-fitting side of its offering, thereby increasing the store’s staff to four. Says Darnell: “Visiting demo day reps from the manufacturers have told us our custom-fitting facility is among the best they have seen in the UK.”

In terms of product, Darnell reports that sales of Callaway and Ping hardware are particularly strong, while the increased retail space has enabled improved presentation of apparel, with sales of clothing leaping up as a result.

“In the future we intend to open an indoor teaching facility – equipped with the latest technical products,” says Darnell, “so we can analyse every aspect of a golfer’s game, and provide a comprehensive, one-stop instruction and equipment solution for golfers.”