US retailer sacks 500 PGA pros – what does it mean for the UK?

Tony Clark, Owner of Clark Management Group & PlaneSWING Golf, discusses the implications of the decision by American retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods to fire all the PGA pros at its stores

ESPN reported that “Faced with a decline in the golf equipment industry, Dick’s Sporting Goods (DSG), the largest retailer in the United States of TaylorMade and Callaway products, fired all the PGA professionals that it employed in the golf sections of its more than 560 stores.”

Well they say that when the USA sneezes, the UK catches a cold. So do we need to reach for the Beechams?

This is undoubtedly a worrying development. Through this strategic decision, what DSG have effectively said is that all the PGA Pros in their stores were not adding sufficient value to warrant retaining them. I think that’s illuminating.

Tony ClarkeI’m not in the DSG boardroom but it’s reported that “DSG aimed to have one PGA professional at every store to better differentiate the experience from online retailers that try to undercut brick-and-mortar stores. But the economy, the downturn in participation, the decline of Tiger Woods and too many products flooding the market cut into Dick’s bottom line so much that the company seems to be giving up on winning the golf equipment business.”

Well that downturn in participation added up to approximately 400,000 golfers leaving the sport in the States last year according to the National Golf Foundation. This coupled with the rise of on-line retailers and diminishing margins meant something had to give and people are always the biggest number on the balance sheet.

So that strategic “experience differentiation” failed and wasn’t helped by the economic downturn but I think it’s stretching credibility to hang this one on Tiger too! What I do believe is that the biggest challenge facing so many PGA pros in the UK is how to demonstrate value, the very thing that resulted in the decision by DSG to cull 500 PGA of America pros.

Why? Because in May this year DSG’s golf business missed its first-quarter sales plan by $34 million and they expected a downward trend for the rest of the year. Given that information you’d have to assume that this decision was made some time ago.

I believe this is yet another wake-up call. To date many pros have reacted to wake-up calls by pressing the snooze button but time is running out. Each PGA pro urgently needs to conduct their own review of their position before someone else does. They need to look at how they interact with the membership and how they are perceived by the club hierarchy.

Retail is being squeezed and many pros no longer stock hardware preferring instead to have fitting kits for a select few brands. Coaching too is becoming an increasingly important part of a golf professional’s business and investment in this area needs to happen now to improve the offering to golfers.

I hear some amazing stories of how PGA pros have transformed their business by re-thinking their relationship with their membership. How they’ve become immersed in the club and become a part of the decision making team.

  • How they’ve chosen to give, recognising the value in ‘giving back’ in the shape of instruction and advice to members through one-on-one and group activities with ladies, juniors, seniors and the general membership and how this has translated into additional business.
  • How the relationship with the secretary’s office has given them access to forthcoming societies and allowed them to offer their services months in advance resulting in revenue from golf clinics and retail.
  • How access to the Club database and communication via email to the membership has created an interaction that has helped build a positive rapport through free swing advice and retail through special offers and the pending arrival of new stock.
  • How providing instruction to the club teams with the aim of contributing to the club’s success has brought them closer to some of the most influential members.
  • How helping develop the junior section in numbers and quality is a clear message that the pro is committed to protecting and strengthening the future of the club.
  • How investing in their assistant(s) through training and support has reflected well on them through improved service and more qualified advice from the pro team.
  • How forming a closer relationship with the members and the committee has led to them being supportive of the pro’s retail and coaching business and backed expansion and development proposals such as a range, short game area and so on.

Like a pub can be the heart of a village so the PGA professional can and should be the heart and soul of a golf club.

For PGA pros I believe it’s survival of the smartest. Those that brutally reappraise their current situation and take steps to address any short-comings and to capitalise on opportunities will be here and flourishing in ten years’ time. Those that don’t won’t and the most important fact of all is that whether a doer or a dosser you will play an important role in determining the future of the PGA professional.

To receive Tony Clark’s “Business Development Series for PGA Pros” contact Tony directly via E: onplane@planeswing.com or call Office: 01604 830880 Mobile: 07870 562777