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Home THE BEST IS YET TO COME:

It doesn’t appear to be the best of times for the golf industry these days. But one person remains bullish on it retail prospects, believe it or not. Dick Sullivan, CEO of PGA TOUR Superstores is putting his money where his mouth is too as the company continues to expand, somewhat aggressively despite the ever present challenges on display. “We see upside because we have a different model, we think we have a different mouse trap,” said Sullivan from his second store to open in Scottsdale, AZ. “At the end of the day the customer votes.” 

Don’t believe for a moment that Sullivan has over indulged in the company kool-aid. “We know the industry has been under siege in terms of golf rounds, etc., but this demographic will continue to play golf. Its not going away. This demographic will continue to try and improve their game and continue to buy new product. Our business is based on hope and people hopefully wanting to improve their game. We’re bullish,” he continued. “We have another store opening in Orlando next month as well as Texas. We have three or four leases for next year. We have 20 stores now and are growing at 25% and we should have 40 stores in three years and then on to 50,” he revealed.

The growth rate is fast tracking the store openings, but the secret lies within the execution on the ground, he said. “We’re fortunate that the markets we go into we become the dominate market share leader. Some of it is the heritage of Home Depot, our majority owner is Arthur Blank. I’ve been with Arthur for 23 years now. I was the chief marketing guy at Home Depot and then went to the Atlanta Falcons. We understand sort of the DNA of a customer service center business. This isn’t just somebody going into Walgreens to buy a tube of toothpaste. If you have a problem with your water heater or whatever and you need to have fixed, you need knowledgable people on the sales floor. That’s really the difference. 

“I’ve been really, really, lucky to work for what I would call three emotional brands.  Home Depot we fulfill people’s dreams. Not just fixing their toilets but renovating their homes. People are very passionate about their homes,” he explained. “Stepping out and going to the National Football League and having 70,000 screaming fans come into a building. I figured out along the journey and by doing focus groups that not everybody goes to the football game. Its like the Kentucky Derby, not everyone goes for a 2-3 minute race. They go for the experience. We don’t throw away the word experience here (at PGA TOUR Superstores) or at the Atlanta Falcons or at Home Depot. People come for the experience. Everything has to be perfect even from the parking. Its much like a restaurant. There are really good restaurants with really good food but at the end of the day its not just about the food. People go for all the other intangibles. The music, the lighting, the temperature, the whole vibe. Here it is not just about selling product. It is the experience,” he continued. “We have emotional and rational attributes. When I walk into Walgreens or CVS there isn’t any energy. When I walk into here or REI, I get the juice of the energy. We have to provide that. It is fun to work in an industry with the psyche of a crazy person who does want to get better. Its the little things,” he summed up.

Customization has become a big part of the business, Sullivan said. “Well, over half the sets of clubs we sell are custom ordered from manufacturers. Its not just PING, which you would expect,” he said. Sullivan added that PGA TOUR Superstores provided 50,000 lesson last year. Adding to his belief that people are attracted the experience he offered this phenomenon. “In Denver, Long Island, Chicago and New Jersey we now have to give out these little buzzers like at a restaurant, for people using a hitting bay in the winter on a Saturday morning,” Sullivan added. 

Golf has shifted to a value proposition both on and off course. Sullivan and his PGA TOUR Superstores appears to have gained some ground in key markets with consumers versus the competition. Its the reason it remain optimistic in an industry that seems clouded in mystery.