Realtors openly share their top three ingredients for success: location, location, location. As club managers and golf and tennis pros set strategies for maximizing merchandise sales, they should chant this same mantra— after all, where things are located can make or break sales in the retail game, too.
Location was the guiding principle for Steve Friedlander, General Manager and Group Director of Golf for Kohler Company in Kohler, Wis., when he insisted on moving the pro shop at the management company’s The Dukes Course in Fife, Scotland, from its obscure corner of the clubhouse building.
“You walked inside the front door and there was an office and restaurant,” Friedlander says. “But if you wanted the pro shop, you had to hunt it down or ask for directions.”
So he had the offices and pro shop swap locations— and traffic shot from the occasional shopper to 100 percent of the club’s guests. And even though a clubhouse and course renovation meant shutting down for several months this year, Friedlander’s sales figures for 2005 equaled a full 12 selling months in 2004.
The Dukes Course shop now has just one entry—an open, inviting space like a shopping mall store entrance, so the line between the lobby and the shop is blurred. “The pro staff and retail staff greet all our guests as they walk into the clubhouse, whether they are going to lunch, to play a round, or whatever,” Friedlander notes.
Dotty DeLacy, Merchandise Manager at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline,Nev., loves the fact that her clubhouse shop location sits next to the sports bar. In fact, two and a half years ago, she added a second entry door between herself and her neighbor. “It worked because more people come through the shop now on their way to eat,” she says. “And when they are in the bar having a few drinks, they are more inclined to buy. That’s just a fact.”
Her colleagues won’t argue. Jay Pittman, Director of Golf at Woodside Plantation Country Club in Aiken, S.C., wrestles with a pro shop that sits at one end of the building, essentially forming a side entrance to the main clubhouse. Thanks to the interior and exterior doors to his store, he captures a decent amount of traffic from the cart staging area, where golfers are required to check in—but unfortunately, folks leaving the bar area on the other side tend to slide out the main doors without bringing their relaxed attitudes to his cash register.
He compensates by playing up the fact he is in the same hallway as the locker rooms. “They have golf on their minds.We are built here strictly for them to concentrate on enjoying a round of golf,” Pittman says.
And then there’s Stacy Dennis, General Manager of Lake Windcrest Golf Club in Magnolia, Tex., who freely admits she has the best of everyone’s layout: a central location facing the clubhouse main doors and two entrances—the second one stemming from the main walkway behind the clubhouse and next to the parking lot. She’s flanked by locker rooms on one side and the snack shop on the other. “It’s a good setup for the convenience of the guest,” she says. Navigating the Aisles The second location in the mantra stands for store layout. DeLacy interpreted this by relocating her counter to the center of the shop, between the two entry doors—the better to move golfers across the length of her goods.
But most pros prefer to brainstorm on how to organize the merchandise itself. They agree they want impulse items at the counter: gloves, balls, ball markers, divots, logoed souvenirs, yardage books, disposable cameras, sunscreen. Pittman refuses to hide them behind a glass display—he wants them readily available so guests can touch them. “The counter is manned at all times while we are in operation, so the benefits of having the customer be able to grab these far outweighs the potential for any inventory loss,” he notes.
Dennis likes to keep a fixture dedicated to staple items (caps, towels, and solid logo shirts) close at hand as well. The fixture’s other side typically features her monthly focus—so in November, when she wanted to blow out the previous season’s outerwear, she marked down that inventory and placed it right under shoppers’ noses.
“You have to walk right past it to get to the counter,” she says.A table and mannequin boosting the newest merchandise forms the other side of that walkway, essentially trapping golfers like the cream in an Oreo sandwich as they approach the counter.
But there’s no way you’d catch Pittman arranging his floor space according to that philosophy. As far as he’s concerned, sale items belong in the pro shop’s equivalent of Antarctica: the back corner. “We want to make the customer weave through all our brand-new products to get there,” he says bluntly. “Along the way they may see something they have to have along with the sale item. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but it works for me.”
Friedlander finds that hats make a good item to place farthest from the counter, because their appeal is strong enough to persuade golfers to hunt for them. So while he scatters samples throughout his sections, the main hat section rests in the back corner. Golf clubs are also propped up on the far wall—a strategy designed more to stir internal motivation than maximize traffic flow.
“It means someone might actually have to leave the counter to go sell them, and I think that’s a good thing,” Friedlander says. “I don’t particularly want guests to walk into the pro shop and have to approach our people to buy something. I want our people approaching, greeting and recognizing our guests.”
Ladies’ goods are the most difficult item for Dennis to sell, so she places them in the less desirable spots. But to ensure they aren’t completely overlooked, she uses recessed display panels along the walls to show off women’s shoes and shirts at a glance. In fact, these advertising panels have become a way to signal everything the shop offers—big and tall sizes, golf clubs—on sight.
The Dukes Course prefers to steer visitors through the shop by placing unusual items for sale— think stag statues, furniture, local artists’ work—out randomly like buoys. “I wouldn’t call it a haberdashery, but it has that flavor,” Friedlander points out. “Let’s face it:We know where the real profits are, and that’s volume of golf-related shirts and logo stuff.We have these great gifts to make the shop look more like a retail store.”
Pittman has a different plan to influence traffic. He recently began remodeling his shop’s layout to group items by brand rather than category. Now, for example, all TaylorMade adidas goods are in one section, to show all of the clubs, footwear, shirts, and so forth that Woodside Plantation purchases in that line. He also partners with each vendor to use its fixtures and point-of-sale materials.
“It will be just like a Dillard’s at the mall, “ he describes. “Customers loyal to a brand will go to that area and at least be exposed to two or three other product lines by that vendor. And we can basically escort them through the entire golf shop to see everyone’s different offers. The entire exposure will be greater.” Pittman’s goal is to increase sales by 10 percent through this new layout strategy.
Out of Sight The final location hurdle is storage.When re
locating the shop at The Dukes Course, Friedlander finagled his blueprints to put the storeroom immediately next to the shop, so fast-turning stock, like shoes, are now always at his fingertips. Smaller closets tucked in more remote cubbyholes of the clubhouse hold items that need to be restocked less frequently. “It’s OK to run downstairs for balls or gloves once a week,” he compromises.
Pittman can’t wait for the day when his renovation will provide adjacent storage. He blames everything from pilferage to poor customer service on the current accommodations, located upstairs and away from the action. “I have to keep two people inside the shop at all times, to cover for someone running to storage to check on special requests for size and color,” he says. The adjacent room will double as a receiving room as well, to reduce the distance between when he steams and hangs clothes and gets them on the floor.
DeLacy agrees that running the stairs is never the most efficient way to run a store. “You get a lot of exercise, but it’s not convenient,” she says. C&RB
Summing It Up
• Making potential customers hunt for the pro shop is one of the quickest and most sure-fire ways to kill off sales.
• A shopping mall store-type entranceway that blurs the line between clubhouse and shop can be more inviting and encourage interaction with sales staff.
• There are many effective approaches to how merchandise can be staged on the show floor, but they all have one common goal: making it hard for the customer to ignore what you want to sell.
• Locating pro shop stockrooms on a different floor will promote exercise for the staff, but not efficient operations.
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