5 Warning Signs For Retailers from Dick’s Sporting Goods’ PGA Firings

By Bob Phibbs

retail sales management Dick's sporting PGA

Back in 2009, I sat next to a golf sales representative while flying to Chicago. He told me the golf industry was in trouble. It had lost something like 30% of sales representatives, and many of those who were still there were aggressively unloading stock on unaware merchants.

I thought about that conversation today as I read that Dick’s Sporting Goods was cutting almost 500 PGA in-store golf pros due to lower sales.  It seems fewer customers are upgrading their clubs and even fewer are taking up the sport.

Heck, even the CEO said, "We don't know where the bottom is in golf. We may be at the bottom, we're not sure."

While you may not be a golf merchant, a shifting market holds valuable insights.

Here are five warning signs and lessons for any retailer:

High-profile celebrities have a shelf life; know yours. Tiger Woods single-handedly lifted the profile of golf. His halo effect of success showed golf as cool.  As he has struggled after revelations about his personal life, that halo has worn off. Maybe your celebrity is a person like Lance Armstrong or a product like Crocs, Beanie Babies, or in light of the World Cup mania – soccer equipment. Be realistic on demand.

When your products aren’t moving, find other reasons to come to your shop. Be aware of what products are moving and which aren’t.  Remember, most sales representatives have one interest – to sell their line to you. How you move it is up to you. Listen to your customers; where else are they buying similar merchandise? New from online or from a competitor down the block? Used from Craigslist or Ebay?

Look at new ways to get in front of those customers - maybe even add your own used department.

When customers aren’t upgrading, look in the mirror.  Dick’s missed their stated goals for golf by 34 million dollars.  But golfers are only down about 2.5% according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association annual survey. That’s not that dramatic.  Is it the chicken or the egg?

Look for new ways for your employees to convert anyone interested in your product into a purchaser from your store that day. Yes, I’m talking sales training, not just hammering your staff to sell more. They need tools like this

When the numbers don’t add up, find the fall guy. At Dick’s Sporting Goods, floor space and nearly 500 PGA instructors were removed.  While you never know if it is the chicken or the egg, your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) never lie.  Today, Wal-Mart replaced their CEO after six straight quarters of traffic declines and five in which same-store sales declined.

You can’t always know why business is down but if it is an employee, a product line or diminished demand for an entire department, look for ways to be aggressive and move them out.

Events and instruction won’t save you; connect the dots. I know plenty of retailers do all kinds of instructional and fun events to build interest. Main Street Associations love to do these too! But unless you follow through with the swing, you don’t hit the ball. Even fun events need to be backed with sales training to get customers there and buying, to get all attendees signed onto your email list so you can market to them, and to get employees to thank customers with follow-up calls afterwards.  

You want to brand visitors’ and customers’ butts so that the only place they think of when shopping is with you because you understand them – and sell them. 

The Point

All retailers are dealing with soft foot traffic, a perception that online is trouncing brick and mortar, and that a host of vendors are looking to get their product in customers’ hands any way they can while customers are saying, “I don’t really need anything.”

That’s all well and good and yes, we’ll continue to witness a shakeout in retail, but it doesn’t have to be you.  Heed these five warning signs and take action now.

Retailing is a tough game. Be the one who plays through, gets out of the sand traps, and aims for the next hole.

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