As golf evolves, retailers swing toward digital

For golf retailers like PGA TOUR Superstore, new audiences call for a transformation in how retailers do business.

As the 2019 Masters Tournament approaches, a fresh energy surrounds the sport. Golf is attracting a growing number of players from all walks of life through new channels, including simulators and game experiences like TopGolf. In 2018, nearly a quarter of the 32 million people that participated in the sport did so in an emerging off-course activity, according to a National Golf Foundation report.

For golf retailers like PGA TOUR Superstore, those new audiences call for a transformation in how retailers do business.

“Any time someone puts a golf club in their hand, that’s good for us,” said Randy Peitsch, SVP of Operations.

The golf equipment and apparel chain is consciously evolving to meet the demands of new and diverse customers, according to Peitsch. It’s adopting a customer-centric strategy, but that requires folding technology into the process and putting data to work.

“Two years ago, we didn’t have a single iPad in our stores,” said Peitsch. “Now our associates are using them everywhere to enhance and personalize the customer experience.”

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And iPads are just the beginning. His stores now include club fittings, a unique 3D measurement technology that tracks swing data, and next-generation golf simulators.

“It’s fun to see the reactions of consumers when they see the realistic nature of the virtual experience,” Peitsch said. “They can walk in and play Pebble Beach in 30 minutes.”

Technology doesn’t just benefit customers. It also benefits what he says are the chain’s most important asset: the associates.

“Consumers generally don’t care about the stuff happening in the back room. They just want a great experience,” said Peitsch. “But we care about it deeply. The technology that allows our associates to be more mobile, such as iPads, frees them up to spend more time with the customer.”

At a time when many sporting goods chains are shutting their doors, PGA TOUR Superstore has opened a slew of new locations and invested heavily in elevated store experiences. Its experience reflects a broader retail industry trend: PGA Tour Superstore, like many of today’s thriving retailers, is finding that next-generation technology is a critical tactic to stay competitive.

Today that means crafting cutting-edge store experiences. Tomorrow it could mean crafting personalized customer experiences by using AI to connect in-store data with data generated online.

Peitsch views the chain’s embrace of technology as smart business. But he also sees it as part of the company’s ethos.

“Steve Cannon, CEO of our parent company AMB Group, has a saying: ‘Culture eats strategy for lunch,’” said Peitsch. “If we don’t have the right culture everything else falls apart. It’s about participation from our side. Consumers sense it the minute they walk into our stores.”

As the PGA TOUR Superstore continues to innovate, Peitsch said, it will be careful to continue honoring the traditions of the sport. The way forward, he said, is undoubtedly with new customers who are experiencing the sport in their own way. The trick is having a sophisticated enough operation that can flex to those individual expectations.

“We’re always looking for ways to bring more people into the game and engaging consumers on their terms,” he said. “They want to connect with brands they love, and we are a passion brand.”

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