Women’s participation in golf has a chequered history. While the sport has enjoyed good periods of rising female engagement, these have often been counteracted by spells of declining interest. Positives can be taken from recent studies showing the number of women with an interest in golf has increased significantly. Sadly, this is still not reflected in membership numbers (a topic for another day perhaps).
For pro shops wanting to cater for women golfers, question marks around participation, numbers and female consumer behaviour can put retailers off this group altogether. Ask a room of Golf Retailers what they think of ladies' apparel and hardware, and the response will be mixed, at best. There is a common view that retailers will be left with stock at the end of the season and, as a result, most shops will stock very few items for women. And yet, as research shows, out of the 8 million people who want to play golf for leisure, 40% are women. So, are golf retailers missing a trick? Here, we catch up with 3 Professionals to find out how they’re retailing for a female market.
MARION RIORDAN, Head Professional Ballykisteen Golf Club
Her pro shop is around 25 square feet and Marion is supported by 4 members of staff including a new female retail assistant. Ballykisteen is a resort club and of the 500 members, 20% are women, half of which play on a regular basis. Despite this, her women’s ranges occupy around 25% of the pro shop.
“We see a lot of hotel guests, many of whom are women and it’s a big part of my business. We get good numbers of outsiders and I teach a lot of women too, so the shop needs to be stocked to appeal to them.”
On selecting brands, Marion insists she doesn’t make choices specifically for women. “I tried that but struggled, mainly because the price point can be so much higher for women’s apparel. I stock 2 or 3 ranges for women and try not to buy much stock, which is very different to how I buy for my male customers. You’ve got to remember that when a female customer buys a nice top from me, even though her friends might like it, they won’t buy it for themselves as their friend has it. There’s no point buying 10 items from the same line.
If I see something I like, I’ll buy it for the shop and won’t feel obliged to purchase more from the range. I just pick out what I think will sell. With men you can get away with asking the reps what’s popular but when I’m buying for the female players, I need to take more time.”
More Time for Merchandising
Marion says the ladies section in the shop warrants a completely different approach to the men’s. “I spend much more time merchandising the ladies’ section, even though the men’s market is bigger for me. If an item catches their eye, women will go over and have a look. Placement and price are so important. Ladies won’t ask you for the price so it’s key to make sure everything is labelled correctly and clearly. I find that the women don’t want to engage but they do enjoy browsing.”
MARTIN BALFOUR, Donnington Valley Golf Club
Martin had always believed that women’s retail could be a very profitable area of the business and his ladies’ section now occupies over a third of the shop and contributes 45% in turnover and profitability.
“I did everything myself to start with but when Laura joined us, (also a PGA Professional), she took the ladies section to another level. She buys carefully and smartly, and spends hours looking at styles, sizes and colours. Twice a year, she meets with the brands and selects between 3 and 5 each season, depending on what they are offering”.
Martin and his team are careful when it comes to stock management and run XPOS reports on a weekly basis, looking at dead stock and from which, actions are agreed for the week ahead. Laura carries out a stock turn analysis and looks carefully at what is selling. “With ladies’ apparel, we’ll restock what’s selling fast, and move on what isn’t doing so well”, adds Martin.
“We’ve focused on the in-store experience with women in mind. We merchandise differently for them and mix up the ranges to display outfits”
Donnington Valley is a resort club with around 70 women members. The shop benefits from a steady stream of hotel guests, including groups of women visiting for the weekend to play golf. The pro shop enjoys a good local following which Martin says has taken years to build up. “I find women are prepared to travel for nice clothing and we see lots of outsiders in the shop as well”.
“We’ve focused on the in-store experience with women in mind. We merchandise differently for the ladies and mix up the ranges to display outfits, rather than have a whole rail of shirts, for example. We also have a really cool changing room, which gets many positive comments”.
SARAH WALTON, Belton Park Golf Club
Head PGA Pro Sarah joined Belton Park 3 years ago and now works alongside her partner, Chris, also a good golfer. There are over 75 women members and around 50 that play regularly. Just over 25% of the pro shop is allocated to the women’s section.
“When you build up good relationships through coaching and other facets of the business, many women will really support the pro shop. The more you can build loyalty, the less you have to go down the route of discounting. Unfortunately, there are always those ladies who just wait for the sale rail, which I don’t find with the male customers”.
With both ladies and men’s sections, Sarah and Chris run a tight ship with it comes to stock control. “We’ve tried to work with smaller brands so we can buy a bit of what we want and move quickly to add stock, or change direction if necessary.
I’m conscious of colour schemes, especially in the ladies’ section of the shop. We look at team colours as well, so navy bottoms are always a core piece as pretty much everything goes with navy.”
Women’s apparel is displayed alongside women’s shoes so the customer can see how it looks together, and Sarah suggests another good tip is to situate the women’s section next to the fitting room.
Off Course Success
One of the companies introduced to the pro shop this year offers apparel that can be worn off course and, says Sarah, it’s been a big success. “Women’s golf wear is notoriously pricey and these multi-purpose items are perceived as much better value for money. A jacket that can be worn for walks and outings, as well as golf, holds more appeal for our female customers and we are keen to explore this in the future”.
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