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Volume 24 No. 154
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PGA Merchandise Show Sees Jump In Overall Attendance In Orlando

The PGA Merchandise Show wrapped up over the weekend with more than 1,000 companies and brands advertising their products and services in Orlando. PGA of America President Allen Wronowski said attendance at the annual “demo day,” where golf equipment companies show off their latest lines, was up 10% and overall attendance increased in the low single digits. “It feels like there’s a recovery in the industry,” Wronowski said. Below are some highlights from the event.

DRIVING FORWARD: TaylorMade-adidas President & CEO Mark King said the company gained eight market-share points last year on the strength of the new white driver. The company’s big marketing event last year -- “White-Out” -- was staged in midtown Manhattan, where Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer hit drivers into a net in front of the Golfsmith store on a closed 54th Street. King hinted that this year’s big marketing event to promote the new RocketBallz driver will be even grander. On March 19, TaylorMade will take over Cowboys Stadium with what King described as “a massive event.” Hank Haney and several of TaylorMade’s touring pros will take part. One detail King wouldn’t reveal is who the retail partner will be.

Flavor Flav makes appearance at PGA
Merchandise Show for Back9Network
FLAVOR OF THE WEEK: One thing visitors to the show didn’t expect to see was rapper and TV reality star Flavor Flav. With a red clock hanging around his neck, a mouthful of gold teeth and all kinds of blinding bling, Flav was one of the star attractions, signing autographs for more than two hours on the Back9Network stage. CEO James Bosworth said the appearance with Flavor Flav sent a message that the net’s branding will be contrary to syrupy commentary and polite claps the golf industry is known for. Don’t be shocked if Flav winds up in some of the Back9Network programming. MMB, Boston, is working with the net, which has no distribution yet, on its strategy. Clint Eastwood, who has participated in many of the planning meetings, is one of the shareholders in the net.

: The biggest offseason priority for Adams Golf was to sign Yani Tseng, the world’s most dominant female golfer. Adams CEO Chip Brewer clarified it was more than an offseason priority. “I started negotiations with Yani last February, so it was just a small, little 11-month process,” Brewer said. The chief of Adams Golf for the past 10 years acknowledged that Tseng has a hard time “differentiating herself to the American fans, but she’s working very hard on that. First of all, she’s so dominant, that is starting to separate her. She also is working very hard on her English and she is very engaging.” As for Asia, Tseng, a native of Taiwan, “is a frickin’ rock star,” Brewer said.

BLANK SLATE: Falcons Owner Arthur Blank, who serves as Chair and Majority Owner of the PGA Tour Superstore, spent a day at the PGA Merchandise Show meeting with club manufacturers and apparel makers. Blank’s company has the Superstore license from the tour -- or more technically, the license for stores off-course and off-airport. The Superstore concept is working well enough that Blank’s team plans to open two locations in Chicago and they’re scouting for another site in the Southeast. The two Chicago stores, the first ones in the Midwest, will increase the number of Superstores to 14 nationally. He shared some of his thoughts on golf in a brief Q&A.
Q:  What’s your sense of the vibe around golf right now?
Blank: It’s good. It’s not incredible, it’s not great. I’ve had conversations with other leaders in the golf industry and I frankly think golf has to figure out how to attract the younger golfer and the female golfer, and make the game less expensive. We’ve got to find a way to play it more quickly -- time is a factor for everybody. The industry needs to do a lot of that. The course designs are pretty penal today. Golf has to become a more fun experience for everybody.
Q: What kind of a job are companies in golf doing to attract new golfers?
Blank: You’re starting to see some new ideas from the manufacturers and in apparel. They’re trying to appeal to younger golfers. Some of that, from an apparel standpoint, is based on the European look versus the traditional American look. European golfers have more of a flair for fashion and color. That’s good for the industry.
Q: You’re expanding your PGA Tour Superstores, so business must be good, right?
Blank: We had a wonderful year in 2011, both top line and bottom line. We have very large stores (some as large as 45,000 square feet), a great assortment of inventory and under the banner of the PGA Tour, we’ve developed a brand that is very strong. We’re in expansion mode and we’re looking for new locations.
Q: As a co-founder of The Home Depot, do you see similarities between it and the Superstore concept?
Blank: There are many parallels. At Home Depot, we talk about the three-legged stool -- assortment, price and service. All of those things are very important to the golfer. We have to make sure we’re offering value at every price point and make sure we’re offering the assortment the customers are looking for.
Q: Why is the PGA Tour Superstore model working so well when so many other segments of retail are struggling?
Blank: It’s very much of a social experience where golfers come together, they work on their game, they talk about the latest equipment and try it out. You can spend five hours in the store and it’s really unique at the retail level in golf. It becomes a home away from home for the golfer.