Over the past decade or so, more and more golfing equipment manufacturers have taken the plunge into online, direct-to-consumer sales. The rise of the manufacturer-owned online golf store may be great for the consumer. It certainly raises the possibility of lowering prices by cutting out the middle man. However, what does it mean for your local neighborhood golf store? Are these establishments simply doomed? Or do they have the opportunity to survive by updating their businesses to re-focus on their main advantage over the online retailers: person-to-person customer service?
Brick-and-mortar golf shop owners disagree about what the impact of the online golf store will be. Some say the growth of online commerce has doomed their business model. They argue that extreme price wars between online and big box retailers have made it impossible for smaller golf shops to compete. Customers may stop by a golf store to buy balls, tees, or clothes, but they reserve their major purchases for online golf stores. Even worse, some retailers complain that customers will come to their shops, try out new equipment, have the sales staff work with them to find the product that suits them best, and then go home to order it for a discount online.
Other shop owners argue that the rise of the online golf store does not mean that local shops are doomed, just that they need to change. They say that local shops can survive by proactively differentiating themselves from both the big box retailers and the online golf stores. By focusing on building long-term, personal relationships with customers, local golf shops can transform themselves from simple retailers to upscale service-providers. Golf shops can host local events, forge links through the community, and capitalize on their physical space. In fact, some shop owners argue that the rise of impersonal online commerce actually leads customers to value the personal contact they offer even more highly. You can also go to this golf tees page to know more.
The landscape is transforming rapidly, and, at this stage, no one can really say with certainty just where it is going. We can say that for some consumers—particularly those without easy access to a local pro shop—the rise of the online golf shop has been a real boon. We can also say that the march of technology, for good or ill, is not likely to turn back. The online golf shop is here to stay, and we will all have to learn to live with it.