Thinking outside the box

We all know that the golf trade is having a tough time of it and so we are always keen to meet with PGA pros and retailers who are doing things differently in order to sell more product. Golf Retailing’s Miles Bossom met with PGA Pro and golf entrepreneur Adam Bishop to find out how he is thinking differently.

MB – Adam, tell us a bit about your business.

AB – I started in 2001 with one retail outlet but now have four, all within twenty minutes’ drive of each other. I run the retail outlets at Studley Wood, Chiltern Forest and Whiteleaf Golf Clubs and I also have a large store at our driving range just outside Thame in Oxfordshire.

MB – How many PGA Pro’s do you employ?

AB – From two at the start I now employ eight.

MB – So, have you plans for further expansion?

AB – Running four venues is quite a commitment but if the right opportunity comes up I would never say no before investigating.

MB – How are you adding value to your business?

AB – We have a full tour spec work shop and fitting centre so we can offer custom fit and a great repair service. We also run the Cleveland Centre of excellence at Studley Wood. Our latest venture is to do fitting days at clubs that don’t do any hardware sales.

MB – Tell me more?

AB – There are many golf clubs that don’t sell any hardware whatsoever so the customers at those clubs are starved of product. With it being expensive to buy and with such tight margins it makes it unviable for some to hold a decent level of hardware.

At these places there are many customers who love to buy hardware and would prefer to buy from their own club because that is where they feel comfortable. So what we do is we set up with a minimum of four but up to nine fitting carts and branded pagodas on the clubs range or practise facility or we can use a large inflatable net if the club has no practice ground and so on. Members that haven’t seen this before feel that Christmas has come early!

MB – What does the club get from this?

AB – We pay the club a small commission on the goods that we sell but it isn’t so much about the club making money, it is more about providing a service to the members. They feel that a few times a year their club holds a large demo day when they can try all of the latest equipment from a wide range of manufacturers and can buy then and there.

MB – How many club fittings would you expect to complete in a day?

AB – We would bring two fitters and the club prearrange as many appointments as possible. I would expect them to be fully booked with between ten and twenty appointments and I would bring a third for the people who may just turn up on the day on the off chance.

MB – Typically how much revenue would you expect to generate on one of these days?

AB – It’s rare that we would do less than £3000 in turnover but it is usual that we would do between £6000 and £8000. Our best day was £12,000! It depends on how starved the membership has been.

MB – Is there a particular demographic that is more interested in this service than others?

AB – Definitely left handed golfers and ladies. Because we will not only have a left handed driver in all of the major brands but we will also offer a multitude of different shaft options. We can cater for everyone and give them a great fitting experience.

MB – Is this likely to be a growing area for your business?

AB – Without doubt, because there are so many clubs out there in the position that I described earlier.

MB – What commission do you offer the club?

AB – It’s between 10 percent to 20 percent of the profit depending on the manufacturer. The club simply promotes the service and we do the rest. It is not really about the commission, it is all about providing a service that the club doesn’t provide.

MB – At Studley Wood you are running a pre-Christmas sale in November. When do you think is the right time to reduce the price of stock to ensure it doesn’t gather dust?

AB – It depends on a number of factors. Firstly how good your purchasing was in the first place, secondly how good the season was and thirdly how well you have sold it. With multi sights it’s easier because if I purchase forty pairs of shoes across the group and I sell the majority of those at full retail price I have covered the cost of the order and paid the supplier and I am already in profit. If there are a few pairs left I do not want them hanging around. They may have cost me £35 per pair but they don’t owe me that as I have already made a profit on the total order. I will price them aggressively to shift them quickly at maybe £29 per pair.

One thing that I am very proud to say is that across all of my outlets we rarely go into the following year with previous year’s stock.

MB – So how has the sale here at Studley Wood worked for you?

AB – I have started running sales in November because it is a bit of a dead month. The clocks have recently changed so it is dark and dingy and many pro’s will be thinking that it was hardly worth opening.

In the past week we have turned over in excess of £10,000 but had I not have done the sale we would have struggled to sell £1500 worth of gear. It is a great time to sell because you are taking customer money when they are not expecting to spend – ahead of Christmas and out of season. November is no longer a month where I am depressed. I have cash coming in, good clean stock and I am ready to go for the new season.

MB – How has 2014 been for you in comparison to 2013?

AB – I pleased to say that since 2006 we have not had a single year where the numbers have gone backwards. 2014 will definitely be our best year to date and I am confident 2015 will be even better.

MB – What advice would you offer other golf retailers?

AB – What we golf pros have to remember is that golfers love golf. If you can’t sell equipment as a golf professional you are in a trouble. The key is creating desire. Golfers walk into our outlets and have the desire to take shots off their round. They are prepared to buy equipment which will enable them to do this.

MB – Which manufacturer incentives or launches have helped you grow your business the most over the past twelve months? 

AB – Ping are solid every single year. You know what you are going to get, no thrills, great product, great service. The surprise brand for me has been Cleveland. Their wedge trade in was a great piece of marketing and it really appealed to customers.

Srixon have also come out with a very high quality product at a high price point in the Z range with limited distribution and a great fitting cart. There are no internet sales of this product and none of the large multi stores have it so from our point of view it has been excellent. We are making really good margins again! Rather than making £70 or £80 on a £700 set we are making £250 which is where it should be.

MB – Has limited distribution been a major factor in your success selling the product?

AB – Yes to a degree although we haven’t had the product for very long. I believe that they have only sold it through thirty or forty outlets but that will possibly increase in 2015. I believe that Srixon are aware that limiting the sales channel has worked well for them so I don’t expect them to expand on it too much. We have sold seven sets since we received the product and we expect it will be a strong seller in 2015.

MB – Do you believe that the lifecycle of some manufacturer’s products are too short?

AB – Some certainly make it difficult. When we get a whisper that a new product is coming we almost immediately switch off from that brand. If we are doing a club fitting and we know that a product which is going to discontinued is right for the customer we will sell it to them but we advise that there is a new product due to be released imminently. When you are honest and upfront the customer respects you for it. Most customers simply want to buy a product which works for them and improves their game.

MB – How often do you sell an “off the shelf” set of irons?

AB – The last time I sold a set was about four months ago but that was only because the length of the club, the lie, the type of shaft and the grip were exactly what the guy needed. I pride myself on the fact that I don’t have rows and rows of clubs in my shop. You may think that is a negative but in fact it is a huge positive.

When you think about it the big stores have fifty or sixty sets of standard clubs on display it must be difficult for them to want to sell a custom set as they have invested a lot of money in stock sets so it must be temping to want to sell them instead. There will be a few customers that fit a standard set but they are few and far between. All of my customers get exactly the right set of clubs for them built in the manufacturer’s factory.

MB – Do you feel threatened by the internet?

AB – No. The only reason people buy on line is price. The consumer always thinks it is cheaper but that is not always the case. There is no service with the internet. I actually use it very effectively to sell surplus stock at the end of the season. If the retailer does his job properly there is no reason for a golfer to buy hardware on line.

The more technical golf equipment becomes the better, as it helps us professionals, as I believe to be a great fitter you must also be a great coach and vice versa. At the end of the day we must create a desire by showing the customer how much they can improve by having their clubs fitted correctly.