Golf trade shows – an endangered species?

    Following the closure of the Golf Trade Show at Harrogate Tony Clark wonders what the future holds for such events.

    I enjoy attending golf trade shows and have been going to them for more years than I care to remember. Golf shows are an opportunity to engage with PGA pros and trade colleagues in large numbers, even if the costs do sometimes seem disproportionately high. I think that is the big issue for many suppliers; trying to justify the return on investment (ROI). Whilst it may seem a simple case of ‘cost of attending minus sales profit achieved equalling a plus or minus figure’, in actuality it is more complicated.

    Tony ClarkeThe commitment from the suppliers that attend is evident. Stand cost, staffing costs, travel, accommodation and other subsistence expenditure all add up, with Orlando attendance expenses and a 10×20 foot stand costing around $20,000, but this is only one piece of the jigsaw. Other vital components are timing, venue, quantity and quality of attendees and whether or not there’s a particular format required or ‘bolt-ons’. For example coaching seminars, tournament(s) or even an out-door component such as the demo day held in Orlando.

    Looking at the show in Harrogate that was held every October for the last six years, it was great that the buying groups joined forces to create one show. That made perfect sense and it benefitted exhibitors and attendees.

    With regard to timing, can that ever be perfect? October, one could argue, is perfect for retail pros to place apparel orders for spring/summer but cash is tight; seasons are increasingly unpredictable and knowing you have £xxxx of winter stock in the shop with more arriving when being asked to commit to a period still six months away can be a tough call. So the pressure passes to manufacturers and suppliers to guestimate the outcome of autumn/winter and try to ensure they can fund and hold enough stock as ordering becomes later and more difficult to gauge.

    Another issue to consider is that, for most brands now, there is a team of representatives and agents visiting golf pros periodically, showing samples and keeping them informed with the opportunity to place smaller orders more often. The days of the large pre-bookings just don’t happen as much anymore as they used to in the past.

    Apparel is an increasingly large percentage of a retail pros inventory; hardware is now reduced to a small range of what should be profitable custom fit options, complemented by coaching. It is clear that coaching should be a key focus of any club professional’s business, whether delivered personally or by other instructors at the facility, as it presents a range of different commercial opportunities.

    My personal opinion is that the press release issued from The Golf Trade Show captured perfectly the reasons for not continuing with the event in its current format and the news that there would continue to be a coaching seminar should certainly be welcomed. Through eminent and challenging speakers, this not only helps inform and educate current and new PGA Professionals, but organisers now have the opportunity to include those suppliers that provide products specific to instruction and golfing fitness and create a fun and powerful learning environment, both technically and commercially.

    With the loss of the European Show in Germany and the UK Trade Show this leaves only Sweden through buying group GolfStore, China and Reed through the PGA of America in Orlando and Las Vegas in the USA flying the golf industry flag. Certainly Orlando still attracts huge numbers, but surely even the organisers of the world’s number one golf show are asking themselves what the future holds for trade shows?