Has the PGA “Merchandise” Show lost Its purpose?

    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 24: An overview of the show floor during PGA Merchandise Show held at Orange County Convention Center on January 24, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

    Tony Clark has exhibited at the PGA Show for many years since 2004, most recently for three successive years with PlaneSWING and still attends as an industry professional. Here he examines an issue he believes the show is facing.

    On “The PGA Merchandise Show” home page you’ll read this: “The PGA Show is a trade only event for qualified golf industry professionals only. Attendance at the PGA Merchandise Show is restricted to PGA Professionals and affiliates of the golf industry (buyers & sellers of golf related products and services)”.

    Note: Restricted to buyers and sellers of golf related products and services. A merchandise show!

    Unfortunately, the three Show days, just 25 ½ hours to be exact, (plus demo day) are now diluted with off-site golf tournaments, an ‘Education Conference’, coaching seminars and much more, depriving exhibitors of many of the very attendees and potential customers they are hoping to reach.

    This is supposed to be the golf trade show of the year. A showcase for brand owners, distributors, wholesalers and service providers to present their products and services to PGA Professionals, retailers and trade industry contacts including the media, PR companies and other national and international re-sellers. Sadly it now falls way short of delivering this with many attendees being amateur golfers that have secured tickets from friends within the industry. Now this may get the numbers up but I can tell you it becomes another barrier for exhibitors trying to access serious buyers.

    With regard to the Education Conference and other coaching seminars, I’m all in favour of PGA Professionals furthering their coaching knowledge, improving themselves and their clients.

    A positive approach to self-investment in continuous learning should, I believe, be instilled in every PGA Professional from the day they enter the profession by both the PGA and their respective Directors of Golf and Head Teaching Professionals.

    But in my view this is now at the expense of exhibitors that are spending thousands of dollars to put themselves in front of buyers. Did you know that for a 10x20ft booth it costs almost $12,000 for space only? Once you add carpet, travel, staff, subsistence, product and display stand shipping, internet, an electric point and more, you’re into $18k before you’ve met a potential client. This equates to $720 an hour. For that level of expenditure I think exhibitors deserve some focus.

    So what are the consequences of this? Well, the Show has been getting smaller as exhibitors consider far more carefully than ever before, the costs incurred. They need to sell a significant amount of product both at and after the Show, gain additional awareness and see a recurring income stream through the year to justify attendance. Knowing that you’re now competing with off-site activities for a share of the potential client base and in such a short time frame (25 ½ hours you’ll recall) has to become a part of the decision making process and it’s looking less and less attractive, especially to the small to medium size businesses where the dollars spent are their own and not those of corporate investors.

    So what’s the answer? For me it’s simple. Separate trade show and education. I attended an excellent three day education seminar in November run by the Proponent Group. Speakers included Proponent members, partner suppliers, plus leading lights in the coaching sphere including David Leadbetter, arguably the world’s leading instructor, Mike Bender, coach to Zach Johnson, Lyn Marriott, Pia Nilsson, Cameron McCormick, coach to Jordan Speith and Golf Channel and Revolution Golf’s Martin Hall, a PGA of America and PGA of GB & Ireland Coach of the Year.

    Three days of networking and intensive career development in coaching and business plus the opportunity to challenge colleagues on their philosophies in a respectful learning environment.

    I took a decision in 2014 to no longer exhibit at the PGA Show and that decision was based on two factors. Price and audience. The price had become prohibitive and my sales were now 7 to 1 in favour of the golfer at home. Certainly reaching PGA Pros was and is still important to me, but not at any price and not via the PGA Show.

    I believe that the PGA Merchandise Show still has relevance but it needs a shake-up. The organisers cannot keep going back to the well each year and expecting exhibitors to pay top dollar to play second fiddle to ancillary activities.

    We either need a) exhibitors and attendees under one roof for the duration of the Show, whether the trade show or an education conference, days prior or after the PGA Merchandise Show or b) We accept the fact it’s a hybrid event of trade and education but this needs to be reflected in a significant reduction in booth pricing. You can’t have the exhibitors’ cake and eat it!

    Tony Clark

    Instructor & Owner of PlaneSWING Golf, Tony can be contacted at onplane@planeswing.com and www.planeswing.com

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    As an avid golfer since the age of eleven Dan lives and breathes all things golf.  With a current handicap of eleven he gets out and plays as often as his work life (and girlfriend) allows. Dan confesses to still being like a kid at Christmas when it comes to seeing the latest golf equipment. Having served as GolfPunk’s Deputy Editor, and resident golf geek for the past 13 years and working for golf's oldest brand, John Letters Dan brings to GOLF RETAILING an excellent understanding of the sector.