Shops That Pop

By | January 10th, 2017
Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club, Powell, Ohio

Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club, Powell, Ohio

On-site sales outlets are expanding and redefining their retailing approach, to broaden the appeal and reach of a club’s brand.

As club facilities have evolved, an emphasis on creating spaces that encourage members to linger and take their time has been front-of-mind for designers. That trend has made its way to pro shops, which were once known for their speedy foot traffic, with golfers hustling through to begin their rounds and maybe pick up some golf balls, and tennis players running in to have a racquet restrung.

Summing It Up
• Achieving a style that is consistent with the rest of the clubhouse allows a seamless integration from pro shops to lobbies and dining facilities.
• Flexible designs let shops showcase seasonal merchandise as it becomes available.
• Bringing in unconventional products can help pro shops diversify their offerings and appeal to customers on a different and broader level.

Now, though, as clubs look for new ways to keep people on-site and boost revenues, retail outlets are being positioned as destinations that go beyond the basics. Whether prompted by a boost in club membership or a new twist on creative merchandising, many shops have outgrown their former digs and are expanding not only in size, but also in their value to the overall club business model.

Maximizing the Merchandise
For Hurstbourne Country Club in Louisville, Ky., a redesigned golf pro shop was long overdue. Lined with slatwall from the 1990s, the shop’s outdated interior did not mesh with the look and feel of the clubhouse, a mansion that dates back to the 1850s.

“The architecture of the ‘old house’ is breathtaking and difficult to replicate,” explains Club Manager Steve Shafer. “The new design of the golf shop has a much richer feel that is more consistent with the rest of the clubhouse.”

By expanding the original footprint a modest 200 sq. ft., the renovated pro shop was able to better utilize its space. The original design had incorporated two points of entry that created traffic-flow issues, but by eliminating the second door, traffic flow is now noticeably more consistent, Shafer says. The extra space that was gained allows customers to move about the shop more freely, and lets the club showcase additional merchandise.

Hurstbourne Country Club, Louisville, Ky.

Hurstbourne Country Club, Louisville, Ky.

“Upon entering the shop, members are greeted by a new sitting area with a flat-screen television, to create energy and ambiance in the room,” describes PGA Head Golf Professional Danny Baron. A custom-built, 12-foot counter was re-positioned closer to the doorway, and personnel can now easily greet customers as they enter the shop. A leather-framed photo of the 18th hole that hangs behind the counter creates a strong focal point for browsers.

The pro shop’s rectangular shape lends itself to a variety of display cases that accommodate changing merchandising needs, from straight arms and shelves to hang bars and mannequin displays. These custom-designed and -built displays include nesting tables, two-ways and a four-way, which Baron credits for “keeping an open and clean look throughout the shop.”

Thanks to these flexible displays, product merchandising can be updated as necessary. In addition, directional display lighting allows the shop to shift its focus onto select merchandise as it comes into the store. The shop’s nesting tables and two-way merchandisers foster cross-product promotion, which translates to stronger sales.

Another noteworthy design improvement is the addition of a 50-sq. ft. fitting room just off the pro shop. While members previously had to go upstairs to the locker rooms to try on clothing, they now have the convenience of dedicated space that features a custom leather bench and an extra-large mirror.

Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club, Powell, Ohio

Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club, Powell, Ohio

Showcasing Brands
As pro shops expand their turf, having more space allows them to widen their offerings—and that includes promoting full lines from major vendors. At Amana Colonies Golf Club in Amana, Iowa, carrying Nike and Under Armour lets the pro shop appeal to customers who seek out those brands. “We have men’s and women’s racks laid out separately, but have outerwear all together,” explains General Manager Stephen Kahler. With the cash register strategically positioned in the back of the store, customers must pass through the bulk of the pro shop’s merchandise to make a purchase—a design strategy that promotes add-on sales.

Name brands are also a big draw at Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club’s Signature Shop in Powell, Ohio, where Vineyard Vines leads the pack. Carrying exclusive lines that tap into local interests also distinguishes this shop from other specialty retailers. “We carry logo apparel for the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL hockey team and all items for The Ohio State University (see photo, above),” says Regan Koivisto, President of Marquee Club Group, which owns the facility.

At Hurstbourne Country Club in Louisville, Ky., Peter Millar has comprised a large portion of the pro shop’s inventory for the past several years. Other successful soft-goods brands include Vineyard Vines, FootJoy, Donald Ross Sportswear, B. Draddy and Polo, with Nike and Under Armour as the key athletic brands. PGA Head Golf Professional Danny Baron compliments the Birdies & Bows women’s apparel line for offering “a boutique-type look and feel that cross-brands with both tennis and golf.” And of course, promoting the Hurstbourne name is also important. “The members take great pride in the club logo, and we try to offer new items each year to keep the accessory line fresh and current,” says Baron.

“The shop now has a great look and feel that has translated into an enjoyable retail experience for our members,” enthuses Baron.

Out of the Ashes
From destruction comes the opportunity for rebirth. In November 2015, the clubhouse at Amana Colonies Golf Club in Amana, Iowa, burned down when it was struck by lightning. Once the damage was assessed and new ownership came aboard the following February, the decision to rebuild became a top priority—and the project quickly got underway.

“We broke ground on March 1, 2016, and opened for play on April 15,” recalls General Manager Stephen Kahler. In a mere seven weeks, a brand-new 2,200-sq. ft. clubhouse was unveiled, including a 600-sq. ft. pro shop.

Following a traditional design approach, Amana Colonies’ pro shop now reflects its surroundings. “Being in Iowa, we stuck to our roots,” explains Kahler.

Dark wood trim and dark-brown window treatments complement tan painted walls, along with dark wood-grain flooring. An exposed silver air duct and dark-brown ceiling fans provide an industrial feel to the atmosphere, while a large rustic clock and framed flags on the walls add personality to the retail space. Three flat-screen televisions provide entertainment to shoppers as they peruse the merchandise, which is well-lit by can lights and pendant mason jars suspended from the ceiling.

Amana Colonies Golf Club, Amana, Iowa

Amana Colonies Golf Club, Amana, Iowa

Golf balls and small gift items are featured in a built-in glass display case, while black steel four-ways and nesting tables showcase apparel and other soft goods. Also of note is a sparkling granite countertop with flecks of beige, tan and black that Kahler credits with “accenting the rest of the décor and bringing it together.”

To ensure that customers find what they’re looking for—and possibly stumble upon some undiscovered retail treasures, too—a nesting table that houses the shop’s latest offerings is front and center. “We really wanted to maximize the space and utilize our nesting table as soon as you walk in,” Kahler says. “We are continually rotating new merchandise in this area.”

While Amana Colonies’ course is now closed for the season, Kahler was pleased with the first year’s business in the renovated clubhouse and pro shop. He estimates that just over 16,000 rounds of golf were played over six months, amounting to nearly 2,600 rounds per month—and steady visits to the pro shop.

“It was nice to start from a clean slate, with new fixtures, merchandise…everything,” he adds.

Signature Style
At Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club in Powell, Ohio, the physical structure of its pro shop didn’t need to be rebuilt, but the business model itself did. Regan Koivisto, President of the Marquee Club Group, which manages the facility, decided to diversify the shop’s golf-focused inventory to encompass more lifestyle gifts and fashion.

Hurstbourne Country Club, Louisville, Ky.

Hurstbourne Country Club, Louisville, Ky.

“First, the margins associated with golf vendors is limited, especially when comparing the prices of the same product lines when they’re sold at big-box retailers,” Koivisto explains. “Second, we have a large social membership with highly active families of non-golfing moms and kids who had limited interest in golf apparel, but we knew they were shopping somewhere else. We just had to bring in products that appeal to them.”

The club officially reintroduced the Signature Shop at Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club to members this past fall. After a local boutique salesperson was hired as a buyer for the shop, the sales floor was restructured to make space for non-golf merchandise such as women’s apparel, fashion accessories, jewelry and handbags.

Following the positive customer reception, kids’ and men’s items were also added. Additional display tables showcase these offerings, particularly in the off-season when golfing is not prevalent.

“We still devote a good portion of the Signature Shop to golf-related equipment and apparel, but when the shop looks low on items during the winter months, we are full of more lifestyle choices for the whole family,” says Koivisto.

To bolster the Signature Shop’s margins, Koivisto makes a point of attending annual trade shows in Atlanta, New York, Las Vegas and Chicago to source new merchandise. He recently found stocking caps with speakers and was so enthused by the item that he placed an order for four units.

Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club, Powell, Ohio

Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club, Powell, Ohio

“It’s not something you would find in a traditional pro shop,” he notes. “And that’s what our customers have been saying: They’ve never seen a pro shop like ours before.”

Because the newly minted shop has been so well-received, Koivisto decided to add an online counterpart to his business model. Launched as of mid-November, lets consumers purchase, ship and gift-wrap products online.

“It took a couple of weeks to get the word out, but now we are fulfilling orders every day,” he says of the website. “Most are local, but we recently had an order placed from Mississippi.”

While the Signature Shop has taken off successfully, Koivisto admits that the restructured business model for the retail outlet, as well as the rebranded club, is still a work in progress.

“Our storage space is limited, and we have much more inventory to manage quickly,” he reveals. “The name change is still new to the membership, but we’re confident that over time, the branding will stick.”

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