Golf equipment was one of the biggest revenue gainers across all of sports equipment during the height of the pandemic. The sport welcomed new participants, largely because it checked three boxes of human need: getting outdoors, establishing social connections amidst social distancing, and enabling wellness through physical activity. However, with consumers now looking to reestablish normal behaviors as we move into a different phase of the pandemic, more activities are now competing for their leisure time.
Golf club and glove revenues began to decline in the U.S., starting in July 2021, according to Retail Tracking data from NPD. I think some of this decline in club sales reflects less new and returning players, engaged in purchasing total golf equipment packages. During the period from July through February, sales of golf clubs declined by 12% and gloves were down 6%, versus the same period the year prior. On the other hand, golf ball sales remained flat, and accessories (like tees) and training aids grew, with February a particularly strong month for sales — pointing to continued interest in golf by the enthusiast or mainstream golfer. In fact, golf ball sales grew revenue by 26% in February, compared to February 2021, which I take as an indication of existing golfers stocking up on the basics and preparing to hit the courses during warmer weather.
Given this shift towards the purchase of golf consumables like balls and tees, one enormous opportunity in 2022 is the active management of the pricing and promotions for these items.
Look no further than the 2021 holiday shopping season for critical insight on the dramatic change in retail strategy that took place for golf balls. Typically, the holiday season is the second-strongest sales window for golf balls, with December sales trailing only June. But what made 2021 sales so very different than prior years was the lack of golf ball discounting that occurred over the holiday season. In a typical year, over 50% of balls are sold on some type of promotion, but in 2021 that number declined to about 15%, NPD data showed.
As retailers and manufacturers navigate a more normal 2022, the reestablishment of promotions — especially during the 2022 holiday season — should be expected. But careful examination of pricing could present retailers and manufacturers with an opportunity to reinvent these promotions to be far more profitable, without sacrificing floor traffic.
By focusing on effective retail strategy and product pricing that keeps the golf enthusiast engaged, the golf equipment market can gain an advantage and seek new types of growth opportunities outside of the opportunistic growth that occurred in 2020 as newer golfers entered the market. The name of the game in 2022 will be to create new strategies that optimize profit, versus keeping up with growth.
These revealing consumer and consumable trends foreshadow new opportunities for retailers and manufacturers seeking to optimize sales in the golf equipment space.