Every year around the second week in October, the PGA of Canada holds buying shows across Canada. Companies associated with the golf industry attend, from clothing producers to golf cart manufacturers and everything in between. The main purpose of the show is to bring the golf club professionals (and small shop retailers) into one place to meet with the manufacturer's factory reps and authorized distributors. The event is similar in concept to the annual PGA merchandise show in Orlando, except on a much smaller scale and in some instances, tailored for the particular region it is taking place in.
Having all the manufacturers and buyers in one place makes for an interesting mix of business and networking. Most golf club pros know each other and, for the most part, know the representatives as well.
While there is a bit of relaxed atmosphere, the show is ultimately about getting the best deals on equipment and merchandise for the respective shops. And the manufacturers are willing to make deals in order to secure the orders as well. It is not uncommon for a manufacturer to offer perks – a small discount, free shipping, etc. – if the shop buys a certain percentage or for product exclusivity.
Depending the size of the pro shop, a course can easily spend $200,000 at the show, especially if higher-end apparel and clubs are in play. Having that free shipping can mean an extra $15,000 in profit throughout the season and can significantly affect the bottom line of the operation. Apparel is also a highly contested sector, especially if a large order will be placed with a club. When it comes to logoed apparel and imprinting, clothing companies generally charge $3-$5 more to stitch the course's name and emblem on the article, and, if a certain number of pieces are ordered, they are willing to waive the set-up fee.
It is not uncommon to see a representative carrying multiple product lines covering several different categories.
Corey Braaksma, who owns Braaksma Agencies, is a PGA of Canada pro at Bridges G.C. just outside Winnipeg and represents Cleveland/Srixon Golf as well as G&G Golf Company. G&G Golf Company, based out of Langley, British Columbia, is the Canadian distributor for multiple golf-related companies, including Devereux, Imperial Headwear, Scoreband and Tifosi.
Corey attended the event as a vendor and appreciates the show's ability to bring all the buyers into a single location.
“The show's great,” said Braaksma. “It gets everyone into one place. The guys (course professionals) get pretty spread out, especially in a rural setting like (Manitoba).”
Even though the event is called a buying show, usually quite a few of the deals have been previously negotiated or at least discussed and the show offers a place to solidify the transactions.
“Guys generally know where they stand at the end of the season, so they have a pretty good idea where they're looking to head for the following season,” added Braaksma. “A lot of relationships and calls and work go into it before the show. This isn't the first time we've seen a lot of these guys, so I think a lot of the legwork has already been done. This is a chance to see product that maybe we didn't have in hand before that's just been released and kind of finalize and sort it out from there.”
Having multiple brands means Braaksma is able to double dip with prospective buyers. While they're not the main focus, having smaller, complementary brands represented by the same person or company is a great, effective way to get noticed and increase the foothold in the marketplace. Braaksma Agency wasn't the only one with a multi-brand display. In fact, over half the vendors were showing off two or more product lines in the same display. A representative will pick up a line to complement their existing portfolio and/or for the added revenue opportunity.
James Chapman, who is the general manager and head PGA of Canada professional at Bel Acres Golf and Country Club, attended the show this year. For him, the biggest benefit from the show is the networking and ensuring the products ordered will be a success at the respective golf club.
“Pros often help each other and discuss plans, products and what works and what doesn't,” Chapmansaid. “Pros are here to help each other just the same as other professions. The buying show is very important part of our association. It is not only a revenue generator but also a time to see everyone in a group, awards ceremony, compare pricing, ask and have questions answered, etc.”
The annual buying show truly is an all-in-one event with the award's, transactions and the networking that takes place. However, I don't envy the club professionals that have to try and guess what will sell next season. Trying to predict what will be the “hot item” and what will be “duds” is truly a calculated gamble, and in some cases educated guessing. Having the opportunity to see comparable products side by side ultimately assist's the buyers decision. That's why shows like this are so important to the industry and people in them.