Freelance Writer
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.

Golf Trade Show Publication, Club Executive Magazine
02.15.06 | 4 Comments
Category: Trade Magazines

Who are the people at your booths?
Find out who’s here and what they’re showing

So many booths, and only three days to get to them all. For visitors, combing through a show like this can make you feel like a kid with a little brown bag in a candy mega-store. Everything from ovens to golf carts to Tiger Woods autographs can be found at the Sands Expo. To help you plot your journey, we checked in with a number of companies participating this year to find out a bit about their business and what they’ll be showing at their booths.

They call him Mr. Linen, and with good reason. Jeff Duglin of Connie Duglin Tablecloths will be showing off his specialty linen and chair cover rentals. The Duglin company handles anything from corporate galas to birthday parties, and will be displaying plenty of its wares. “Why buy this stuff when you can rent?” asks Duglin. “We’ll provide you with a linen book and we’ll have these little tables where we show our products. People can fill out info and we send out books to them for any corporate event.”

And if Duglin is Mr. Linen, then Fred Kenner could be “Mr. Clean.” His company, Arrow Magnolia Southwest, specializes in cart washing and ball washing products, as well as lake dyes and custom blending fertilizers. “We’ll be demonstrating how all these products work at our booth,” says Kenner. “People can even bring things to clean, but we’ll keep the golf balls. They can even drive their carts in if they want.” Kenner also says he’ll offer trade show visitors an opportunity to give their products a whirl on a trial basis just for getting in touch during the show.

It’s nice to be recognized. With more than 500 items in its 2002 gift and award catalog, Country Club Crystal, David Peterson says, is “a premier supplier of custom merchandise for tournament directors and golf professionals throughout the U.S.” Country Club Crystal, a division of Glass Graphics, Inc., has a lot for trade show folks to gaze upon. Peterson will be bringing samples of everything in his line, including crystal, glass, wood and marble recognition products, which can be engraved with club logos and any chosen verbiage. “We feel that the quality of our product is top-notch,” said another spokesperson, “and it is well worth people’s time to inspect the product. We also feel that we have an incredible customer service department and our ability to meet time frames and tournament dates is consistent and reliable.”

And along those same lines is the Terryberry Company, which helps clubs implement employee recognition service. “We help them develop the criteria for the program, and then supply personalized awards,” says president Mike Byam. Terryberry produces everything from lapel pins to plaques to clocks and pewter pieces. With 1,000 different award options, they won’t be carting samples of each to the show, but will have many of their bestsellers, as well as examples of what other clubs have developed that have been successful. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Terryberry has 40 regional sales offices countrywide.

Over at the Crescent Systems booth, Mark Williams, VP of sales and marketing, will be demonstrating his company’s software product that runs and operates golf clubs of all levels. Since this past year Crescent has made about 20 different enhancements to the program, it’s a good chance to see a live demonstration of what this software has to offer. Some of the latest features are the ability to make gift cards, make multiple price point labels and archiving programs.

Dayva Industries will have you covered, literally, with its line of umbrellas and patio accessories. Based in Huntington Beach, CA, this company ships all over and its line includes all sorts of umbrellas, patio wood furniture, umbrella lights and much more. Patricia Bilotti will be bringing samples of all this merchandise to the show. “We have new products and a great chain of satisfied customers,” says Bilotti.

We needn’t tell you where the Brewmatic table is because your nose will draw you there. Showing off its coffee brewers, tea brewers and super automatics imported from Italy, Brewmatic will be making cups of cappuccino, lattes and coffee for visitors. “This certainly is a market that we’re very interested in,” says Cindi Watson, national sales manager. “We’re working with a few country clubs now. The timing is incredible. This is perfect. We can take care of all coffee needs from catering to smaller machines in the coffee shops.”

And all the way from Europe … Demarle, which is located in New Jersey, distributes a line of non-stick baking materials that are manufactured in France. Eliane Finer, sales and marketing manager, says your kitchen will rise to a new level with their products, which include a wide range of baking molds. “We have dozens and dozens of different shapes,” says Finer, “ and we’ll be showing all of our models. We’ll show people the possibilities of making life easier, healthier and to save money.” Not to mention, they’ll be handing out yummy food samples all day.

And have a seat … Drake and Rovergarden concentrates on showing off its chair line: folding chairs, stacking and rising chairs and chiavari (some people call them ballroom) chairs. Alida Maila will be bringing them all for display. Also, take a load off, and kick back in one of their chase loungers or sunbeds. Drake and Rovergarden produces a whole outdoor furniture line geared for country clubs, made with a high resistant material called resin. “People say plastic,” says Maiola, “and they think of cheap [before they see it]. But it’s high quality and high resistant material. It’s high class.”

Out of Houston, TX, Aspen Information Systems will be showing off its software, which is designed to manage country clubs. According to John Ullrich, the product can handle everything from the database to handicaps to proshop inventory. “We can help them find out what software to use,” says Ullrich. “We’ve got a whole myriad of software. Visit us to see what solutions we have to automate the facility.”

Say cheese. Elson-Alexandre from Buena Park, California, will be on hand to show samples of the executive portraiture they produce. With plenty of examples of its work, the company specializes in membership recognition, which basically means it goes into the county club and photographs the membership. With that, Elson-Alexandre either provides an album or the images in a directory. “We photographed Hilary Clinton,” says Lila Pesner, executive VP. “We’ll have a big picture of Jack Nicholson at our booth. We’re a national corporation, and we do the job and finish it. There are a lot of companies like ours who come in but don’t do the quality we do.”

Stakmore manufactures premium wood folding chairs with upholstered seats out of maple or ash wood, and it will be showing off a selection of these seats (about 16 different chair styles). “Our chairs offer an upscale permanent look, “ says Eric Niermeyer, “with the added flexibility of being able to fold and stored away.” Niermeyer says Stakmore will also show customers the three different finishes available, as well as a variety of upholstery choices.

“We have the classic niche product,” says Davy Davidson, “but it’s one that these great clubs all over the country love.” Davidson is talking about Glo-Ice, manufactured by his company Engineered Plastics. Davidson says Glo-Ice, which is a line of buffet/salad bar serving pieces, will set up most of its products, and visitors can benefit from talking to the company about the various styles they can create out of Glo-Ice. “There are always buffet setups at clubs,” says Davidson, “and our trays are designed to hold salad bars, seafood bars, vegetables, fruits … our box combination is the centerpiece for a fancy buffet setup. We will have our whole setup there with a range of sizes. I’ve done a ton of these shows and what we’ve found is that with our product there are just so many creative ways it can be used. Our customers are way more creative than we are with it.” Engineered Plastics will offer a show discount of 25 percent to those who make a connection with them over the weekend, and subsequently order.

Fine country clubbers love fine tobacco, and Fuego Cubano offers the finest forms of it. The company specializes in gourmet tobacco, but its big burner is a premium cigar made of Dominican tobacco leaves in Indonesian wrappers. Fuego Cubano also markets smaller smokers called cigetes and single sweets, both of which will be passed out at the show, freshly rolled before the customer. But they’re most excited to introduce to the world their food division (so new that it doesn’t have a name yet), which includes fudge, gourmet coffee, hot chocolate and a Latin American-based beverage line called Fruchata. And yes, this means samples for you!

According to Laurie Schmidt, fitness kings Sports Solutions Inc. will be on hand offering customers plenty of specials, and a chance to familiarize themselves with the products.

Jani-King has a franchise in every one of the United States, and is one of the largest commercial cleaning companies around. They will pass out literature about their services, which cater to the hotel, resort and country club sect. “That’s one of our areas of expertise,” says Doug Hickfang, from his corporate office in Dallas. “In the last five years we’ve really been concentrating on it.”

And to help out the cleaning folks are the people who make the Clean-Step Floormat, commonly referred to as a sticky mat. ITW Alma will be on hand to demonstrate this mat, which picks up dust, dirt and grass clippings from shoes, holds it to the mat and the top layer can be disposed of when necessary. “It prevents wear and tear on solid floorings,” says product manager Sharon Lindusky. “It just prevents that abrasion. It was originally used for hospitals and the computer industry, but now it’s being promoted in the consumer market.” Lindusky says ITW Alma is sure to have some giveaways at her booth, as well (quite possibly a drawing for a free Clean-Step Floormat each day of the show).

Tiger Woods is a phenomenon, a hot commodity, and of course, a golfer – a perfect draw for a trade show geared toward country clubs. Unfortunately, Woods won’t actually be at the show, but sports memorabilia giant Upper Deck Authenticated will be putting the spotlight on him. Upper Deck is bringing the best of its Woods collection: autographed cards, memorabilia, unsigned collectibles, dolls, trading cards and more. “It should lend itself nice to this country club setting,” says Jason Taitano, product development and marketing manager. Upper Deck’s catalogue will also be available, with memorabilia on players such as Michael Jordan, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jack Nicklaus. “Our main focus is pushing Tiger,” says Taitano. “You can use these items not only for decoration, but as high end prizes, gifts to the board members, items at tournaments and that sort of thing. You can buy these things right at the show.”

Kane Graphical in Chicago has held the patent for an interchangeable number and lettering system, which for the last 20 years it used to service the banking industry (such as the rate boards you see in many banks). A year and a half ago, Kane took a look at the system, repackaged it and came out with a line called Concierge, which is tailored to the hospitality industry. “It was designed to replace the push pin menu boards and such,” says Dan Ottow, sales manager. “The secret of the patent is when you put the individual components together, the copy looks like one piece. This allows anyone who needs to change their info and event announcements quickly to do it.” Kane produces these units for Caesar’s in Vegas, St. Andrews Country Club and hundreds of hotels and banquet halls around the country. Samples, from tabletop units to the big ones, will be at the show. “This is new to the hospitality industry,” says Ottow. “There is no one else out there offering a similar one. I guarantee no one has seen this at a show before.”

Eurofours in France produces the Euroven, which is the most popular oven among chefs in Europe. In Arizona, Phillip Brothers distributes the Euroven, which he’ll be demonstrating at the show. A top of the line convection oven, Brothers says his company offers everything from smaller ovens to huge deck ovens similar to those seen in pizza parlors. He’ll be bringing the two-tray oven to show off at the Sands Expo, in which he “may have a fellow who will be baking.” We’re sure the smells will draw you there – that, and the fact that Brothers will offer a 30 percent discount off the list price for people who pick up the brochure at the show.

Just because it’s a uniform, doesn’t mean it can’t be in fashion. NewChef Fashion from Los Angeles will be on hand to show off its line of superior garments that range from the culinary industry to engineering uniforms. “Anything that covers the front of the house, or the back of the house, we have,” says sales manager Suzanne Sirof. “Our specialty, besides the culinary market, is to take existing programs that may have been discontinued with other companies and continue on with the same program on an equivalent or better price point.” Anything that isn’t at the booth can be found in one of their catalogues, and Sirof stresses that a great thing about NewChef is they have low minimums and no fabric commitments (“a lot of programs, you have to commit to a certain amount of yards.”)

Norex is all aglow. Since 1999, when it was patented, the Smartlight has been a hit with the country club market, according to Norex Enterprises VP of sales Adrienne Hegyi. The Smartlight is a flickering electronic candle that resembles a real one – without the hassles of fire, melting wax or smoke. From votives to the 30-hour tall version, Smartlights fit into standard size holders or come with custom made holders from Norex. “We will be showing off all of these,” says Hegyi, “along with our other banquet ware (which includes chafers, trays, bowls, dessert servware, stands, knives and beverage servware. And any orders that we write during this trade show will be charged at case quantity prices, which means our unit price, our lowest price. That’s a substantial savings.”

“Well, we have a lot of new products,” says Roger Sullivan, “and that’s a great reason for anyone to visit our booth.” Sullivan is the GM for Regal International, which produces a broad product line for outdoor events such as weddings or bah mitzvahs. Wooden folding chairs, tables, glasses, flatware, stemware, copper serving piece, Mexican pewter, porcelain from the Orient – all are available from Regal. “We have brand new chair system,” says Sullivan, “that includes a metal frame with replaceable cloth backs. It’s more heavy duty, and produced by our sister company Regal Rents.” If that’s not enough, Regal also sells a waterless germicidal cleaner with an automatic dispensing system (works like an automatic flush toilet), as well as a full line of coolers and tabletop butane stoves. No live demos on the stove, but Sullivan says they will be handing out mints with the Web site on them (even though he prefers the chocolate macadamia nuts).

Oasis Outsourcing, headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida, helps country clubs increase their efficiency and profitability, while reducing workforce costs and employer liability. Specializing in country clubs, Oasis takes care of payroll, benefits administration, workers compensation, risk management and human resource compensation. VP of sales and marketing Mike Viola will be manning the booth to talk about how this can help your company.

St. Paul Fire and Muster will be talking about its Eagle 3 product, which is insurance designed specifically for golf facilities. As one of the largest insurers of golf clubs, they are one of only five companies in the country that have a special product designed for the industry. “We’ve been doing this a lot longer than the others,” says Tom Duggins, “we feel like we have the premier coverage. We’re a sound company with a quality product.”

Sundrella Casual Furniture is ecstatic about its Wilshire Collection, a brand new line made of all aluminum. “I don’t believe there’s another one out there like this,” says marketing manager Anne Carr. “We’ve only shown this at one other trade show, so this is such a good opportunity to exhibit it for the clubs because that’s who it is designed for.”

With 6.0 horsepower, the new Z series treadmill by True Fitness is an amazing piece of fitness equipment. At its booth, check out this workout machinery that boasts the “largest running surface of any treadmill,” according to John Sarver, director of design for hotels, resorts and country clubs. Sarver says True Fitness will be showing its elliptical cross training machines, strength products and multi-gyms and benches. These products are so new that trade show visitors will be the first to see the line. “They are the new platinum gray color,” he adds, “It’s really sharp. We’re offering freight incentives for orders placed at the show, too.”

Gary Parker of Von Schrader finds that most country clubs and resorts prefer taking care of their own cleaning, so his company will show their line of cleaning systems for carpet and upholstery. Von Schrader also has equipment used on ceiling tiles and walls. “We’ll be showing and demonstrating equipment all day,” says Parker. “It’ll be good to see how cost effective it is to do it yourself.”

Out in northern New York and Vermont, Telescope Casuals maintains its own forest and sawmill, cutting down its own trees (and replanting them) to build a high quality set of furniture. Richard Parker, an independent contractor for the company who markets under the company name New Horizons, says Telescope’s claim to fame is its director’s chair and that all the furniture is designed specifically for commercial use. The products are usually found at high-end pool and patio shops, but this is the first trade show of its kind that Telescope has decided to take part in. “We’re gearing our efforts toward this industry,” says Parker, “and I’m hoping to meet a lot of people and pick up some leads.”

Seems that’s what a lot of these folks will be doing. Check it all out for yourself.