Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Major No-Shows at PGA Show

Planning for the 69th PGA Merchandise Show is well underway, but a list of those renting exhibit space reveals several top companies are missing. The list dated Nov. 18, 2021 does not include the two largest golf equipment companies, Callaway Golf (NYSE: ELY) and Acushnet Holdings Corp. (NYSE: GOLF) nor well-known smaller makers Tour Edge Golf and Wilson Golf.

Missing as well are PXG and TaylorMade Golf though in the case of PXG they have never had a presence at the Show and TaylorMade has not taken booth space for the last three years.

Also on the no-show list are subsidiaries of the big two. Callaway’s Odyssey (putters), Jack Wolfskin (apparel), TopGolf (entertainment), OGIO (bags) and Travis Mathew (apparel) which at past Shows had made the company the largest exhibitor. Acushnet is the maker of Titleist (balls and clubs), FootJoy (shoes and apparel) plus the brands Scotty Cameron (putters) and Vokey Wedges.

The Show is scheduled Jan. 25-28 in Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center after a one-year hiatus when events were held virtually due to the worldwide pandemic. It is the golf industry’s largest annual gathering and serves as a primary source of continuing education for PGA Professionals.

Sponsored by the PGA of America and tagged “The Major of the Golf Business,” in recent years it has occupied 1 million square feet of exhibit and meeting space while drawing 40,000 industry members including PGA Professionals, suppliers, and media. Early estimates for 2022 indicate the numbers attending may be one-third less than in 2020 while the number of exhibitors will be substantially fewer than the 1,000 on the floor for the past several years.

An Oct. 25, 2021, media release from PGA Golf Expositions who run the Show partnering with the PGA of America cited, “A recent survey completed by PGA Professionals and top buyers who frequently attend the PGA Show revealed that 70 percent of PGA Professionals and top buyers currently plan to attend the 2022 PGA Show; 19 percent are undecided with plans to be made within two months prior to the event.”

Concerning the 2022 Show PGA Golf Exhibitions Vice President Marc Simon was quoted, “While we anticipate a temporary contraction in participation this year, we are pleased to share that we are on course to welcome more than 600 golf brands and thousands of industry stakeholders to the 2022 PGA Show.”

Reflecting Simon’s comments there is no doubt people have become more cautious regarding travel and personal interaction, but tradeshow industry experts often point out while online or virtual meetings have their uses businesspeople know personal contact is the best way to build lasting mutually beneficial relationships.

For large companies exhibiting at the PGA Show requires a multimillion-dollar budget and some observers believe justification for this expense may be being reevaluated due to the experience of the 2021 virtual Show. Costs for a floor exhibit include renting space, furnishings and setup plus staff travel and expenses for a week in Orlando not to mention the possibility other projects having to be postponed.

Marketers know current customers may be served via the telephone, email, and evermore effective online software to handle everything from catalog showings to order processing. Face-to-face meetings may then be significantly reduced if not eliminated entirely.

In the past a strong inducement for companies to attend is the Show affords exposure to potential customers, but modern technology can provide a solution to this need also. Using sophisticated algorithms to match computer IP addresses with purchase-intent data lists possible buyers may be identified. Marketing departments can then place customer-specific advertising on viewed websites and initiate email or telephone contact.

On the other hand, some in the industry have repeatedly pointed out no matter the sophistication of virtual meetings or marketing, face-to-face relationship building will never be replaced. It would seem for the golf industry the solution remains to be figured out.

While no one is saying the PGA Merchandise Show is dead organizers will have to find better ways to generate an appropriate return on investment for attendees and companies of all sizes.

Ed Travis
Ed Travis is a national award winning golf journalist and has carried on a lifelong love affair with the game. His work covering the business of golf, equipment, golf personalities and travel is regularly seen in numerous print and electronic publications. He has competed in tournament golf both as an amateur and senior professional and though his competitive days are behind him, Travis still plays regularly. He and his wife live on a water hazard in suburban Orlando.

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