Retail Can Be The Runway Or Create The Runaway

Retail Can Be The Runway Or Create The Runaway

by Ed Shanaphy, CMAA

I have been asked so many times how can I make a club shop profitable. It’s a question posed by fellow colleagues in the industry and also asked by members of clubs we manage. Having spent 17 years as managing director of an international marketing firm, I have experience in marketing and retail, both onlineshopping and with brick and mortar stores.

The most important aspect of making your club, tennis or golf shop viable is to create the idea that the club is a destination, not just for a game on the courts or course, but a whole experience, including retail, social and club experiences.

With a belief that retail can either excite a member to going to the club, or while being at the club, it can easily turn off a member if they don’t find something they like or relish or the retail experience leaves them cold. Retail should be a welcoming part of the entire visit and experience for every member.

Merchandizing can act as a draw and a literal runway to the course or courts. It should and can easily enhance the member experience. A good shop should gently welcome members to the golf or tennis shop through classy presentation and relatable merchandise.

However, we must always be cognizant that members who shop at a club shop are different from normal retail buyers, say in a mall. They don’t visit the club to primarily shop. People go to a mall to shop and spend. They may make that stop at a Target on their way home, or that special trip to main street or the high street to shop. Shopping is the reason for the trip.

However, members don’t travel to their club to shop. A retail shop is a true amenity and an additional member service. If the item or size is not quickly available, the member will move on rapidly to another club experience.

If done correctly, your average spend per member can be solid. Most clubs offer member billing and this helps to raise the average order value. Without departing of cash or using a card on the day, 30-day credit can help bolster revenues.

Retail Can Market The Club And Enhance Its Brand

They can have a higher average order value as they are not parting with cash or card right away – 30 days credit most clubs.

Secrets To A Successful Shop

  1. Start Small. You may think you know what members might like, but member-shoppers can be fickle. What is popular elsewhere might not be popular at the club. Test different ideas before splurging on inventory and offer various price points throughout your inventory.
  2. As you enlarge your retail, keep the items relatable to the club. It’s easy to be swayed into thinking that anything will sell as you grow, but that’s far from the truth. Keep an eye on what is selling and move along pathways that stem from your best-sellers. For example, if you find that glassware makes a splash (pun intended), look at moving to coasters for those glasses or decanters to go with the wine glasses.
  3. Appeal to every demographic. Too easily we can forget that clubs are generational for the most part. Have merchandise that appeals to both young and old alike. This ensures that all demographics again feel welcome at the club and in the shop.
  4. Brand the club. Most saavy buyers can find almost anything on the internet, but they can’t find that top or drinks coaster with the club emblem anywhere else but at your facility. Although embroidery and monogramming is costly, it separates your stock from everything else available. More importantly, the club symbol is a branding tool – a tool that makes members feel like they are a part of something and creates a welcoming sentiment to the club.

Don’t Miss A Branding Opportunity

Any golf or tennis shop offers the chance to brand the club. If the shop is club owned, then the buyer and board should all understand the role that the shop should play in day-to-day operations. If owned by the golf, racquets or fitness director, those directors too should be reminded consistently that the shop can put the club at the forefront of, not only member spending, but the member experience.

The sense of ownership is strong at many yacht clubs, where clothing with burgees (the club symbol) are not allowed to be sold to non-members. This pride in a club and the sense of belonging is created through this restriction and emanates from the fact that the burgee cannot be flown on any boat or vessel if not owned and operated by a member of the yacht club.

In summary, retail can be a tool to enhance the member experience and, if done correctly and in the tradition of the club, can bring members to the club while acting as a full amenity.

Ed Shanaphy, President of SBW Associates, Inc and owner of is owner of four tennis and club shops. Shanaphy served as Managing Director and CEO of one of the biggest music and video conglomerates in Europe before returning to his native America and bringing his marketing know-how to the private member club industry.

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