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June 2019

Streamsong Finds Right Merchandising Mix For New Market

By Steve Eubanks 

How have merchandisers responded to the surge in women golfers in the last decade? Many haven’t. And the numbers show it. Even though women make the majority of household purchasing decisions in America, golf operators trail most retailers in adjusting to women.

While data is rudimentary, women still only account for 10 percent of golf merchandise sales despite making up 38 percent of all golfers.

Just compare a typical golf retail outlet with a women’s boutique store and you see why those numbers don’t fit. It’s not just the type of merchandise the golf stores carry: it’s the lighting, the coloring, the music, the displays, the use of floor space, and when and how a customer is greeted by the staff.

“Making the shops more appealing for women and enticing those women in as customers is on the forefront of almost every (golf) buyers’ mind these days,” said Megan Kiley, the director of retail for Streamsong resort in Florida, which has three of the most highly-ranked courses in the state. “Most of the golfers who come here (to Streamsong) are very serious, even the women. So we have to not only cater to their needs, we have to be mindful of the market.” 

The market for Streamsong has traditionally been men. The resort was built as a “guy trip” retreat in the mold of Bandon Dunes and Cabot Links, a far-off-the-beaten-path spot where cell service is spotty and the golf is unforgettable.
But with women now making up more than a third of all golfers, Streamsong had to adjust. The lodge now has a spa and a swimming pool along with hiking trails, fishing, archery and a sporting-clay club. 

“We still skew our (merchandise) buying toward more high-performance, high-end lines,” Kiley said. “But because of all the other activities, and the fact that some women are here for the outdoor activities or the spa, we turned our golf shop into more of a resort store. Much of the merchandise is not logoed. You can still get a polo or a pullover that has the logo but you also have the option of a dress or a purse or a piece of jewelry. Women who buy those items might be playing golf but they aren’t buying specifically for golf. They want a piece to remember Streamsong, but it doesn’t need the Streamsong logo or even have to be a golf item.”

On the whole, women who shoot, while a smaller percentage of the population, spend more on apparel and accoutrements than women who play golf. Custom ear protection alone can run in the hundreds of dollars. Headwear, scarves, vests that can hold multiple shotgun shells, gun oil, and accessories: for the typical golf shop those items are foreign as a Titleist would be in a gun store. But when your clientele plays golf in the morning and shoots clays in the late afternoon, you adjust.
 
“When we find that we have the right product mix, they love it,” Kiley said. “They go crazy. Over time, I’ve found what works and expanded on that. Now that we have been open longer, we have trends we can follow.”

As for the traditional golf purchases, Kiley said, “Much of the time, guys are buying guilt gifts for their wives or girlfriends. I can always spot a nervous male walking in the women’s section. When I ask if the woman in their life plays golf, it’s 50/50.

“But those are the easiest customers to please. The challenge is making sure you have the right products for everyone else.” 

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

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