Continuing with GNN’s discussions with Canadian golf industry leaders, Keith Keindel says his association’s members are moving forward despite the obvious potential roadblocks ahead in 2009.
“The economy and the weather always tend to be the most significant things,” said the executive director of the Canadian Golf Industry Association.
“Although it’s interesting how a lot of times when people are out of work, they pass the time by playing golf whole they’re looking for a job, so from that point of view, certainly the rounds can be helped by that,” added Keindel.
Of course, if the number of rounds are up, or at least steady to last year’s, in this economic climate, it would be good news for equipment manufacturers and apparel companies, but Keindel emphasizes that nobody is taking anything for granted in these uncertain times.
“I think, generally speaking, all the manufacturers are concerned about the economy. They’re continuing to introduce new products. They’re hoping that innovation will drive a lot of people to make purchases,” he said, adding that the potential hazards go beyond just making the sale.
“Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of credit issues going into this year too, so people are going to be concerned about how much credit they can afford to put out there,” said Keindel, adding many companies will be careful about exposing themselves too heavily to one customer or to a struggling business.
“There’s going to be a lot more checking on the credit side of it before goods are shipped,” he said.
What effect the overall economy has on golf remains to be seen since it is a relatively new influence that really began to set in last fall as golf courses were closing down for the season, but we did see it coming with the way the American economy has been staggered the past few years.
The golf industry will also face a more familiar challenge with the fluctuating loonie against its American counterpart. Just over a year ago, the industry was dealing with a Canadian dollar that had gone above par, but now it’s going in reverse, hitting close to the 80 cent U.S. mark.
“It’s very, very hard to do the necessary pre-planning and the pricing of goods when the dollar’s fluctuating so dramatically in such short periods of time,” said Keindel,
“I’m sure a lot of them have done some hedging, but they certainly won’t be totally hedged and, as a result, there’s going to be a lot of volatility there,” he said.
Another unpredictable influence on sales is inclement weather that, last year, affected various parts of the country. “I can remember not too many years ago we used to joke about what follows two days of rain? – Monday,” said Keindel.
“If the season starts slow and/or if there’s a lot of tournament business lost because of the weather, then you get to the point where you just can’t make it up and that’s when the problems happen because you just don’t get the repeats you expect to get in-season.
“More people are repeating more goods than what they used to. If we went back 15, 18 years ago, they used to book probably 80 or 90 per cent of what they were going to sell and now, they’re booking 50 per cent and trying to repeat into it. It’s a different world, right?”
It definitely is a different world for somebody like Keindel who spent years as an executive for companies such as Spalding and Callaway.
While off-course outlets such as Golf Town and Nevada Bob’s are major players with numerous stores, the number of national accounts has actually shrunk with fewer companies in the marketplace.
Off-course has also become a major player in hard goods sales, once a stronghold of green grass shops, but Keindel sees two different philosophies forming at the green grass level these days.
“It’s interesting,” he said. “There’s been a real change in terms of the courses because there are many courses now that are specializing in (club) fitting and they’ve got a lot more assistants involved in selling goods and other courses have decided not to do that and have just gone back into clothing.”
Keindel believes that all hands need to be on deck as the golf industry faces a potentially volatile year in 2009, but he believes that is happening through the National Allied Golf Associations (NAGA), which includes associations representing various interests in golf, including the CGIA.
“I think that everybody’s very concerned. I think that the need for all of us to work together has never been greater. I think NAGA starting has got us all communicating a lot better than what we used to,” he said.
“There’s a lot more positive energy in the room and I can see where we’re going to make some really good headway. I think, for example, this (NAGA-commissioned) economic impact study that will be out in April is going to be a huge, huge thing for the industry.
“When it finally gets produced, I think it will open a lot of eyes,” said Keindel on how big an effect golf has on the Canadian economy.
Certainly, any good news will be warmly welcomed by the industry in 2009.