How did a family interest in golf shoes evolve to become the go-to point of sale solution for PGA Professionals around the world? For 25 years, Phil Barnard has been helping to shift attitudes across the golf industry. Now retailers finally seem to be giving customers what they want, the founder of XPOS explains how we’ve gone full circle.
IN THE 1980'S MY DAD, BRUCE, WAS INVOLVED WITH STUBURT GOLF SHOES. From an early age, the family would attend the trade shows. They were some of my first memories of travel and I have fond memories of those early days in the industry.
MY DAD WAS PASSIONATE ABOUT 2 THINGS. Stock control and data. He was the company problem solver and developed a simple, but very good, replenishment system.
Each box had a tab that you’d tear off when the shoe was sold. At the end of the week, the retailer would collect the tabs and return them to Stuburt, who would then send replacement shoes to the retailer. No one’s ever replicated it but it was ingenious.
Stuburt became the number one shoe brand in UK with its popular spikeless “Pro-Am” shoe but my Dad was frustrated because the retail data available meant he couldn’t manage the business as he wanted to.
I RAN THE SKI TEAM AT UNIVERSITY AND DABBLED IN ENGINEERING AND COMPUTING. Three days before my final exams, I broke my wrist during race training which meant I couldn’t sit them and had to retake the year. Around this time, my father had left Stuburt and was working with a group of golf Professionals, who were also in search of better management data.
That year, my Dad asked me to write an EPOS system which would help the shops to manage themselves better, as well as help us to garner a better understanding of market share.
SO, I WROTE MY FIRST EPOS. In the mid 90’s, the options for golf shops were either a cigar box, ice-cream tub or a very expensive EPOS - untenable for the average pro shop.
After I’d sold my EPOS into about 15 stores, I realised I needed to write something better. I took on my first employee and we got up to around 200 golf shops. We later teamed up with TGI, Golfstore and Foremost groups, and rolled out across Europe. This took us to our next version of the system, XPOS.
GOLF RETAIL IS VERY DIFFERENT TO GENERAL RETAIL because of all the components that come together to provide a golf operation. It’s a complicated retail environment with lots of spinning wheels. What makes the difference is using solutions that are doing an efficient job for the environment. There are hundreds of EPOS systems out there doing “a job” but, at XPOS, we’ve got golf covered.
I WASN'T FUSSED ABOUT THE TILL AND FOCUSSED MORE ON THE DATA. This set us apart from our competitors. Our reporting was always better so we could help the retailer understand what was going on in the business.
WE HAD TO GET THE BUYING GROUPS ON BOARD to really make changes across the golf industry. I came up with a way to deliver a system so the groups could see management data – something that had always been lacking – and that was a huge incentive for them to partner with XPOS.
PEOPLE USED TO THINK IT WAS EASY TO MAKE MONEY IN GOLF but in the early 90’s retail changed and off-course retailers became more dominant. They could hold much larger amounts of stock which meant more choice – rows and rows of woods and irons. This really hurt the on-course Professional and it became difficult for them to sell clubs as they couldn’t compete. Fortunately, much has changed since then with the emergence of custom fit – bringing the pro shop back in to the game.
In 2005, XPOS partnered with Golf Data Tech, a US-based research company that provides the golf industry with specialised data including retail sales, stock and pricing. We began to deliver industry numbers to anyone and everyone in the golf retail.
PARTLY BECAUSE OF OUR DATA, THE BRANDS HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING of what’s really going through the shops and don’t try to push as much product through the channel. Not only is this better for their business, but it’s good for retailers and customers, too. Retailers can see they don’t need lots of product: it ties up cash and delivers weak margins. Retailers just need to offer the right product to service the customer’s needs and add value. As a result, the industry is healthier and decisions can now be based on fact.
GOLF RETAILERS CAN ADD VALUE BY CUSTOM FITTING AND OFFERING A BETTER PRODUCT to the customer, who is willing to pay more for it. Less sticks at higher values create more money for everyone. Today’s margins on Clubs were unimaginable 20 years ago. They used to be around 10% - now they’re 25%.
STOCK CONTROL IS CENTRAL TO RETAIL SUCCESS BUT IT'S NOT EVERYTHING. It’s about understanding what the customer wants and maintaining optimum stock levels to deliver that. Retailers must focus on keeping customers informed, communication and building those relationships.
RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING, I'VE BEEN PASSIONATE ABOUT INDEPENDENT BUSINESSES. I want to deliver solutions which do the things the big retailers take for granted, but small businesses can’t do themselves. At XPOS we’re delivering tools so that retailers can interface better with the customer, such as XMAIL and new XPOS Caddie app.
Data is the foundation of success. Good quality data in, gives good quality data out. We have 3 people working on our centralised product database, XCODES: that’s something that no individual shop could economically manage, and it’s only the start. Using XCODES sets a frame work for more exciting things in the future.
‘ONLINE' IS GRABBING ALL THE HEADLINES AT THE MOMENT. Research has shown that over 50% of people who buy online want to click and collect. They want to see your stock availability and make purchasing decisions in their own time but don’t want to pay, or wait for delivery. The retailer who adapts and embraces the technology in order to give customers what they want, has more chance of success. That’s why the XPOS Caddie app is so important for our customers – it’s a virtual shop window that enables golf customers to shop in their own time. It helps to build that connection with customers and delivers a better service. The app works with XCODES to provide the product catalogue, so retailers don’t have to.
TO COMPETE AGAINST THE RETAIL BEHEMOTHS THAT HAVE GREAT EFFICIENCIES, such as Amazon, golf retailers need to work together and cooperate. The next stage is about optimising communication between golf retailers and the brands so that they can offer the right products at the right time and place. Afterall, the most convenient place to pick up your golf product is on the first tee, not your mailbox.