Still a rough ride ahead

    Last month’s article reviewed 2022 and came to conclusion it had been a very topsy-turvy year. In fact, all the years post Covid have had their sales distorted. Only the years prior to the virus gives us a clue as how the industry is performing. So, January’s 2023 sales in value terms compared to 2022, are bound to appear poor as the previous year was up by +308.1% owing to the bounce back effect after the lockdowns. No surprise therefore that 2023 compared to the previous year is down by -17.6%. The good news for cash going into the till is it’s somewhat better than 2019. However, inflation over the four years and particularly in 2022 has boosted the value of sales, distorting the underlying picture even more. Effectively, for most shops it will have unfortunately damaged their profit and loss account.

    Helen Dickenson chief executive of the British Retail Consortium commenting on January’s sales, confirms the above for retail in general “As Christmas cheer subsided, retailers felt the January blues as sales growth slowed. Many retailers discounted heavily to entice consumers spend and while there were bargains to be had in the January sales, retailers continued to be hit by lower margins and falling volumes”.

    In reality there are so many confusing effects and counter effects on recent retail performance: Covid, commodity shortages, inflation to name but a few that it is better to put the past behind us and simply compare 2023 to 2022. In the short term the figures will not look great but as the year proceeds, hopefully they have a chance of improving.
    So, January’s Individual product group performances for three out of the four groups reported on by Golf Datatech compared to the same period last year saw a decline in value terms: clubs -24.5%, consumables -16.6% and light durables -0.8%. Only apparel showed growth at +2.0% this fitting in with sales on the High Street. The same analysis in unit terms shows us a little brighter picture with only two of the four product groups showing a decline: clubs- 21.7% and consumables -14.4%. The two showing growth were apparel +14.7% and light durables +10.3%.

    Drilling down to major individual hardware products in value terms shows the top three performers compared to last year were shoes+3.3%, bags -6.0% and wedges -9.1%. The bottom three were trolleys -37.7%, irons -28.5% and woods -22.6%. Interestingly in apparel seven out of the eight products showed growth ranging from +2.0% for men’s tops to +48.5% for women’s tops. Only men’s trousers showed a decline at -21.3%.

    The short term outlook for retail looks challenging. The cost of living will spiral upwards as energy and possibly interest rates continue to rise. This will force many consumers to think hard about what they purchase. Let’s hope that golfers, who have shown resilience in the past, will continue to buy. It’s not the time yet to be building stocks unless you have a strong marketing programme planned. Interestingly, those that are willing to promote come out much stronger at the end of the tunnel compared to those that sit on their laurels. GR

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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.