The Mendip Golf Club’s Head PGA Professional, Stuart Disney is accruing quite a collection of industry awards. Here Stuart talks to Crossover's Jules Appleby about the importance of awards and what really sits at the heart of his business.
What inspired you to get into golf?
My Dad helped to give me a real taste for the sport and I caddied for him a lot as a child. He encouraged me to join Torquay Golf Club as a Junior where I started my career before moving to Teignmouth Golf Club to do my PGA training and I learnt a lot from Peter Ward who was the Head Professional there.
A few years ago, I spoke at a conference alongside PGA Master Professional Alan Walker about growing the game of golf, and he’s been a mentor ever since. When I did have an idea I thought was worth pursuing, it was good to be able to talk to an industry expert. The biggest lesson he taught me was one of reflection. You might think you know a lot but there’s always someone who knows more and I make a point of talking things through with other Pro’s or my buying group, for example.
How long have you been at Mendip Golf Club?
I was appointed here in 2017. It’s a beautiful course with around 650 members. In the pro shop, our customers are around 80% members and the rest are visitors. We’re a small team consisting of me, my wife Suzanne, and fantastic Assistant Pro, James Taylor. There are also two part time members of staff who are flexible, and come in during really busy periods.
When we first came, there was no indoor studio so we made the shop smaller to make room for the new facility. We totally gutted the shop, and modernised it with new lighting, flooring and of course, a more contemporary layout.
Are awards important to you?
Receiving an award helps to confirm you’re on the right track. Running your own business, you’re out there on your own and regularly making decisions that could make the difference between a good or bad year. You can feel quite exposed and awards can help to validate the choices you’re making.
The success of Stuart Disney Golf is built upon my ability to coach well, and working with members on improving their game sits at the heart of my business. In 2016 I was awarded PGA Development Coach of the Year, and 2 years later the Somerset Sports Participation Coach of the Year, which was fantastic. The chance to have lessons with an award-winning coach definitely helps sales and gives members the confidence that they’re learning from one of the best.
Do you work closely with your buying group?
I’ve worked with TGI Golf Partnership for a number of years and my retail consultant is a great ally. Earlier this year I was really pleased to win TGI’s Most Improved Business of the Year which came about after some big changes I made in the pro shop: including empowering staff more, better retail processes, reporting and engagement activity with members.
Why do you think you won the TGI Most Improved Business award?
As well as the buying group, we’ve worked closely with the retail experts at Crossover Technologies to make some improvements to how we managed the business. As a result, stock turn increased from 1.8 to 3.7 at the close of the year, and we reduced our stock holding from £43,000 to £28,000. My profit margin increased from 26% to 34% which is a huge amount for a small business. Basically, we now have an additional £20K in the bank that we wouldn’t have had, and I’ll make more profit.
How do you decide what to order?
My Assistant Pro James Taylor really has his finger on the pulse and uses all sorts of means to keep up with trends. Simon Keeling at TGI also has great insights and provides an invaluable, unbiased view.
Every week James runs reports from XPOS including the Unpopular Products and Popular Products reports which tell him what is and isn’t selling well, with a break down by supplier. We try to make our buying decisions based on fact, rather than gut instinct.
How do you manage your stock so well?
Stock management is something we’ve really improved upon over recent years and I’ve seen the benefits to the business. Like many shops, we used to do just one big stock take at the end of the year but it took up a lot of time, plus it meant we really weren’t that on top of the stock. Now we do smaller, more regular stock takes: one category at a time, for example. It means the weekly reports we run actually give us an accurate picture of the stock in the shop.
I cut down on pre-books a couple of years ago and this year, we aren’t doing any at all. James and I are confident that we’re on top of the business enough to ensure stock levels are under control. As a result, we don’t receive visits from reps anymore which I appreciate can be a good, or bad thing. We’re still doing the same level of business - I’m just doing it on my terms now.
Do you change your strategy in the Winter months?
Yes, we focus more on bringing members into the studio. We run ‘Hit the Green’ and Bullseye challenges, and late-night shopping events in the run up to Christmas are also always popular. On a Wednesday we stay open for an evening of coaching: which could be a quick 15 minute fix in the studio. We charge a flat £5 and it’s a great offer to get people over the door.
How do you attract new business?
Like many pro shops, we sell mainly to members and it definitely pays to optimise that customer base rather than put a lot of effort into attracting new people. That said, our members are great for customer referrals, which I’m eternally grateful for.
We aren’t shy about collecting customer data, either at point of sale, or using the TGI customer newsletter card. For any purchase over £5.00, we ask for the customer name and email address. We record the information against the sale in our ePos system, XPOS, and then all customers receive some form of email follow up from us. It’s called XMAIL and is a simple add-on to the sale system. Most sales result in a ‘thank you’ from the shop and customers love it! It keeps the shop front of mind and many customers come back to buy additional products as a result. XMAIL is one of the best things we do that has made a difference and has brought in thousands of pounds of additional income over the last year.
For more information about Stuart Disney Golf https://www.mendipgolfclub.com/the_pro_shop_team. XMAIL is proven to increase footfall to the shop and deepen customer loyalty. Many customers nurtured by XMAIL go on to make 47% larger purchases in the shop. A simple add-on to your XPOS system and for only £15 per month. crossovertec.co.uk 01454 418395