With the First Quarter of 2018 equipment and apparel sales data released over the past few weeks and Rounds Played coming out late last week, it’s time to take stock of where the Golf Industry stands.
Looking at the big picture, rounds played have been hampered by cold and rain (and unfortunately anecdotal evidence suggests April won’t be much better), however new product offerings have generated substantially improved consumer demand, driving club and shoe sales substantially higher. Golf Apparel, which has been the shining star in golf products for the past 7 years is off to a slow start in 2018, with weather issues hitting a lot of warm weather golf courses and resorts.
Rounds during the month of March fell by 3.8% and remained down 5.6% Year to Date. Poor weather across the southeastern US has been the primary culprit with cold temps and higher precipitation creating a negative environment for golf. Rounds in the South Atlantic are down 10.5% and 15.2% in the South Central, two regions that typically represent a disproportionate percentage of rounds early in the year.
And while the northern tier doesn’t typically play a lot of golf in the winter months, normally some diehards are on the links, particularly by March, however a late spring has slowed those markets to a crawl and they’re all down substantially.
Retail Sell Thru YTD Thru Q1-Golf Equipment
Consumables (Balls & Gloves)
Negatively impacted by the weather situation, both golf ball and golf glove sales were down low single digits vs. Year Ago in units and dollars.
Light Durables (Bags & Shoes)
The Golf Shoe category was up sharply in both units and dollars the end of Q1, improving by double digits, while the bag business was level in units and up 4% in value.
Total Consumables/Light Durables: +3% vs. Q1 2018.
Driver, Fairway and Hybrid ASP’s were all up significantly thru the first quarter of 2018, and even though units were slightly lower than year ago, the total value of woods improved by 7%. After a very slow start due to changes in launch strategy/timing by some of the larger Brands, the wood category flourished in March and is expected to continue to be strong throughout the first half of the year.
Iron sales surged in Q1, increasing by 5% in units and 17% in dollars, a substantial increase in value sales in both the Green Grass (+36%) and the Off Course Specialty channels (+15%). Pent up demand, a significant increase in Custom Fitting (which also increases the per stick ASP), and some exciting new products have driven demand for irons. And unlike woods, units (sticks) within the iron category were also up for the quarter, suggesting a strong under lying foundation to iron sales early in 2018.
Wedge sales in dollars were up 29% thru the end of the first quarter, while units were up 31%, and ASP’s were slightly lower. New product launches in March and lower prices on second generation product helped buoy the market early in Q1, longer term success will ride on the back of continued sell thru of premium priced wedges.
The putter category is the “odd man out” thus far re: growth in 2018 among the various club products, with units up 2% and dollars flat. In several recent years, any category that was “treading water” and not declining would have been considered a top performer, not so this year. It’s worth noting however than new Scotty Cameron/Titleist putters were not available for sale until the very last day of the month, so it would not be a surprise to see a significant pop in category sales in April.
Total Golf Clubs: +12% vs. Q1 2017
Total Golf Equipment: +9% YTD
Retail Sell Thru YTD Thru Q1-Golf Apparel
YTD every product category of Golf Apparel is down on a YTD basis in value, and in total Golf Apparel sales fell by 6%. The Off Course Specialty channel is performing better than the Green Grass, with the former down 1% and the latter down 8%.
Men’s Golf Apparel sales were down 7% On Course but up 3% Off, with all categories declining thru the Green Grass and all Specialty store product segments showing sales improvement.
The largest category of Men’s Golf Apparel is Men’s Shirts, and those are down 6% thru Q1 On Course, but are up 2% Off Course, with ASP’s remaining relatively level thru the first quarter in each channel.
Retail sales of Women’s Golf Apparel was down in all product segments across both channels thru the end of Q1, with Green Grass sales down 14% and the Off Course falling by 8%. Sales declines in Women’s Golf Apparel are broadly based, however both Women’s Tops and Women’s Bottoms were off by more than 20% YTD.
Outerwear is a gender neutral category, and YTD sales are down 2% with the Green Grass level and the Off Course dropping by 8%, with ASP’s dripping by 2%+.
Total Golf Apparel: Down 6% YTD
Total Golf Sales, Equipment and Apparel Combined, On/Off : +8% YTD