This is just a hypothesis, but if the apocalypse is coming one day, I suspect we got a preview of what to expect with the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, reminding us that there is a heart and a soul underneath even the most businesslike exterior and that compassion can sometimes be overwhelming.
Golf club companies that I’ve talked to in the weeks following this disaster are understandably concerned for the safety of employees and their families across the Pacific, but along with these very human concerns comes the reality that the business world has also been affected by this devastating force of nature.
We’ll see it in the coming weeks as the supply of auto parts and electronics slows, but it isn’t just Japanese exports that will be affected. Companies depending on sales of its products in Japan can also expect to take a hit, including golf.
With the season approaching, golf club companies are struggling to adjust their forecasts for the Japanese market, but the challenge is how do you forecast anything in a country where strong aftershocks continue, the death toll continues to climb, survivors are still displaced and the threat of a nuclear disaster remains strong?
If the disaster itself wasn’t enough, the uncertainty of it all makes it that much more difficult. Japan will stay in the news for quite some time and, from a golf business standpoint, the game will be the last thing on the minds of people who won’t see their lives return to normal for quite some time.
Japan is a top five market for most global golf companies, usually settling in at number three behind the United States and United Kingdom.
For many of those companies, Japan accounts for one-sixth of their overall business, so there’s a heavy body blow coming and the worst part is that it’s still not certain how hard the impact will be, but it is conceivable that it could be a knockout punch in one or more instances.
The Japan disaster comes as the U.S. awkwardly tries to climb out of the deep economic pit it’s been in for years, with other economies struggling in the U.K. and Europe.
Top it all off with the political and social unrest in the Middle East and Africa and the world promises to be an uncertain place to be for people, businesses and, specifically, golf club manufacturers that not so long ago were looking positively at 2011 as a turnaround year.
As we’ve all discovered with world affairs, things tend to change quickly.