Gamola Golf in Aberdeen has broken the mould in golf retailing. It is rare enough to find an independent, off-course retailer at all, let alone one that has been constructed to premium, high street specifications. Founder and owner Graeme Masterton tells Golf Retailing how his business has evolved.
In the heart of Aberdeen, where Market Street crosses Trinity Quay, and just a wedge from the River Dee, Trinity Quay House sits prominently on the corner. The building used to be a casino, although it has the formidable grandeur of an old bank, but today it is one of the most impressive golf stores in the UK, Gamola Golf.
Inside Gamola Golf, visitors are presented with a retail area that is, by golf standards, vast, and the minimalist interior of white, black and grey is characterised by straight lines, sharp edges, and orderly product arrangements. The colour scheme sounds stark, but it serves as the ideal backdrop for the main attractions, the product in its array of colour. The ranges of clothing, hardware and accessories are extensive and impressive, and this is just the ground floor. Upstairs is the Locker Room, which is a licensed bar and restaurant furnished with leather sofas, and complete with three full-size golf simulators and a putting green.
The store opened in May last year, after company owner Graeme Masterton had spent the previous decade building the Gamola Golf online retail business.
“We wanted to grow the business,” starts Aberdonian Masterton, talking exclusively to Golf Retailing, who was a 17-year-old student when he began the online business as a “hobby”. “We wanted to have a retail store, online warehouse and our Locker Room bar, licensed restaurant and indoor golf under one roof, so we bought the premises.”
“With the different elements of the business, the idea is to keep revenues ticking over at all times of the year, so the restaurant and indoor golf should be busier in the winter while the shop should be busier in the summer.”
Having bought Trinity Quay House with the support of outside investors, Masterton, who is now 28, oversaw a complete refurbishment of the building, ripping out the entire interior of the building and even the old roof. Shop fitting specialists Millerbrown were brought in to help turn Masterton’s vision into reality.
“We came in at the start with conceptual ideas of how the ground floor should be laid out and worked with the architect on the plans,” starts Paul Sanders, Millerbrown consultant. “We then fitted out the retail space and got involved in the merchandising, to help give the shop that final high street polish, and Graeme has since maintained those standards.”
Indeed, one of the most appealing elements to Gamola Golf is that the store has resisted the offers of point-of-sale material from suppliers in order to maintain the clean, sophisticated and straightforward appearance of the retail space.
“You have to be a good retailer to resist all these pressures from suppliers,” adds Sanders, “to be able to pick out just the bits that you need. Shops can end up becoming stockists rather than retailers, and there is a big difference between the two. There is normally a lot less profit in just being a stockist because good products don’t stand out amongst the clutter, bursting with conflicting point of sale materials, and there’s a great danger that a shop can begin to look like a ‘bargain basement’. In this environment, margins get depressed. Graeme is not falling into any of those traps.”
With the golf market performing badly last year, May 2012 may not have been the most opportune time to open a new golf store, but Masterton remains optimistic that the quality of Gamola Golf will prevail over the less sophisticated off-course competition.
“Finding out about the peaks and troughs of golf retailing has been a big learning curve,” admits Masterton, who is not ruling out the idea of rolling out the premium, high street concept should Gamola succeed by the Dee. “The golf industry has been very good over the summer with all the good weather, but the winter was very slow. Overall it has been a fairly good year for us, but we are still establishing ourselves in the market and growing, and we need to get more people into the store so they can see what we have to offer. A lot of the manufacturers’ reps have told us this is the best looking store they have ever seen.”