By ED TRAVIS
Sales of golf clubs are booming and though one hardly is dependent on the other, health considerations have caused cancellation of the annual PGA Merchandise Show. Both however are driven by effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The social distancing requirements to put in place to reduce the spread of the virus are perfectly matched to playing golf as people looked for “things to do.” In the past six months rounds of golf played have undergone a massive surge with the most recent guesstimate being 30 million more rounds will be played this year than last.
More rounds mean more club sales and this summer saw a burst of pent up demand fueled by those taking up the game for the first time, former players returning to the game and regular golfers playing more.
For the July through September quarter Golf Datatech, the Kissimmee, Fla. company that tracks industry data, reported retail equipment sales in the U.S. was second highest ever for a three-month period at $1.001 billion. The record set second quarter 2008 is only slightly more at $1.013 billion with the previous best third quarter being in 2007 at $852 million.
Opinions vary as to whether this surge in the number of golfers, rounds played, and equipment sales will continue but some in the industry are voicing optimism.
“The story keeps getting better as golf continues to surge coming out of the shutdown, and Q3 equipment sales suggests that 2020 will likely end up positive for the entire year,” said John Krzynowek, Partner, Golf Datatech, LLC. “Year-to-date sales for total equipment are now up 0.2% compared to 2019 and considering the size of the hole created by the shutdown in April and May this recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. While the US economy will not enjoy a ‘V Shaped Recovery’ in 2020, if golf continues on this trajectory we will be there soon.
Of special interest is whether the pandemic initiated switch to purchasing equipment online will continue. During recent months e-commerce experienced strong growth and some analysts are saying Internet transactions will keep expanding.
The decision to cancel the 68th PGA Merchandise Show after a September announcement it would be held as usual was made Oct. 21 by the PGA of America and PGA Exhibitions. The Show held in Orlando, Fla. is the largest annual meeting of the industry with 40,000 in attendance and 1,000 exhibitors spread over 1 million square feet of the Orange County Convention Center.
The announcement pointed out after consulting exhibitors, PGA Professionals and industry groups cancellation of the Show just three months away was made “Prioritizing the health and well-being of the global golf community during the ongoing pandemic.”
Plans are being made to conduct an interactive virtual meeting featuring continuing education programs for PGA Professionals, new product launches, exhibitor showcases and networking events.
PGA Golf Exhibitions Event Vice President Marc Simon commented, “This year’s virtual PGA Show will offer unparalleled online engagement, connecting our industry to drive business and grow the game. Technology has brought us together in amazing new ways during the pandemic, and we plan to capitalize on these innovative solutions to make the PGA Show even better moving forward. Recognizing the increased interest in the game and potential growth in 2021 and beyond, we are excited to return to Orlando in 2022 to combine the best of technology advancements with the invaluable experience of face-to-face connections. Together, we are evolving and have the opportunity to emerge stronger and better connected than ever before.”