You can call it bucking the trend, thinking-out-of-the-box success, or just plain old hard work and dedication to providing quality products, as well as customer service and satisfaction. But the story of Golfsmith is one that flies in the face of all those golf retail industry doomsayers.
Statistics show that in 2009 and 2010, golf industry sales shrunk from $5 billion a year to $4 billion. And, the number of golf retailers declined in the United States by 50 percent in the past 10 years. Not nice numbers. Yet, Golfsmith has expanded while other retailers have closed their doors.
Says Golfsmith Interational’s President and CEO, Sue Gove, “Golfsmith is a golfer’s paradise. Whether you are a scratch golfer or someone looking to get into the game for the first time, we offer the best selection of the biggest brands in a truly unique environment. Today’s hi-tech clubs offer more features than ever like adjustable loft and shot shape options. Our store associates are experts in helping golfers of all skill levels find the right gear for their game. In fact, we have renamed our associates `Adjustability Experts’ for the kickoff of the season.”
In addition to clubs, balls, shoes, tees and other golf essentials from brands like Titleist, PING, Callaway, TaylorMade, Cobra, PUMA, NikeGolf, Mizuno and more, Golfsmith offers a wide selectionof authentic golf apparel brands and fashions not found in a typical department or discount store. Golfers will also find the latest hi-tech accessories, such as GPS units, swing analyzers and rangefinders.
Golfsmith is an experiential retail model and provides products and services beyond equipment sales. Last year marked a major expansion period as Golfsmith opened 10 new stores and relocated four to larger models. When you walk into a Golfsmith store there is so much more than golf clubs. There’s an extensive selection of apparel and accessories and you’ll see more floor space to non-equipment items. The firm also offers a number of custom fitting options for golfers at all levels and invites customers to come in and try before they buy by using hitting bays and putting greens.
Company officials have identified more than 100 possible new locations for Golfsmith in the future. These markets represent significant growth potential and Golfsmith chooses its new locations carefully, sizing up markets that have potential growth, studying the rate of golf product sales in specific regions, the number of competitors, and other market conditions before it commits to a market or store plan.
Founders Carl and Barbara Paul started Golfsmith in 1967. Before co-founding the company, Carl Paul, an engineer by trade, was invited to play golf with a neighbor and borrowed some golf clubs. He became fascinated by the design of clubs and the way they were put together. Upon researching opportunities to buy the parts and pieces to build clubs, he realized there was an unfilled niche in the industry for custom-made golf clubs and components. The couple started operations from the basement of their Edison, N.J., home, and sent out a typewritten, hand-illustrated catalog.
After Carl Paul’s brother, Frank, joined Golfsmith the company moved to Austin, Tx. in the 1970’s.There, Golfsmith opened its first showroom in 6,000 square feet of unused army barracks. By 1976, Golfsmith had grown to gross more than $1 million a year. In 1992, the company moved to its current headquarters in Austin, a 40-acre campus that includes corporate offices, a practice range, a 30,000-square-foot Golfsmith store, and 240,000 square feet of shipping and distribution facilities. Three years later, Golfsmith opened retail stores locally in Houston, Denver and Dallas.
Today, Golfsmith employs approximately 1,800 people and is the nation’s largest specialty golf retailer, with 89 retail locations (by the end of 2012) to complement its robust online operations, www.golfsmith.com.
Last year Golfsmith International Holdings Inc. agreed to a $97 million sale to Canadian golf retailer Golf Town, a deal that created the world’s largest specialty golf retailer. Golf Town has 54 stores in Canada and seven in the Boston area.
The company also offers a “Play Better Guarantee.” If the consumer buys clubs from Golfsmith and doesn’t play better, the firm will give him or her full credit back toward other clubs. This offer stems from the Golfsmith’s heritage and focus on custom fitting. Having custom fit well over one million golfers in its 45-year history, Golfsmith now offers club fitting experience through its new Advanced Custom Fitting program. Performed by a Golfsmith Master Club Fitter, this service is designed for the golfer who wants the “ultimate” club fitting experience, both in expertise and technology. Customers can schedule an Advanced Fitting session through an online appointment tool.
Last year, Golfsmith launched the industry’s first national on-line custom fitting appointment scheduler. The online scheduler allows golfers the ability to book a new Advanced Club Fitting session at any of their locations nationwide. Golfers can visitwww.golfsmith.com/customfitor the company’s new custom fitting education site, www.MakeEverySwingCount.com,to secure an appointment for an Advanced Custom Fitting session.