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Volume 21 No. 2
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Ryder Cup a Super Bowl for golf merch sales

About three weeks ago, 10 tractor-trailer trucks rolled into Chicago carrying the components of what would become a 45,000-square-foot Ryder Cup merchandise tent, managed by Cutter & Buck. And that didn’t include the shirts and hats that go in it.

More than 200,000 people will stroll through the merchandise tent during this week’s Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, and close to half of them will buy something with the 2012 Ryder Cup logo on it.

Sales from this week will be close to three times what they were for the PGA Championship last month at Kiawah Island.

PGA partner Cutter & Buck is responsible for sales and setup at the 45,000-square-foot merchandise tent at Medinah Country Club this week.
Photo by: CUTTER & BUCK
“We had tremendous sell-through at the PGA Championship and met all of our sales goals,” said Kevin Carter, the PGA of America’s senior director of business development.

With the stature of the Ryder Cup and a major market serving as the backdrop, “We expect high demand for merchandise,” said Carter, who added that a Ryder Cup tent can be as much as 33 percent larger than a typical PGA Championship tent.

The PGA of America doesn’t release specific sales numbers, but the capture rate at Kiawah — the number of people who enter the merchandise tent and buy something — was double what it typically is. But that will pale in comparison to a Ryder Cup, which draws an international crowd and is played on U.S. soil once every four years.

“A Ryder Cup is massive compared to a PGA,” said Greg Sweeten, who is in his 17th year managing the golf and tennis divisions for shirt-maker Cutter & Buck. “It’s such a huge event. It’s a Final Four, Olympics and Super Bowl, all rolled into one.”

OK, so maybe Sweeten can be a little prone to hyperbole, but for Cutter & Buck, the Ryder Cup really is like its Super Bowl.

The company has been the PGA of America’s primary merchandise partner since 1999 and this marks the fourth Ryder Cup that Sweeten has worked on U.S. soil. Cutter & Buck just finalized a deal that extends the relationship with the PGA through 2017, guaranteeing that it will have at least one more Ryder Cup in the U.S.

As the PGA’s partner, Cutter & Buck is responsible for the merchandise setup and sales at each of the PGA’s big events. It operates as a licensee, so it pays a royalty, but not a sponsorship fee.

The company runs the merchandise tent, provides the volunteer uniforms and occupies the prime real estate in the tent.
Other brands, such as Greg Norman, Adidas and Nike, also have their shirts in the tent, but Cutter & Buck receives the most prominent display space.

Cutter & Buck’s expenses are based on how much it costs to set up the cavernous tent and move it from one site to another. The company hired Carolina Property Services from Greer, S.C., when the PGA relationship first began and they’re still together. CPS hauls the tent and all of the internal fixtures to the site and assembles it.

“It all comes together with spring clips and a rubber mallet,” Sweeten said. “There’s not a bolt or a screw. Each piece has tabs where everything just drops into place.”

It takes close to three weeks to build the stage that serves as the tent’s base, construct the tent, and put all of the internal fixtures in place, then three more days to fully stock the shelves with product.

The dismantling process lasts more than a week. All of the pieces are stored in specially constructed boxes to protect them during the moving and storage process.

Cutter & Buck has set up tents as large as 60,000 square feet before, as it did at Valhalla for the 2008 Ryder Cup, but size is often a function of the space available at the course.

Product best-sellers are men’s golf shirts, followed by hats and outerwear. For the Ryder Cup, Cutter & Buck will stock more outerwear than normal because the European fans in attendance are more likely to buy the gear, Sweeten said.

At the Kiawah PGA, Cutter & Buck’s inventory control program worked well, Sweeten said, with 90 percent of all the product being sold. They’ll shoot for similar numbers this week.

“All of the product in the structure belongs to us,” Sweeten said. “So we’ve got to sell it. We don’t want to take any of it back. To have just 10 percent of product left over, that’s hugely successful.”