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Exclusive: Former Home Depot exec tees up at PGA Tour Superstore


Experiential retail is alive and well at PGA Tour Superstore.

The company, the PGA Tour’s exclusive off-course/off-airport retail partner, has built a business dedicated to providing golf enthusiasts of all levels access to the same technology and expertise that card-carrying Tour pros enjoy. Stores are staffed with teaching professionals and have multiple state-of-the-art swing simulators, practice hitting bays, and large putting greens. There is also an in-house club-making and repair facility.

PGA Tour Superstore is a one-stop golf store for players of all levels — and ages. Stores range from 25,000sq. ft. to 50,000 sq. ft. and carry a wide range of equipment and accessories, along with golf footwear and apparel for men, women and juniors.

Chain Store Age spoke with Dick Sullivan, CEO and president of the company for the past six years. Prior to that, he was executive VP of the Atlanta Falcons (2002 to 2009), and chief marketing officer of The Home Depot from (1992 to 2002). PGA Tour Superstore is owned by Golf & Tennis Pro Shop, whose controlling owner and chairman is Arthur M. Blank, retired co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

How has your professional background informed your experience at PGA Tour Superstore?

I feel fortunate to have a combination of experience with both retail and sports properties. There are some real synergies with the operational aspect of each of these businesses, most especially the psyche of the fan and the consumer. Whether you’re going to an event or visiting our store, we are always focused on keeping our customers (consumers) coming back.

Our consumer is more engaged today much like the avid fan. For today’s avid golfer, there is an emotional attribute whereby engaging them in our venue and providing them with the service and products they need to improve their game, we will provide a better overall (golf retail) experience.

How involved is Arthur Blank in the company?

Arthur continues to be involved heavily in PGA Tour Superstore’s business strategies. His wisdom and experience make him a great visionary and leader for our business.

We’re in the experience business with high service levels, wide assortments of products at value prices similar to Home Depot, yet for golfers. That was Arthur’s philosophy when he co-founded Home Depot, and we at PGA Tour Superstore are very much in tune with that today.

What shape was the company in when you came on board back in 2009?

We were still in start-up mode and needed resources across the board, from financial to talent, to set us on a growth trajectory. We had nine stores back then. We will open our 24th store this year.

How healthy is the golf industry these days?

Our industry is stable with 25 million golfers but we continue to see challenges in growing the game. There’s some great excitement with a new crop of PGA Tour players, and we’re also seeing an increase in TV ratings. There are also new youth initiatives to draw in the next generation of golfers, and that is something we have to continue to strive to do.

How is PGA Tour Superstore positioned in the market?

We focus on delivering a customer-centric experience in everything we do. For example, our stores have huge putting greens and up to 14 indoor simulators and hitting bays to help golfers practice and get custom fit year round. Golfers come hang out for hours in our stores and we invite that.

Also, our associates are the best in golf, period. Their experience and passion is second to none. Finally, our aggressive growth is at a faster rate than our competitors. We will double the number of stores we have today over the next four years.

In January, the company entered into a partnership with Golf Channel. What was the thinking behind it?

We were already buying media on the Golf Channel locally prior to entering into this relationship, but opted for a national deal to improve efficiencies and expand our reach beyond just our brick-and-mortar markets.

What is the company’s real estate strategy?

We don’t disclose this for competitive reasons. But let’s just say we believe there is still a lot of opportunity here in the United States for what PGA Tour Superstore has to offer, and opportunities internationally as well.

Tell us about the company’s digital strategy?

We are looking to provide an omnichannel platform that will deliver whatever our customer wants and needs whenever and wherever they are. Our partnership with the PGA Tour provides us with a worldwide e-commerce platform so when a shopper visits PGA Tour and hits the ‘shop’ button, we provide the store and backend retail.

We continually focus on “customer strategies” and new ways to provide the services and information our customers want – not just in a digital world or a brick-and-mortar world, but in a seamless shopping environment. Because our customers’ needs are always evolving and we continue to evolve with them. In-store order pickup, ease of mobile shopping, a unique loyalty program, personalization and more relevant, immediate content are all key issues that are important to our customers. We will continue to innovate here and there are certainly “digital” components to each of these issues.

What are the expansion plans?

We plan to double the number of stores we have today over the next four years and believe there is much more room beyond that as well. We have found our model and customer experience to be well received and that means we have many opportunities in both existing and new markets.

You just opened a location in Birmingham. What markets will you be targeting next?

We honestly are looking everywhere where there are passionate golfers and where we believe we can inspire those golfers to play better. We are looking coast to coast, but we keep this information close to the vest for competitive reasons.

Any thoughts about opening stores outside of the United States?

This is certainly a possibility, especially as The PGA Tour continues to expand its brand internationally. We have opportunities now, but we will decide when the timing is right.

Do you have a favorite golf course?

I’d say The Golf Club at Cuscowilla (Eatonton, Georgia), which was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. It’s ranked one of the top golf courses in Georgia. It truly is stunning both from a natural environment and in that it also provides you with great challenges. It’s serene and beautiful and really the perfect escape for a round of golf.

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