It’s PGA Merchandise Show week, and that means that the golf industry will converge upon Orlando for the largest exhibition of new products that everyone has been talking about, as well as lots of items that no one ever expected to see.
The Show will always hold a special place for me. During my eight years on the PGA of America staff, one of my responsibilities was building and executing the marketing strategy for the show, conducting and analyzing attendee research and, ultimately, I was part of the teams that first negotiated a new general services contract and then sold the shows to their current operator, Reed Exhibitions.
While the show has evolved over the years, I still relish the familiar constants of those brisk early Central Florida mornings, seeing old and new industry friends and marveling at the breadth of exhibitors, from leading brands to the many upstarts claiming to have the latest and greatest disruptive new idea.
The show is also about education and insight. There are seminars and sessions targeted at PGA professionals and other industry leaders. I’ve had the honor of leading several of these education sessions over the years. Most recently, as President of Sports and Leisure Research Group, I’ve presented an annual market trends breakfast each Wednesday morning before the exhibition hall kicks off.
If you happen to be in Orlando, tomorrow (Wednesday), the festivities will take place at 7:30 am in room W102 of the Convention Center. Feel free to come by and say, “Hello.” We’ll feed you with both some food and some ideas and research findings that take a look at the year ahead.
A big part of what fuels my PGA Show trends breakfast presentation is a large omnibus study, where we analyze a survey conducted with several thousand golfers in early January about their attitudes, perceptions and anticipated behaviors. As I mentioned last week, this year’s study afforded us the opportunity to also survey SwingU readers and examine your responses in context with the broader golfer market.
It’s only fitting, that on the eve of the PGA Merchandise Show, I share a quick look at what you are thinking in terms of upgrading your golf gear in 2020.
Lots to Buy. Lots to Spend
It’s no great surprise that among the litany of golf products that you’ll look at and consider in 2020, golf balls tops the list of what SwingU readers will be purchasing in the year ahead. A sizable majority of you plan to reload, spending an average of $136 each on some new orbs. Nearly half of you will be updating the golf wardrobe, with those doing so, expecting to spend some $224 on new golf duds. Four in ten SwingU readers plan to re-grip their clubs, investing about $100 to do so.
On the hard goods side, about a quarter of you have plans to buy a new driver, at a median spend of $400. That means half of you who will add a new big stick to the bag, will cross the $400 threshold in pursuit of some extra yardage off of the tee. New iron sets will command about $800. A little under one in five are looking to spend an average of $134 on a new wedge. Those planning for a new flat stick, bring the expectation of laying out nearly $200 for that new putter.
Over the past several years, our research has found that the incidence of those looking to buy new equipment has remained flat. That means that golf OEMs have been locked in a battle for market share, rather than seeing a volume increase in the U.S. market. Yet, this has been accompanied by higher per capita spending on that new product. This makes intuitive sense, given that golfer attitudes continue to embrace the perception that new equipment continues to be more technologically advanced and innovative.
It’s a tribute to OEM R&D and marketing teams that consumers continue to see greater value in new equipment. Among SwingU readers, nearly seven in ten of you expect to spend the same or more in aggregate on golf merchandise in 2020, relative to a year ago.
Evolving Purchase Channel Preferences
Over the years, we’ve conducted a significant amount of golfer purchase process research, and the annual omnibus study affords an opportunity to pulse this, by taking a close look at where golfers will be looking to buy their new gear. As has been the case over the past couple of decades, the purchase channel of choice continues to be off-course golf retailers.
Among SwingU readers, some 44% of you plan to make your next equipment purchase at an off-course specialty retail store. Most interestingly, more than a quarter of you plan to make your next purchase online. That’s statistically a significantly higher incidence than we’ve seen among the broader golfer population, or what we’ve seen in recent years. Dedicated golf websites are your digital destination of choice for equipment purchasing among this readership, though meaningful segments have also turned to general online retailers, auction sites and golf sites that specialize in pre-owned merchandise. More than half of you consider in-store equipment trial to be a critical step before pulling the trigger to buy.