BY JOE FAVORITO
ON N.J. SPORTS MARKETING
As an owner and a businessman, Arthur Blank thinks big. The New York native took an idea to create a massive destination for the growing home remodeling business and turned it into The Home Depot. He purchased the Atlanta Falcons with the idea of turning the team into a national sport property in the football-crazy south, and his team has now risen to the top of the NFL this fall, with a matchup with the Giants in the wings a week from Sunday. So when it comes to golf, a combination of his business vision and his interest in athletics, he went big as well.
Welcome to the PGA Superstore in Paramus.
On first look, a casual fan or recreational player might scratch his head. The area already has two golf centers on Route 17, and while still hugely popular in New Jersey, golf is still a sport that needs time, dollars and a warm climate to really engage in year round. Also national retailers seem to be shrinking stores, not going massive.
However a visit to the new store, 57,000-square-foot store, located in the former Einstein-Moomjy furniture space on Route 17 south, you immediately understand that this new venture is not just a gold store, it is set up to be an interactive community experience for both the casual duffer and the die-hard player with a jones for the game as the snow falls outside. It also conveys a vision that bigger is probably better for the sport of golf. The possibilities to engage are pretty intriguing.
Yes there are the massive racks of apparel and gear that one would expect. The store also sells tennis rackets and equipment and has a racquet repair shop. But the real value is well beyond shirts and bags and balls. There are putting greens, a repair shop, instruction bays with swing simulators and a driving range. Want to host a party for someone age six or 60, there’s a community room for that as well, along with the ability to try out all the technology for you and all your guests. The prices are affordable, weatherproof and the staff is amazingly friendly. For the growing Asian population that enjoys golf in Northern New Jersey, several staff are fluent in languages beyond English and golf as well. It is an amazing alternative destination for a cold day activity.
But why golf now? Well indicators are that the sport is on the comeback in the recreational space. The Golf equipment sales have increased every year since 2010, and are supposed to top $3.4 billion this year, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. There are 26.2 million golfers in the United States and northern New Jersey certainly has more than its share of public and private courses. Youth programs have also started to grow as kids not interested in team sports look for something beyond video games to keep them busy (although the simulators will have young people enjoying the great mix of hitting balls and watching where they go on the computer generated screens). Contests for drives and putts, along with tote boards keeping track of scores, abound throughout the facility. There is something for everyone to try.
So what does a store like this mean for the game of golf in the area? Lots. The level of engagement for casual fans is very easy. There is no intimidating series of stalls to walk by and try like there are at driving ranges. The staff can certainly talk golf tech at a high level, but they are also young, eager and more than willing to help. If you don’t want to drive, go try out the putting greens, no questions asked. Not interested in playing right then and there, but interested in shopping? More than enough cool golf, and tennis, apparel for people of all ages. There is no air of elitism in any way. The store is welcoming and just screaming for people to come in and give the game a try. Its size also plays in the favor of the novice as well as the die-hard. You have the room to roam and shop at your leisure. Got a few hours to kill, sign up for a simulator in advance. Need a quick gift? Stop in and pick up a gift card.
From a brand perspective having the GA Tour marks and logos gives the store that “stamp of approval” that the casual consumer wants. There is an air of quality and best in show that goes with the logo, making the choice maybe a little easier when deciding what and where to buy for golf in the area. All of this is also against a winter backdrop, giving people a chance to think and engage in golf at a time of year when they might not of before. Once the spring starts to come, those consumers who engaged during the cold are certainly more apt to return and bring their discretionary dollars with them.
Could a concept this massive work in other sports (there are 15 national locations now)? Maybe, but there are plenty of batting cages and various domed facilities to engage team sports. Individual sports like golf and tennis are a bit different, so unless you are inclined to go to the pro shop, your choices may be limited The PGA Superstore combines the best of large sporting goods outlets with the attention of a pro shop, bringing all the pieces together in a fun environment. It is a great win for the sport, for the PGA brand, for local consumers and probably for its founder, a man who certainly understands the value of large consumer spaces and the passion for sports.
A worthwhile sports business move for a sport that has always helped spawn great business ideas, eve on the coldest of days.
Joe Favorito has almost 30 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. He has been head of communications for the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, the USTA and other entities and now runs a successful strategic communications and marketing consultancy based in New Jersey and Manhattan. He is also an author and instructor at Columbia University. You can find out more at joefavorito.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@JoeFav).