Even in the best of times, it’s tough to break into the golf industry as a new company.
That point has certainly been made clear at the Canadian buying shows over the years, but the place that has really hammered home that message over the years is the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
Back in the late 1990s, I saw a lot of wannabe golf companies creating a lot of buzz on the show floor in Orlando with big booths, lavish receptions and cool marketing campaigns only to disappear in the next year or so.
I often wondered as I walked the show floor over the years how many of the companies that were commanding attention would be back. I made mental notes and would try to remember them the next year in Orlando and there were a lot of casualties.
Denizens of the golf industry are often creatures of habit and loyal to the brands that have worked for them over the years. Add in long-established working relationships, the influence of buying groups and the terms of engagement with off-course retail shops and it isn’t a stretch to say a new company needs grit to survive.
Some have it, some don’t.
Over the years, I have seen rookies walk the tightrope without falling into oblivion. I have mentioned in the past about meeting an upstart designer from Vancouver at the PGA Show in Las Vegas about a dozen years ago, who asked all kinds of questions about the industry.
Linda Hipp has done quite well with Lija apparel and I think the Quagmire boys, Geoff Tait and Bobby Pasternak will survive with their off-beat style and fashion-forward line that sets them apart from other golf companies. Those are just a couple of examples.
In the cases of both Lija and Quagmire, they each found the same niche in apparel that was geared towards younger people taking up the game and even middle-aged and older golfers who were staying in shape and able to nicely wear the fashion forward garments.
Both companies didn’t have big marketing budgets, but they didn’t lack in hustle, likely due to the energy of the younger people who were steering them and convincing buyers that new brands can revitalize their shops.
There was no lack of challenges for either company and it appears, for the time being, that breaking into the golf industry is getting more difficult than ever for neophytes in the industry.
The latest GNN Poll shows that 45 per cent of respondents don’t plan to bring any new equipment, apparel or accessory lines into their shops this year, while 36 per cent said they would only bring one or two new brands in for 2010.
Some were a little more open to change as nine per cent said they plan to bring in three to five new names, while 10 per cent said they would bring in more than that.
It would be a shame to discourage newcomers to the industry, but by the same token, a dose of reality is a bitter pill worth taking for new companies in this economy.
We’ll keep the current GNN Poll up over the Labour Day weekend. Be sure to drop by on the GNN home page to register your vote.