Check Your Stockings, Golfers

Posted on December 17th, 2020

This week’s message features David Lorentz, NGF’s Chief Research Officer…

Yesterday the Commerce Department reported that U.S. retail sales dropped 1.1% in November – the second straight month of decline1 and a bigger dip than most economists predicted, with softer spending at department stores, restaurants, and car dealerships. That, alongside weakening consumer confidence, increases in jobless claims and the uptick in Covid-19 cases, has some rightfully concerned about a sputtering economy as we head into winter.
Since May, the overall golf economy has shown tremendous resilience amid the turbulence, and there are good reasons to expect (or at least hope for) continued buoyancy. November, although a much lower-volume month for sales (~5%), was another strong one for the equipment business, with wholesale shipments of clubs up 100% versus a year ago, and shipments of golf balls outpacing last November by more than 30%. We connected with a number of leading golf retailers this week – both brick-and-mortar and online – and hear that strong sales have continued in recent months (since the $1 billion Q3), as the buying season has stretched deeper into the year than we can ever recall.

There’s also evidence that holiday golf gifting could outpace historic levels. Online search interest for “golf gifts” reveals a 25-30% increase vs. 2019 and the highest point in five years, at least. Partial data for December suggests this search term could reach its highest popularity mark in a dozen years. Looks like more golfers could be finding golf balls, apparel or gadgets in their stockings this year.

Self-gifting among golfers may be on the rise too. This week we surveyed a sample of 350 Core golfers and learned that three-quarters of them expect to spend as much or more on golf-related gifts for themselves this holiday season – lining up with broader consumer trends towards “treating yourself” to cure the coronavirus blues. The most popular gift, they say? Golf clubs, which supports their reported increases in spending and the upsurge in shipments mentioned above.
Here’s to hoping the golf economy doesn’t sputter anytime soon. From the entire research team at NGF, we hope you have a safe and joyful holiday season.
1. The percent change from September to October 2020 was revised from +0.3 percent to -0.1 percent.

David Lorentz
Chief Research Officer
National Golf Foundation
501 N Hwy A1A, Jupiter FL 33477

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