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Designed to Sell
06.22.09 | No Comments
Category: Trade Magazines

Designed to Sell
Making the club’s pro shop effective and profitable

Appeared in Club and Resort Business Magazine, 2008

A definite trend toward clubhouse facelifts has escalated within the past ten years, lending courses to rethinking the position, shape, style and size of the pro shop. Now, more than ever, clubs and resorts are realizing the potential with their shops, as well. With the latest wave of clubhouse renovations, properties are putting time, money and energy into rethinking the pro shop’s position on the course, the layout of the store, the décor, inventory and more.

Brian Kittler, PGA director of golf operations for McConnell Golf, surmises that this trend toward renovating developed out of necessity. “Some of the clubs not reacting to this 10 years ago,” says Kittler, “have to play catch-up, and they are losing members because they didn’t update 10 or 15 years ago.”

It was the right move for Haig Point Club in Daufuskie Island, South Carolina. Established in 1986, the course recently underwent an entire renovation and this included the pro shop, redesigned by an architectural firm.

Since Haig’s 1,000 square foot shop had an existing horseshoe-shaped counter, the designers used the structure as the centerpiece. The counter, newly stained to a darker hue, now commands the middle, spouting four corner columns that stem to the 30 foot ceiling. Square in design, there is a double door entrance and also double doors leading to the clubhouse. A large pane of glass claims 50 percent of the walls. Alcoves, which display hanging merchandise, separate each of the glass areas and display tables pepper the main areas. A staircase located within the shop leads to the assistants office as well as a storeroom. The design allows flow around all side of the counter, as well as the display tables.

“How the shop is set up is one of the most important decisions,” says Jason Cherry, director of golf at Haig Point,“because the setup dictates the flow of traffic and how accessible it is for the customer. The new lighting, decorations, paint color and counter stain color really changed the overall look. It gave it a more masculine look.”

When choosing the new display tables, they went with smaller tables, but a larger amount of them, allowing them to carry more merchandise, display each line on its own table, and create more flow through the shop. Ultimately, the alcove merchandise will change. Currently, the clothing faces left to right. The notion is that the impact would be stronger if the items faced outward toward the shop.

“I feel that one of the most common mistakes is overstocking,” says Cherry, “as well as improper stocking. Some shops are so full, you have to literally pry shirts apart on racks to see the merchandise, and you also feel like you are tripping over and backing into merchandise as you go through.”

When McConnell Golf purchased the Cardinal Golf and Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina and The Raleigh Country Club in Raleigh, North Carolina, Kittler says they knew it was crucial to upgrade its facilities in order to maintain – and attract – membership. McConnell bought the legendary Cardinal in June of 2006, and it wasn’t long before the company embarked on some much needed renovations. With a group of designers in Virginia, McConnell bounced around ideas for a good six months, discussing everything from the color of the wood to the carpet, placement of tables and chairs, and lighting fixtures.

The golf shop was already located in an ideal spot. “It is accessible from the men’s locker room and the fairway grill,” says Kittler, “as well as the first tee and ninth fairway, which makes it a high traffic area.”

According to Kittler, the ideal size depends on several factors: type of facility, the type of membership you are trying to attract, and the amount of play/volume you are anticipating. “For us,” he says, “about 800 square feet is ideal. It is just big enough for us to have proper displays, enough room for our customers to move freely within the shop and keeps with the theme of welcoming and hosting our customers. This also keeps our merchandise and overhead costs to a minimum, which helps maximize our revenues.”

Already in a spot that invites plenty of customer in, Kittler and his associates concentrated on a plan that would increase flow throughout. They splashed darker stain throughout the room, giving all the woodwork a classical feel that complemented the changes throughout the course. They concentrated on keeping it an open, uncluttered plan with lots of displays, and a slat wall built in so it looks “natural.” “We use a lot of displays on the periphery of the shop,” says Kittler. “We use tables to showcase new arrivals, as well as nesting tables. When someone walks in, they see new merchandise and it sets the tone of what we carry. There is a ladies section, shoes has its own section, the hats – everything has its own place, like a department store.”

Not unlike a small Filene’s or Macy’s, Kittler says the shop at the Cardinal is also sectioned in an effort to build brand loyalty.

“We wanted to restore the clubhouse the way it had been done in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” says Kittler, who estimates they sunk about a half a million into the clubhouse. “We needed to modernize the clubhouse, as well. Before, it just didn’t look right. They had canned lighting in the ceiling. We did a lot of accent lighting in rows so you can direct it. We softened it. It’s warm and welcoming now. ”

Kittler emphasizes that it’s important to avoid clutter. Not over-purchasing is key to keeping the store neat. “Even though it’s small,” he says, “customers don’t feel like they are tripping over things. They’re not bumping into racks. We kept the counter on the back wall so when you walk through, you have to walk to the back to check out. You want your customers to see everything.”

McConnell purchased The Raleigh Country in November of 2003, pleasing many who feared the property would go the way of condos or strip malls. Plans are in motion to create a new pro shop this November, in addition to many other renovations.

The plan involves flopping the Fairway Grill with the shop to expand the men’s locker room. “Everything is intact,” says Kittler. “It’s just a matter of flipping them. We haven’t seen the actual plans, but we have input like we did with the Cardinal. Structurally, the clubhouse itself won’t be changed, but we will change the carpet and the lighting.”

The flip will mean not only moving a large hardwood bar, but a smaller shop, which Kittler says is welcomed; it is presently too spacious in some areas, and too small in others. The new design will give it a “more uniform look with high traffic area.” The new fixtures, as with the Cardinal, will function to highlight merchandise.

“We are telling designers how the flow will go,” says Kittler, “and they talk about how they envision the flow. You don’t buy fixtures or anything until you know what you need. You want to know what color or stain you want so you match your fixtures. You try to get your fixtures through the design company and incorporate that into the cost. It’s good to consult with the designers because sometimes golfers are too conservative and it gets you out of the box.”

The motivation behind renovating the Raleigh Club is based on timing and a need to create a buzz. “We have been kicking around this project for three years,” says Kittler. “The beauty of both of our projects is that we did these as a company, and the members were not assessed a dime. We did it because the need is there.”

Likewise, Indian Spring Country Club in Boynton Beach, Florida, sunk a lot of time and funds into rebuilding and redesigning the entire clubhouse in 2000. Expanding it to 52,000 square feet, this included a 1,700 square foot shop furbished with fine wood fixtures and detail that focused on a clean, elegant and timeless look.

Upon approaching the Indian Spring pro shop, the customer is first enticed by elegant window displays that rotate on a weekly basis, showcasing the latest in golf and tennis apparel and accessories. The entrance features a sitting area with an oversized find leather couch and TV that previews the latest sports info.

“We created a space that was centrally located and that was a warm and inviting meeting space,” says Jamie Chavez, diector of membership and marketing. Chavez, who admits the store is a bit too large, says they sometimes struggle with having so much inventory. “We have to stay attentive,” he says, “to making sure we are moving intentory in a timely manner.”

While many spoke positively, and were pleased with the layout and operation of their stores, Bruce K. Harwood II, PGA head golf professional at Stoneybrook Golf Club in Estoro, Florida, is more critical of his present setup. “The pro shop was not planned out as well as it could be,” says Harwood. Since Stoneybrook used an architect that relies on a standard design, Stoneybrook “pretty much has a cookie cutter design.

“Instead of the cart being on the pro shop side of the clubhouse,” he continues, “it’s on the exact opposite, which makes our cart staff have to get here an hour earlier and leave an hour earlier each day. The design of the shop is not conducive to holding a lot of product or selling it more than it is for aesthetics.”

Spanning 1999 to 2000, it cost 1.5 million to renovate the whole building that houses the golf shop. It sits at the entrance outside the community gates, attached to the clubhouse. At 1,000 square feet, lots of windows allow for plenty of natural light, but at the expense of wall space for displays. Harwood says they use an abundance of floor displays and creativity to make the shop inviting, and the three entry points are helpful. “We do design the floor layout that makes you have to walk a certain way,” he says.

Despite the challenges, Stoneybrook uses its floor displays strategically, putting the floor gondolas in a way that separates the sections of apparel. They also use the front counter to break up the hat section from the shoes. “We constantly move product around the shop to give it a fresh look,” says Harwood. “Even though we are a daily fee public facitility, we do have a tremendous amount of regulars, so by moving product around often, you would be amazed how many people look at the same shirt twice and ask, ‘when did you get this in?’ Keeping a fresh look is crucial to having success in sales. You must have a method planned out at least a year in advance. We do a great job at it each year.”

Harwood again stresses the importance of product placement. “Take yourself as an example,” he says, “and what you would expect the location of something to be, and what you would possibly purchase, even if you weren’t looking for it. You can guarantee that every single person will end up at the front counter.”

And in the end, getting those shoppers to the counter is all that matters. Sound advice, indeed.