Spending time with Dick Sullivan, President and CEO of PGA TOUR Superstore, one quickly gains an appreciation of the passion and enthusiasm that have led the company in the tumultuous business of golf retailing. His passion focuses on helping average golfers have more fun playing this maddening game wrapped in an enthusiasm that is both engaging and infectious.
Outside of the big box sporting goods outlets the number of golf retailing doors and square footage may be shrinking but under Sullivan’s leadership for the past ten years PGA TOUR Superstore (PGATSS) has shown impressive growth with continued plans for expansion. In February the company also celebrates a decade of ownership by the Blank Family of Businesses, owners of the NFL Atlanta Falcons and MLS Atlanta United, whose chairman Arthur Blank was co-founder of Home Depot.
Sullivan’s experience includes stints in senior management at Home Depot and the Falcons with the numbers telling the story of how he applied the Home Depot business model to PGATSS. Emphasis is placed on making customer-centric decisions every day not just the “strategic initiatives” touted by some companies as the solution to every problem. The result is a distinctive company culture with long reaching positives for both employees and customers.
Illustrating the industrywide respect Sullivan has earned, in 2018 he was elected chairman of the National Golf Foundation Board of Directors, the first retailer to take over the top spot in the Foundation’s history.
When the numbers were tallied at the end of 2019 sales for the past three years had increased 46 percent with same-store sales up 22 percent while the brick-and-mortar footprint grew 52 percent. PGATSS also made a significant investment in their e-commerce platform accessed both from PGATSS.com and through a link on PGATOUR.com. According to Sullivan, “Online sales not only were up over 90 percent in 2019 but have continued strong with 35 percent growth in 2020 so far.”
At present there are 42 locations across 16 states with two more opening soon with the customer base increased by roughly one-half million to a total of eight million.
Should there be any question about how this all was accomplished Sullivan put it succinctly when announcing 2019 sales results, “What sets us apart is that we offer our guests a fun, welcoming atmosphere inside our stores. Our knowledgeable associates are committed to helping people with their game so that their experience on the course is even more enjoyable – in fact we custom fit more beginner golfers in our stores than avid golfers.”
Sullivan describes the company as a “real business growth story” adding, “PGATSS is the largest golf-only retailer. There are about 15,000 golf shops and retailers in the country, and we account for almost 50% of all golf equipment sales.”
As to future plans, “We are looking for growth in small to medium size markets with stores in the 25 to 30,000 square foot range and 50,000 square feet in larger markets.” Planning for the next three years calls for another 20-plus stores which will boost store count by almost 50 percent while the long-term association with the PGA TOUR and off-course licensing of the TOUR’s name continues to be a positive particularly for e-commerce.
Market demographics dictate the viability of potential store locations and the cost of real estate for the new store must fit within an acceptable range based on the projected sales. To keep real estate expense in line PGATSS often takes over space in plazas vacated by unsuccessful retailers and additional store locations may not be confined to the U.S. Sullivan revealed, “Expansion plans in the future will include looking into Canada.”
Experiential is an apt word to describe a visit to a PGATSS. In addition to extensive displays of equipment and apparel there is a large putting green just inside the doors and several hitting bays with computer swing analysis for club fittings and lessons. Sullivan shared with us lessons are a big part of the experience saying, “Our locations in total gave over 60,000 lessons in 2019.”
He also spoke of a new concept soon to be rolled out called the Studio Experience. “The PGA TOUR Superstore Studio Experience is a specialized fitting facility, a store within a store, for those wanting the ultimate club fitting and will be included in our locations in certain markets.”
Retailing is a tough business under the best of circumstances, but Sullivan has shown even in very competitive environment by bringing passion and enthusiasm into the customer service equation it is possible to create a winning formula.