Industry News

Club Champion plans to expand

Willowbrook, IL – A feature on NBC Nightly News (10/26/17) reported that more than 6,700 retail brick-and-mortar locations closed in 2017. That’s already a record for one year. According to Fox News, in 2017 Sears closed more than 300 stores, JCPenney 138 stores, Macy’s 68 and Payless shoes closed about 800 locations after filing for bankruptcy. It’s no secret, the business of golf has been stagnant for years as well. Signs of the times include Adidas selling TaylorMade (May 2017), Nike exiting the golf club business (August 2016), and major retailer Golfsmith shuttering its doors (September 2016). 

Despite this sea of red ink, a dynamic company with a creative vision is bucking the retail trend with a story of success and growth that truly stands out. Club Champion Golf has risen to become the #1 premium club fitter, builder and retailer of the best brands in golf including Callaway, TaylorMade, PING, Titleist, PXG, Fujikura, Golf Pride and many more. Offering premium service and an unrivaled product selection, the company has driven average annual same store sales growth in excess of 50 percent and is planning to open a minimum of 30 stores over the next two years. 

The company delivers a Tour-quality fitting experience with over 35,000 hittable head and shaft combinations.  According to Club Champion CEO Joe Lee, “The results speak for themselves. Our golf club fittings produce longer, more accurate shots with nearly a 100% satisfaction rating for golfers of any caliber.”

Unlike traditional retailers that carry inventory and face significant price pressure, golf clubs that Club Champion fits and builds for a golfer are unique. Operating with a “just in time” inventory system, inventory needs are minimal. Because their product is fitted or tailored and can’t be replicated on the internet, they don’t compete against web-based retailers on price. As a result, the company is one of the fastest growing retailers in golf with 2017 overall revenue growth near 100%. Since 2014 the company revenues have grown more than 330%.

Founder and master club fitter, Nick Sherburne, was 16 when he joined Willowbrook, Illinois based EJL Custom Golf, a small golf club fitting, repair and building business. An entrepreneur and passionate golfer, Sherburne enjoyed the club-building side of business. Innovations in club-fitting technology and launch monitors created a desire in him to combine the latest advances in a way that would dramatically improve a golfer’s game. 

By April of 2010, Sherburne had joined forces with Joe Lee and Keith Bank of KB Partners, a Chicago based venture capital firm. Lee was a former NCAA Division 1 golfer at Marquette University. A marketing and sales leader, Lee had a successful career in the technology arena and took the helm as Club Champion’s CEO while Sherburne spearheaded operations. 

The new team looked at the business and changed operational systems, fitting technology and putting analysis capability. They also made Club Champion studios more visually appealing. The next year was spent upgrading and optimizing the Club Champion model. 

According to Lee, “By 2015, we had proven our new store concept as well as the ability to open multiple locations in a market. It was time to roll out Club Champion nationally. We knew we had hit on a concept that would work and we’ve been opening new locations at an accelerated pace ever since.” 

By the end of January 2018, the company will have 28 locations in major markets across the country with plans to add 11 more by summer of 2018.

The company targets locations in communities with a heavy saturation of golfers. The typical store footprint is approximately 3,000 square feet and includes two fitting bays equipped with TrackMan launch monitors, a SAM PuttLab, a build shop and features an extensive equipment wall with more choices than any other retail chain. Sherburne says, “The shaft wall, coupled with our master fitters’ knowledge, is where a lot of the magic happens.”

Club Champion was chosen by GOLF Magazine to conduct a study on custom fitting, the results of which were published in the August 2017 issue. The question to be answered: does custom fitting really matter? According to GOLF Magazine, it does.  “Based on data from the TrackMan, SAM PuttLab and SkyCaddies along with tester interviews, it’s clear that correctly matched clubs can help golfers of all skills. And remember – you actually can buy a better game with properly fit clubs.”

Equipment manufacturers hold back nothing with their praise for Club Champion. TaylorMade CEO David Abeles commented, “Club Champion truly is one of the most innovative club fitters in the business. They provide a consumer experience that is undeniably helpful for all golfers to play better. We couldn’t be more thrilled with our partnership with Club Champion.” In an interview, Callaway CEO Chip Brewer confirmed, “Club Champion is a fantastic consumer experience. One of the great, new age golf retailers who understands that fitting is the future in how you can benefit a golfer.” 

Lee reveals, “Other people sell golf clubs, we sell improvement. We not only solve golfers’ equipment problems, but we show and explain why each particular piece of equipment (shaft, head and grip) works for their unique swing.”

Sherburne adds, “Our customer service, club fitting process, assembly of clubs and the unbiased nature of how we fit golf clubs is the Club Champion difference. Our basic formula really hasn’t changed since the outset. We’ve just added a lot of talent, invested more heavily in training, and optimized our operational and sales approach to help us expand and scale.” 

About Club Champion
Established in 2010, Club Champion is a national club fitting and building company headquartered in Chicago, IL. They have 22 locations around the country and will open six new studios by the end of January, one each in Kansas City, New York City, Cleveland, Naples, Lewisville (TX), and Newport Beach (CA). Their studios carry all the top golf club, shaft and grip manufacturers in the industry, which allows for 35,000+ equipment combinations for customers to test. Studios are equipped with advanced analysis technology and highly trained certified fitters and builders, all of whom must graduate through an extensive training program. Services include custom fitting and building for all club purchases, repair services, personalization and highly engaging corporate and personal entertainment events. For more information about Club Champion, call 888-340-7820 or visit www.clubchampiongolf.com.

CONTACT:  Leonard Finkel
Date:  12-11-17 glfgd@aol.com