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March 2019

Micro Trends Continue to Make Macro Gains

By Steve Eubanks

The signs are everywhere. Walk into the restaurant or bar at almost any club in America today and chances are better than average that a local microbrewery will have a presence. In many cases, the owner of one of the beers on tap also has a regular tee time on Tuesday morning, which makes it much easier to manage inventory and lodge quality complaints.

But the trend isn’t confined to beer or a local winery. A private club in Arizona carries hand-made belts from an artisan whose studio is just a few miles away.

A club in Florida puts oil-and-sea-salt hand scrub in the locker rooms. The scrub is made by a local woman who sells it in small burlap bags, the proceeds going to support a local animal shelter.
Throughout the country, operators are finding that the game is getting bigger when the venders get smaller and more intimate, when the products and services for sale hit closer to home.

The PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando provided one example after another of the micro trend making macro gains in the industry. Sure, the show floor at the Orlando Convention Center was littered with elaborate displays from Titleist, TaylorMade, Callaway, Puma, Ping and the rest of the mass-market brands. Soft goods spilled from one aisle to the next with each vendor bidding for more recognition. 

Then there were the synthetic putting greens, the range pickers, the ball washers and the obligatory sign makers – wood, stone, metal, porcelain — a club’s signs can be made of almost anything these days.
But the venders who attracted buyers for the longest periods of time – those venders who had the longest “linger” average – were the handcrafters. It was companies like Seamus Golf, which makes customized wool head covers, the ones that look like tubes that you see logoed with club crests from some haughty places.

Akbar Chisti, the founder of Seamus, which also sells hand-forged customer ball markers that can go for as much as $30, is the opposite of haughty and recoils when the subject is even broached.

“That is how we ended up where we did in golf,” Chisti said. “We became too corporate and too serious. Everything had to be about uniform production, lowering costs through volume – make more of the same thing so the price per unit goes down. Well, we’ve gone in the opposite direction. And we’ve seen the industry make similar changes in a very short window of time.” 

Quality, craftsmanship and individuality were the big winners, at least in terms of interest in Orlando. Hand cut and stitched leather golf bags drew big crowds, especially those companies with the ability to personalize the bag by branding the leather.

Minimalist golf-course layouts, framed and signed by the artist, and handmade valuable’s bags were also a hit.

Other industries have experienced similar shifts. Food is a good example because everyone has to eat. But while mass-market grocery chains have seen stagnant or shrinking sales despite no discernable changes in their markets, specialty stores, organic grocers and farmer’s markets are thriving. Even the corner butcher is making a comeback. Consumers are moving away from bar-coded mass production toward quality, regardless of price.  

Golf lagged behind other industries but the trend is clear. Micro suppliers – those committed to quality over quantity – are all the rage. They may raise the price points of certain items but they are also capturing the hearts of consumers everywhere. 

Steve Eubanks is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and New York Times bestselling author.





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