PGA Tour Event Turns into Shopping Spree

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PGA TourIRVING, Texas -- The small white tent just inside the gate at the Byron Nelson Championship looked like so many others at PGA Tour events, except for the merchandise behind the windows. Colorful snappy blouses and skirts by Lilly Pulitzer. The cutting-edge clothing of Jamie Sadock.
 
Inside the 1,000-square-foot air-conditioned tent was a shopper's paradise. Burberry was selling $40 gloves and $65 caps with its plaid prints. Tehama and Ashworth had a collection of shirts. Maui Jim had a rack of sunglasses.
 
A city known for its high-end shopping set up a small boutique at a golf tournament, where more than 100,000 spectators passed through the gates on the weekend, many of them women.
 
A year ago, women's apparel sales were $34,000 for the week at the Byron Nelson Championship. This year, they were $27,000 on the first day - a Tuesday practice round - and $125,000 for the week, an increase of 255 percent.
 
The boutique was so successful that the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which runs the Byron Nelson, wonders why it didn't think of this sooner. And its merchandising director, Andy Stern, would not be surprised if more PGA Tour events in affluent markets followed their lead.
 
'We get a lot of wives of corporates,' said Stern, chairman of Sunwest Communications in Dallas. 'Their husbands are watching golf, and they'd say, 'Let's go shop.' Before this, we had no reason for them to do that.'
 
Just about every golf tournament sells merchandise. Most do business in the pro shop, while the bigger events, such as The Players Championship and the World Golf Championships, also have a separate merchandise tent.

Some don't need one. Pebble Beach has a miniature mall area surrounding the putting green next to the Lodge, with shops that sell fine jewelry, art, crystal and regular golf merchandise. Doral has something similar on a smaller scale.
 
Then there's the U.S. Open, which builds something that resembles a department store. The main merchandise tent at Shinnecock Hills will be 36,000 square feet (nearly double the size from the last U.S. Open at Shinnecock in 1995) and is so big that it has more than 300 mannequins.
 
The Byron Nelson Championship for years had a main merchandise tent with the usual wares - shirts, hats, umbrellas, golf balls, towels, rain gear. Stern wanted something more, and a trip to Olympia Fields south of Chicago last year for the U.S. Open opened his eyes.
 
'It looked like a Nordstrom's,' Stern said. 'I thought, 'This does not look like what we've been doing.''
 
The Salesmanship Club, which has given more to charity than any other PGA Tour event the last four years, had little need for a merchandise tent the size of the U.S. Open. But it decided to do a better job catering to women, giving them more options than a sleeveless golf shirt with a logo on the lapel.
 
That was no small task in Dallas.
 
'To make this work, we had to find the buzz,' Stern said. 'Nike would have sent me some ladies' stuff, same with Antigua. But that wasn't going to get the Dallas women very excited.'
 
The first designer to sign up for the small boutique was Jamie Sadock, one of the top sellers in pro shops at resorts and private golf clubs.
 
'We're just offering ladies something different, something fun,' said John Chinni, regional marketing representative for Jamie Sadock. 'It was the first time we've done this (at a tournament), and we didn't know what to expect. The response has been phenomenal.'
 
Chinni said he had to have three overnight shipments to restock his shelves in the tent.
 
What also makes the boutique different from a regular merchandise tent is the lack of logos. Most merchants say those are for men, who want to show their friends where they have been.
 
Not so for women.
 
The proof was in a small display of Jamie Sadock shirts with the EDS Byron Nelson Championship logo, which the company made to offer women a choice. Chinni said he sold four of those shirts all week.
 
Mary Lopuszynski has been merchandising director for the USGA since 1995, and she has noticed vast changes in women's golf apparel.
 
'When I first started, it was more like vendors taking men's shirts and making them a smaller size,' she said. 'Gradually, it has become definitely a more retail fit - things like sleeveless, different necklines, what women can wear away from the golf course. It continues to move in that direction.'
 
Lopuszynski was the unofficial host when Stern and his crew visited the U.S. Open merchandise tent last year at Olympia Fields, showing him not only what they were selling, but how to present it. Stern wound up hiring Dale Simon, a visual merchandiser, to set up the boutique in a way to maximize sales.
 
Stern added his own touch.
 
Corporate sponsors often get a goody bag at the tournament - a leather briefcase or bag with golf shirts, crystal paperweights and other mementos. Stern swapped that out for gift cards to the boutique, which led to even more sales once the sponsors got inside.
 
'When they buy, they buy big,' said Kristi McAnder, a Lilly Pulitzer sales associate in Dallas who described her company's typical customer as married with two or three kids and an average household income of $200,000.
 
Stern already is looking ahead to next year.
 
The Salesmanship Club plans to double the size of its boutique, and Stern said he might add a Starbucks in the middle of the shop.
 
It might not work at every tournament, because not every PGA Tour stop has the demographics of Dallas. Still, Chinni said he noticed representatives from other tour events stick their head in the door at the Byron Nelson to see how things were going.
 
'I guarantee you, they'll follow suit,' he said.
 
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