At the risk of “jinxing” the momentum in golf equipment sales, I’m happy to report that May was another very positive month for the US market. Golf Datatech’s latest US Retail sell thru for the month of May indicates continued strong sales gains in most equipment product categories for the fifth consecutive month. Consumables/Light Durables were up 6% and Golf Clubs gained by double digits vs. same period year ago. Stimulated by a robust US economy, strong asset positions due to stock market gains and improved housing prices, and more dollars in the every day American’s pockets due to a reduced tax burden, purchases of golf equipment was up sharply. Add in the first decent month of weather nationally in May, and in total the golf equipment business is in a good place heading into the summer months.
Unfortunately golf apparel is not faring as well. YTD Green Grass sales are down over 7% while the Off Course Specialty channel (by far the smaller of the two) is up nearly 5%. Some of the On Course deficit is likely a result of very poor weather across much of the country in 2018, which has negatively impacted rounds played as well as apparel sales.
While unit sales have not fully rebounded in all equipment categories, they’re up in seven of the ten segments we track in hard goods (balls, gloves, shoes, bags, drivers, fairways, hybrids, irons, wedges, putters). The largest increase has been in wedges, a category with significant new product introductions and substantial positive momentum that is up over 20% for the first five months of 2018.
Iron sales are also up sharply, with Average Selling Prices soaring and at all time highs, while increases in driver pricing are moderating after several months of rapid growth. It wasn’t that long ago (October of 2014) that ASP’s on drivers were in the $220 range, while today the average is nearly $360. The only club category continuing to struggle remains putters, which continue to see shrinking unit sales while ASP’s creep higher.
After struggling for several months due to less than ideal weather, ball sales finally rebounded in May and in total the category is growing marginally in units while ASP’s have stagnated.
Combined On/Off Course sales in golf apparel continues to trend lower in dollars, however the pace of the decline continues to lessen. After a horrific start to the year due to severe weather (down 11% in January), total sales in golf apparel were only down 3% for the month of May, suggesting the category is moving closer to equilibrium, but the early season hole remains.
The one recent bright spot is men’s shirts, which represents the largest single sub category of golf apparel, and which have creeped back up level with YAG in May. Generally speaking, as men’s golf shifts goes…so goes total golf apparel. However, the only sub category that appears to have heavy inventory is Men’s Shirts, which might suggest heavy discounting could be lurking around the corner if sales for June do not turn positive in a big way.