Editor Dan Owen caught up with Clitheroe GC Head Professional Paul McEvoy to find out how trade has been in at his renowned Lancashire pro shop.
Every year our February issue goes to the printers the same week as TGI hold their awards ceremony, and logistically it’s impossible to go. But we spoke to Clitheroe GC head professional Paul McEvoy as he was up in Turnberry, waiting to find out if he had won the Partner of the year awards.
“I’ve been on the board for 15 years TGI, however as a board member, you can’t be nominated for awards. Winning the Partner of the year award is something I’d love but who knows.”
Paul has been in the golf business since graduating from University, something that stood him in good stead. “I got my degree in business and accountancy, and then came straight into golf. I graduated from the PGA after three years, and by 24 was a qualified Pro. By 25 I had my first Head Professional position at Burnley Golf Club. The opportunity to move to Clitheroe came up, and I’ve been there for 16 years now.”
Clitheroe GC is over 125 years old, it’s a James Braid design regarded as one of the best inland golf courses in the country. It’s a course with a lot of upside, but Paul and his team work hard on driving traffic.
“I’ve been in the area for a long time, and we work hard at bringing in golfers from all around. Our members support us, but we get a lot of custom from other local courses. We’re a very busy course and shop. We’re a dying breed of store that still tries to offer virtually every brand in the marketplace. It’s a full service, one stop shop. We don’t want anyone to be able to walk out of our store and go ‘you haven’t got that and I really want to try it as well. So we ensure that everyone’s got access to virtually everything. I work closely with Accrington GC and Townely GC so if I don’t have it here, I will make sure it is in stock there.
“TaylorMade, Callaway and Ping went really well for us in 2019, Cobra had a good start to the season then tailed off. There was a lot of interest in the new Titleist irons last year, they were a steady seller for us.
“TaylorMade did fantastically well with their irons last season, the M6 was a great seller, as was the new P790. And the Spider putters have given them some real traction. And or the first time the wedge has been flying off the shelves. We did more in 2019 than the year previously which is always a pretty solid indicator.
“From a customer service POV, they’ve under-promised and over-delivered. Custom-fit orders are consistently quick, I had one set arrive the next day which is unbelievable. Ping are the benchmark from a service viewpoint, and TaylorMade are right up there now. David Silvers and his team have done a great job improving TaylorMade’s service to the retailer.
“We trade-in, we price match, we custom fit, we offer interest-free credit. We make sure we cover all bases because we don’t want to give anyone a reason to not to come to us. Customer service is key, and aftersales is vital in getting people to recommend us to their friends.
“Honma was an addition last year that has been brilliant. It’s not a volume brand, but the margins are good, and if someone is looking for Honma in the region, they are seeking us out. They offer a fantastic custom fit program and adding Justin Rose really improved the public’s awareness of the brand.”
Apparel and footwear are important for any modern golf retailer, and Paul has strong opinions on what works for his consumer.
“adidas has been good for us. It’s a brand that goes across sports, so people feel comfortable wearing it away from the course. We try and stock brands that have a lifestyle element. For example, we stocked Galvin Green last year, and it was hard work to sell their shirts, price points are high and they are purely a golf brand. Under Armour has been so strong again. Ted Baker has been brilliant. They dropped the price points down which has really helped sales and their lairy prints have been massive sellers for us.”
Paul has also seen success with Skechers footwear. “Skechers has done well for us, their sales programs in, and their offers to help you sell through are strong. They’ve been easy to do business with. And they are an easy brand for consumers to understand what they are, and that they are in golf for the long haul.”
The business has changed massively since Paul first starts as a professional, and he quickly points out it’s not the easiest lifestyle choice. “I think the demands put on the golf pro from a lifestyle point of view are massive. You can’t afford to sit back and let custom come to you. It’s a seven day a week, 12 hours a day, 364 days a year business. If you want to earn money you need to teach. If you teach, you need to convert that into equipment sales. Your social media profile has to be kept on top of. It’s such a multi-faceted role if you want to do it well.
“I love the golf business. I’m a little bit of a workaholic. So I’ll put my heart and soul into it, and work 15 hour days if I need to. Is the younger professional up for that with modern family demands? Unfortunately, the consumer is hungry for that service all year around. So efficient time management is the toughest part of the job.”
And that’s not the only time issue facing golf from Paul’s vantage point. “Pace of play is a huge issue. There are so many demands on people’s lifestyle and time, to give up five and six hours for a round of golf is a big chunk of anyone’s time.”
It’s not only time that needs investing in, as Paul has recently put his money where his mouth is and invested into his facilities
“We’ve put in a studio at Accrington. A new studio and driving range is being finished off at Clitheroe. It’s a £100,000 investment from my side into the studios. We have two GC Quads, and two GC2’s. But we’ve seen a big uplift in revenue since investing in the technology. We’re able to teach every day, whatever the weather condition. This brings more repeat business, and more engagement because those golfers can come back all year around. It stops leakage, and by that it means it is stopping your customer from going elsewhere to get their golfing fix. It’s enabled us to retain our customer base and add significantly to it as well. If you haven’t invested in a studio and technology, you’re going backwards as it’s becoming standard practice across the industry.”
Something else Paul believes in are the advantages of being with a buying group.
“From my first day as a head professional, I joined TGI. I did my research and saw that TGI was the right group for me and I’ve never ever looked back. I sat on the board for 15 years, I’m a former chairman. They return services and profitability back into my bottom line every year. Anyone who’s not in a buying group is at a severe disadvantage. And Buying Group isn’t the right term anymore, they’re a Retail Services group, it’s so much more than just good terms that they can offer.”
Paul’s hard work has paid off as he won the Partner of the Year award. We were a little gutted we didn’t get chance to share a glass of bubbly with him. “I’m chuffed to bits, it’s a real recognition of the hard work my team and I put into the shop. I should have left the board sooner!” GR