Industry News

TaylorMade sale could tee up big changes for retailers

The second of a two-part series

By Gary Van Sickle

I continue my conversation about last year’s surprising news that TaylorMade, struggling to increase revenue and now up for sale, with a big-box golf equipment store employee who agreed to share his thoughts based upon the condition of anonymity:

Gary Van Sickle: What did TaylorMade do well to become the industry’s apparent king?

Anonymous golf retailer: They did marketing better than anyone. They got the message out about who they were, why their equipment was better and why you needed it if you wanted to be a better player. They were very visible on the pro tours. They killed it on the PGA Tour driver count, which is huge. They signed a lot of tour players — I mean, a lot. What they didn’t execute was making sure the equipment was what they said it was. 

GVS: How about the actual equipment?

AGR: TaylorMade did a great job bringing adjustability to the game. It was like when Tiger Woods came along, then everybody else on tour had to get into fitness and work out to get stronger to compete. TaylorMade’s advances in driver adjustability really forced other companies to follow, grudgingly at first. Now, though, some other companies have surpassed TaylorMade in adjustability, which is great for consumers. 

GVS: How big is TaylorMade’s presence in your store now?

AGR: They are still big. Even if TaylorMade isn’t always No. 1 in club sales every month, they are certainly the first driver people want to try when they come in. 

GVS: What other mistakes did TaylorMade make?

AGR: TaylorMade offered 30 different shafts for their drivers, with no additional charge for ordering those custom shafts. If you say there’s no upcharge, then you’d better provide the retailer with those 30 shafts. That never happened at our store. If somebody wanted a shaft that we didn’t have in stock, we were S.O.L. because we often couldn’t get it from TaylorMade. 

GVS: What would TaylorMade’s sale, if it happens, mean to your store?

AGR: Probably not that much because the entire golf retail industry is going to change dramatically very soon. It has to. There’s really no reason for big stores with all that overhead and inventory. TaylorMade makes and delivers 3,000 or 4,000 drivers for all of our stores in the region, so we have inventory, but it becomes cost-prohibitive if we can’t sell them quickly enough or have to discount them when they release a newer product. It makes sense for the business to go back to smaller green-grass shops. You’ll go to a demo day at a course or a range or maybe a simulator, get fitted for a club, order it from your phone and Amazon sends a drone to drop it on your front porch. That’s the new business model.

GVS: What’s your biggest takeaway from TaylorMade’s possible sale?

AGR: Two things. One, Adidas doesn’t have confidence in the golf business – and by the way, they’re not alone. Two, it’s been months since Adidas announced that TaylorMade was on the block and you still don’t see anybody jumping up and saying, “Great, we’ll take it!” 

Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal.