Excellent results for the first quarter

    Golf player at the putting green hitting ball into a hole

    Price rises continue to play a large role in driving the market forward, according to the latest data produced by the team at Golf Datatech. 

    It’s always worth comparing the weather for the current month against the same period last year, before looking at the month’s performance, as its impact can often be significant. The mean temperature for March this year was 7.3 degrees Celsius, which is above the average making it the fifth warmest since 1910. Rainfall was patchy: below average in the South East and parts of Scotland but above average in Wales, North West and the Borders giving an overall UK average of 104%. Sunshine was 121% – all in all making pretty good weather for the time of year and golf. In fact, the first three months of the year have been better than last year, which should impact not only March’s results but on the year to date too.

    So not unexpectedly the month of March has produced some very good results. Nine out of the eleven product groups reported on by Golf Datatech showed positive growth in value terms ranging from +9.4% for bags to +71.6% for putters. Only wedges and trolleys saw a downturn compared to last year of -1.5% and -2.0% respectively. These figures combined yielded an overall growth in the market of +17.6%. The picture in unit terms is a little different with only seven product groups showing growth ranging from +2.4% for balls to +39.3% for putters. The four product groups showing a decline were trolleys -0.5%, bags -1.7%, woods -5.5% and wedges -7.1%. Growth overall was 9.2%.

    Year to date figures for the first quarter in value terms also show nine product groups up, compared to six last year. This year’s results ranged from +8.6% for shoes to +62.1% for putters, which is substantially better than 2016. The two groups down were bags – 3.5% and weatherwear – 5.3%, which combined gave an overall growth of +19.7%. Once again unit sales saw considerably less growth ranging from +5.3% for woods to +35.6% for putters. The two groups down were weatherwear -1.1%, which is not so surprising bearing in mind recent weather and bags -14.4%. Combined these yield an increase of +11.9%.

    Golf balls

    Both the month and year to date figures demonstrate the disparity between the growth in volume and value sales with the latter leading the way. Effectively this signals the fact that price rises continue to play a major part in growing the market.

    However, the moving annual total for the number of ball sales is also a good indicator as to how the market is trending. The attached chart shows a steady growth for the last eight months resulting in sales being up by 2.9% over the last twelve months and 12.5% in the last three months. All good news as its important to see more golfers out on their courses, rather than having to rely on price rises alone.

    The one group that is showing the way is clubs, which is important as they represent almost half of value sales. In the year to date their sales value is up by +28.8%. Moving annual totals for each sub-group: irons, putters and wedges show dramatic increases over the last year, while growth in woods has been slower but has moved upwards for the last five months. One activity which may also have assisted them is the ever-growing interest in custom fit. In this area it’s fascinating to look across the water to the US where Golf Datatech undertakes research into this activity. Over the period 2001 to 2015 the percentage of serious golfers – mean handicap 14 and playing 65 rounds a year – who have been custom fit at some time has risen from 51% to 65%. This is expected to grow slowly partly assisted by the wide range of clubs now offering this facility; for example, irons, woods, hybrids but less so putters.

    So, in summary the weather has been kind, seemingly encouraging more golf – based on the increase in ball sales and importantly players are currently willing to buy products at higher price points. Long may it last!

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    Miles is the Owner and Managing Director of Robel Media, and the award winning GOLF RETAILING Magazine. With over 25 years in the media business, Miles has a wealth of experience in magazine publishing, digital media and live events. HANDICAP - 7.2