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A Woman’s Touch

Golf Resorts Broaden Merchandise Mix To Appeal To Growing Female Clientele

Thursday, June 06, 2019
Steve Pike
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It wasn’t that long ago when golf pro shops were almost exclusively the bastions of men. They were places where these male golfers went to check in for a round of golf, buy some golf balls and maybe a cap or shirt. Women were sometimes seen, but mostly in the background. Even if a woman played golf, there was scant little merchandise she could buy, except perhaps for some oddly-sized men’s apparel that was passed off as women’s apparel.

Fortunately, pro shops, particularly at golf resorts, have evolved over the years. These days, female golfers comprise a significant portion of buying power. Resort pro shops today are more like full-blown retail shops with an emphasis on golf, but well-rounded enough to appeal to female golfers and non-golfers.

“Female business is a vital contributor to a golf shop’s revenues,” said Caroline Basarab-Dennison,
director of retail and PGA Golf Professional at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, GA. “In many families, women act as the lead shopper whether it be for themselves, their significant others, or the family as a whole.

“At Reynolds Lake Oconee, 50 percent of purchases made in our golf shops come from women. To appeal to the female demographic, we offer merchandise for women golfers and non-golfers, allowing our shops to expand beyond the golf market.”

Attracting female golfers and non-golfers, Basarab-Dennison said, begins with a versatile product line that appeals to a woman’s daily life, whether it be on the golf course, running errands, or at home.

“We focus on lifestyle merchandise and have found success selling fitness apparel and accessories, which can transfer from a round of golf to a class at our fitness center. There is also a growing market for accessories and gift items such as handbags, candles, and household décor as women search for products beyond apparel in our shops.”

Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in North Carolina has a total of 13 shops and stores that supply its nine golf courses and hotels. The main shop – just steps away from the resort’s famed No. 2 Course – carries only logoed merchandise for men and women as Pinehurst’s “Putter Boy” is one of the more revered logos in golf.

“Logo merchandise is extremely important for us,” said Laura Robinson, director of retail at Pinehurst. “We have other shops where we sell merchandise without logos, but it’s extremely important for us to have that branding available for purchase.”

Women’s sales at Pinehurst, according to Robinson, account for approximately 20 percent of the resort’s retail sales.

“That’s huge growth for us,” she said. “And while we are seeing more female clientele, we do sell a lot of our ladies’ products to men directly for gifts.”

The Putter Boy logo, of course, helps, but so does making it easier for men to find items for their better halves.

“Items have to be easy to shop for,’’ said Kathryn King, merchandise manager at Pinehurst. “Men like to take a few minutes to shop and make it look like they’ve spent all day shopping so they do a quick grab – something like a T-shirt or cap. Something that’s an easy fit.”

Michelle Walters, retail general manager and buyer at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, CA, said she has seen an increase in sales from more female shoppers who are non-golfers looking to purchase logo items that they want to wear on a daily basis.

“Quite of few local non-golfer female shoppers visit our golf shop regularly to purchase items that they intend to wear while walking the dog or running errands,’’ Walters said. “Our female golfers and non-golfers tend to purchase a lot of layering and outerwear pieces. Our logo light-weight full-zips in all colors have been the most popular choice.”

Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green, FL, has two pro shops – one in the clubhouse for its Red and Blue courses and a smaller one in the clubhouse for its Black course. It also has a resort store in the hotel.

“We have found that women are coming to play golf with their girlfriends, or coming with their husbands and not going off and spending time at the pool and spa,’’ said Megan Kiley, the resort’s director of retail “So we have the opportunity to target each audience, which has been fun trying to find things we want to offer.’’

What’s No. 1 on that list?

“No doubt it’s layering pieces,” Kiley said. “That’s an absolute ‘must’ for any price range and vendor. It’s the most versatile piece you can buy.”

The buying plans at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, FL, have not changed much over the years, according to Rich Astle, the resort’s merchandise manager and buyer, but apparel brands change slightly each season.

“We have been able to grow our women's business by a little over 5 percent the past couple of years through better selection and better visual merchandising,” Astle said. “Constantly changing mannequin displays, for example, is something little that can make product sell out quickly.

“We also have a unique customer base being a destination resort meaning that we have a large percentage of our ladies’ business being purchased by men as gifts for their wives or significant others. So we must keep that in mind as we temper our ladies buying decisions. The gift buyer will always tend to buy more on the conservative appearance side.”
Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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