If your business is a golf shop that relies on walk in traffic rather than internet sales to generate the majority of your revenue, then you will need to have products for customers to try out which are referred to as “demo clubs”. These are considered normal budgeted items no different than investing in any clubmaking and repair tools. But there is a right and wrong way to see up a demo program. But before we explain those points, let’s explain why demo clubs are important for you to compete in your area.
Go into any large golf retail shop and you will find rack after rack of clubs to choose from, all of which will be the name brand companies stock offering for shaft, grip and length. The retailer will rely on the manufacturers’ advertising to drive the customer to a particular product. In cases where there is not that spontaneous purchase, the salesperson should be knowledgeable enough to know the key features of each product to help assist the customer vacillating between certain models. In this business model the consumer will purchase the club before every given a test drive and trust the club will perform for them once they leave the door as there is generally no recourse in exchanging or returning the club if it doesn’t.
In recent years, retailers have become more pro-active and have installed hitting bays in which customer can hit the various clubs they offer. These may be the very same clubs on the rack that the salesperson may apply some sort of protective tape to keep the club looking new. More often than not, the retailer will have “demo” clubs that were discounted by the manufacturers for the consumer to hit and even cases where launch monitors or simulators can assist in determining from a selection of clubs.
Larger manufacturers offer “fitting” carts to their accounts loaded with various 6-irons, drivers and even a sample fairway wood or hybrid. The shafts maybe offered separately that can be interchanged with any of the different model heads to cut down on inventory and space. These fitting systems can be quite expensive and may have to be purchased or provided as part of a large buy-in program. Therefore the retailer will be selective with which manufacturer(s) they wish to bring into their shop which can limit the fitting possibilities.
A custom clubmaking operation has a much different business plan where they don’t rely on the stock offering of ready made clubs. Rather, the vast majority of clubs are made to order after a consultation with the customer and then a fitting. This is how a large percentage of Hireko clubheads are sold. In order to conduct a fitting the technician at the custom clubmaking shop will need to offer a wide range of “demo” clubs that the customer can hit into a net (possibly with the assistance of a launch monitor or simulator), out on the range, or even both. The custom clubmaking shop is a full service operation that the major OEM’s have started to emulate; not the other way around.
Another difference is the independent clubmaking shop is not tied to any one certain brand, or a stock shaft, grip or length as those are selected on the basis of specific needs and preferences by the golfer. They can pick and choose what products may be best for their clientele based on years of experience servicing their customer base. When the clubmaker finally decides to create a demo program there are few things to be aware of.
First make a budget and stick to it! If you are clubmaking for profit, don’t make the mistake of buying too much initially that you cannot realistically recoup your investment. After all, making a profit is what business is all about.
Start small and then add! That is one of the biggest mistakes I hear customers make and that is offering too much up front. Don’t worry, the demo heads, shafts and grips will build up over time, usually from you wanting to know how something works long before a customer will ever ask. What you might think is a small selection for your potential customer may be more extensive than any one manufacturers complete fitting cart system.
Do your homework! Is your customer base mostly retirees? If so, you might need drivers with increased loft, a wider array of more flexible shafts and larger and softer grips than if you were catering to a more youthful base. Be prepared to have a selection of clubs, yes left-handed too, that fits your demographics. This also includes your economic situation. There is no one magic formula; what works in an upscale urban area will be different from a more rural, blue-collar setting.
Don’t duplicate! If you have four 60 gram shafts, all low torque, stiff tipped low bend point shafts, they are all doing essentially the same thing. This only ties up your money when the only thing the customer is going to be able to decide between is the color of the shaft or if it is a name brand they might have heard before. Larger shops which are fortunate to have a lot of volume go through their door may be able to get away with offering more than one choice, which might be nothing else than different price points.
For consumers out there, custom clubmaking shops are an alternative you may not thought about when purchasing new clubs. While they might not have the brand name you here on tour on print/TV advertising, don’t underestimate their playability, especially if they have been custom fit to you. This starts when the clubmaker takes the time to listen to your needs and then goes through a fitting with various demo clubs. Consider the investment the clubmaker made with their demo program to fit you properly when factoring in their price. In the long run you will have a much better fit and most likely save your hard-earned money for more things that you might enjoy.
Custom clubmakers have the ability to offer much more in the way of diversity in clubhead design, shafts and grips than any major OEM clubs found in a retail shop. Yes, demo clubs can be expensive but is a wise investment if planned out well in advance. Demo club provide the necessary insurance for you to fit your customers with exactly what they need.