The number of physical golf retail outlets that are back in business continues to increase — from off-course stores and specialty club-fitters to green grass pro shops.
Approximately 79% of golf course pro shops are open at facilities that are open to play, the equivalent of almost 9 million square feet, although some states and counties have limitations on the number of customers permitted at one time. That percentage is up from 66% last week and 36% at the start of the month, although some states (including New Jersey, Illinois and New York) have government mandates that say they must remain closed inside to customers.
Meanwhile, approximately 85% of off-course golf retail stores were open (in terms of total square footage) heading into June. This is up from 79% last week and 59% three weeks ago. In early April, only about 4% of the 6.5 million square feet of total off-course golf specialty space was open to in-store traffic. Roughly 84% of all off-course retail stores are now open to customers.
After having all retail locations closed to customer traffic for more than a month to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, PGA Tour Superstore became the first of the national retailers to reopen its doors on April 24 with enhanced safety protocols for customers and employees. Now, almost 85% of Superstore’s 43 locations have reopened and the company opened its newest store a couple weeks ago in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
“We’re erring on the side of making sure that we have a safe environment,” said PGA Tour Superstore President and CEO Dick Sullivan. “We had a little bit of an advantage because we didn’t open until the end of April and we were able to see what other retailers were doing — the Home Depots of the world, the grocery stores, and others.
“We learned quite a bit from them and then said, ‘Let’s do more.’ Because our environment is different,” Sullivan added. “People are wanting to touch clubs and demo clubs, whether on the putting greens or in the practice bays. We’re not a sporting goods store where people come in, pick up a product and walk out. We’re going to be fitting people and people get to experiment with products, so we had to do a little bit more.
Golf Galaxy has opened more than 70% of its nearly 100 stores while Worldwide Golf Shops has reopened about 78% of its almost 90 locations, including all of its Edwin Watts stores in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina, every one of its 17 Edwin Watts outlets in Florida, and all five Uinta Golf stores in Utah.
In some states, rules allowing businesses to reopen limit the number of customers to ensure a minimum of six-foot physical distancing. In Florida, for example, where all eight of PGA Tour Superstore’s stores are open and all 17 Edwin Watts locations are open to in-store traffic, retail stores are currently allowed to have 50% indoor capacity. It was previously limited to 25% of capacity.
PGA Tour Superstore continues to reopen other stores with an “abundance of caution.” The retailer has implemented a series of enhancements to protect those in its stores that are open, including six-foot spacing increments designated on the floor in both high-traffic areas and checkout areas where lines form. Other safeguards include: sanitizing golf clubs and balls both before and after any customer uses or “demos” them, multiple hand sanitizing stations within stores, associates wear masks and gloves, and high-touch areas are regularly disinfected throughout the day.
Superstore has also implemented a “starter” program, with an associate who’s designated as both a greeter and an information source for arriving customers who are unsure what exactly to do under the new protocols or have questions about safety measures.
“Customers have been so thankful that we’re open. They needed some respite – a place to come out,” said Sullivan, noting that the company’s sales for early May are higher than the same period last year, even without all its stores back in business. “That human connection we can have right from the get-go when they walk in our stores creates another level of comfort we didn’t have before.”
In the custom fitting category, Club Champion has reopened the majority of its more than 70 U.S. locations while True Spec has reopened more than 75% of its 20 fitting studios, with appointment-only operations and enhanced cleaning and socializing protocols.
GOLFTEC expects to have 190 of its 210 locations open by the end of the first week of June.
An important question for retailers is whether golfers will have concerns about going into stores and shops.
The latest NGF consumer surveys indicate that 60% of core golfers (those who played 8+ rounds in the past 12 months) aren’t concerned about shopping in golf retail stores and pro shops. In the past week, that level of anxiety has lessened significantly, with only 8% indicating they’re “very concerned.”
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