Reorganized pro shop spaces are offering enjoyable, safe shopping experiences in a pandemic-restricted world.
“Retail therapy” has taken on new meaning over the last year. Where shopping was once looked upon as a means of comfort for the average consumer, it now brings a sense of hesitancy in an environment where touchless purchases and sanitized surfaces have become the norm.
Clubs that have recently restructured their pro shops are finding new ways to sell golf apparel and other merchandise to more cautious consumers. From a strategically-laid out sales floor that offers more elbow room, to extra storage and office space for staff, these shops are still making it possible members to return and enjoy a retail experience with a new sense of confidence and trust in their surroundings.
A Shop That’s Worth a Stop
Members of North Palm Beach (Fla.) Country Club have not only benefitted from a new clubhouse, but a refreshed pro shop. In October 2019, the club unveiled a 39,000-sq. ft. building that contains a 1,300-sq. ft. retail venue (pictured on these pages) in proximity to the first tee and golf cart staging area.
When designing the pro shop, establishing a seamless traffic pattern was top of mind. “Having designated entry and exit points for the shop creates a perfect flow, with point-of-sale in the middle of both areas,” says Director of Golf Allan Bowman.
A medley of fixture styles, including wall-mounted displays, wheeled units and nesting tables, help to anchor the space and allow the staff to move merchandise as needed. These dark gray fixtures, along with white walls and patterned carpeting, speak to the crisp, modern design of the shop.
Track lighting and built-in illumination in the wall fixtures are bolstered by large windows that provide a glimpse inside. An overhang outside the windows protects the shop from getting too much of the Florida sun, which penetrates the interior in the summer.
As an added amenity, the pro shop boasts two dressing rooms for try-ons, while a seating area containing two leather chairs and a large-screen television provides a welcome respite for those waiting to use them or just wanting to hang out in the shop. Two interior offices and two additional rooms just outside the shop round out the generously sized space.
Undeterred by the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, Bowman and his staff have taken steps to create a safe environment for members and staff. Plexiglass panels have been added to point-of-sale areas, and fixtures were repositioned to create a line for better accessibility. Painters’ tape has been applied to the carpeting, to ensure social distancing for customers standing in line. to ensure social distancing for customers standing in line.
Pro Shop with a Purpose
After more than 60 years since its original construction, the pro shop inside the clubhouse at Yellowstone Country Club in Billings, Mont., was more than ready for a new look. In June 2019, an updated facility was unveiled with what General Manager Jeffrie Hunter, PGA, describes as a “purposeful design and aesthetic.”
Although the original footprint was expanded by a modest 25 sq. ft., the shop’s open concept gives a much larger feel to its 1,000 sq. ft. Located in the southwest corner, between the ladies’ and men’s locker rooms, the shop offers an easy pass-through for golfers and shoppers. During peak season, Hunter counts more than 100 people walking through its doors.
With an inviting, well-lit location that looks out over the first and tenth tees, the shop embraces its natural lighting and makes good use of multiple access points. Ladies’ attire is positioned just off a stairway leading from the club restaurant, while a second entrance leads from the men’s locker room into the shop’s array of hats, golf gloves, polos, vests and other seasonal items. A third entrance, which can be accessed from the outside, guides patrons directly to the front desk.
Incorporating the clubhouse’s look and feel into the pro shop, dark wood shelving is balanced out by soft lighting and green plants placed throughout the shop. Slatwalls on opposing walls helps to maximize display space, as do built-in cabinets designed with a mix of shelving and cascading waterfall displays.
Noteworthy fixtures include a built-in hat unit and a shoe display that stocks extras behind a set of doors. For added convenience, a 275-sq. ft. storage room is positioned just off the pro shop, while just across the hall is a dedicated area for club fittings and lessons.
Given the shop’s generously sized layout, social distancing has been a no-brainer for Yellowstone’s customers. “We are thankful for such a large space to operate in and have had no trouble complying with any pandemic-related restrictions,” says Hunter. “[Because] we have multiple displays placed around the room, our guests are able to comfortably spread out and all still be in the shop at the same time.”
Service with a Smile
Going from a temporary set-up to a permanent structure has given members and guests at Stone Creek Golf Club a reason to rejoice. Having conducted business out of a double-wide trailer for the past 21 years, the Omaha, Neb., facility was ready to make some changes.
“Dreams of a clubhouse popped up every now and then [over the years and then] came true in 2020, when ownership decided to go through with a new building,” explains General Manager Connor Farrell, PGA.
A new pro shop was a key component of the design. While small in stature at 252 square feet, the shop’s activity defies its appearance, attracting 85,000 patrons over the past year. And Farrell believes those numbers are due, in large part, to how the layout maximizes the available space.
“Every person who enters our shop has to walk by at least one display,” he says of the shop’s design, which incorporates the same dark wood used in the clubhouse restaurant. Large, black-trimmed windows overlooking the property are not only aesthetically pleasing, but help bring efficiency to the club’s operations.
“It is very important that we see the starting hole on two of our three nines,” Farrell notes. “Being able to see all that is going on with our practice facilities, starting holes and finishing holes gives us a feeling of control during busy times.”
Having joined Stone Creek in January 2020, Farrell was able to thoughtfully plan out the shop before it opened in May. He also spent a lot of time getting to know his customers before making key buying decisions. As a result, the shop has real estate reserved exclusively for hats and a wall used as a slatwall display.
With space being at a premium, the staff has gotten creative with storage. Extra golf balls, tees and gloves are tucked under countertops, while other overstock items are housed in inventory cabinets located in the shop office. “Our teaching and clubfitting bay has room for extra shafts and club heads for us to fit any one of the major club manufacturers we carry,” Farrell notes.
When COVID-19 forced pro shops to rethink their layouts and merchandising strategies, Stone Creek’s floor displays were initially roped off to prevent contact issues. (These barriers have since been removed and shoppers are now only required to wear masks.) Customer service took on even greater meaning, as evidenced by Farrell’s approach to doing business in a pandemic world: being able to ‘hear’ the staff’s smiles over the phone and ‘seeing’ their smiles in their eyes.
“With masks, people physically can’t see our smiles, but they could see it in our eyes and our body language,” he notes. “While some of our new policies made our jobs more difficult, I feel we did a great job of staying positive and giving people a warm, welcoming place to go during such a difficult time.”
Making the Most of What’s There
Limited retail and merchandising space need not hamper pro shop sell-through. At Sunset Golf Club in Huntingdon, Pa., where a clubhouse renovation was completed last December, making the best use of its new pro shop’s 250 sq. ft. has translated to a smooth shopping experience.
According to the club’s co-owner Patricia Collins, concentrating on small, but effective design improvements has had a notable impact on the shop’s appeal. “We utilized an accent wall of tongue-and-groove to create the illusion of space and depth,” Collins says. And installing a large window on one wall has given the room a larger, more airy feeling.
Another key to enhancing a modest-sized shop is finding ways to engage customers through all of their five senses. Upon entering the Sunset GC clubhouse, members are greeted by pleasant music. Attention to lighting and color provides visual cues, directing attention to specific products and displays. “Customers also have the ability to touch and feel [different] textures,” notes Collins. “Items are within reach and in their line of sight.”
Tapping into their sense of smell, a calming fragrance in the shop connects shoppers on an emotional level, while offerings samples of seasonal foods and drinks for customers helps to promote additional sales.
Merchandise position and placement is another influential factor for strong sales. “Studies show that 90 percent of customers automatically turn right after entering a store, and most prefer to move through the store in a counterclockwise direction,” Collins says. As a result, she makes a point of featuring key products and displays on the Sunset GC shop’s right-hand side.
Summing It Up
> Maximizing floor space for better merchandising means utilizing otherwise-overlooked areas such as under counters and niche product displays.
> Entry and exit points that provide easy access and reentry facilitate potential business from the golf course, fitness center and clubhouse.
> Additional amenities like offices and dressing rooms offer more breathing room for members and staff.