Golf shows down -- are they out?

Average: 3.3 (483 votes)
Those who attended the recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando or the Golf Industry Show the following week in New Orleans (and if you attended both, we truly admire your dedication) got an up-close-and-personal look at the current state of the golf business.
At the PGA extravaganza, organizers reported that attendance was down 4.5 percent. The GIS suffered even more, with about one-third fewer attendees than the record-setting total at the 2007 Orlando show. The number of vendors exhibiting was down as well. 
Are those declines simply a reflection of the troubled U.S. (and international) economy? Or are they a symptom of a deeper problem with the makeup and format of the shows themselves?
Which do you buy? What changes could the PGA of America and the organizations that stage the GIS make in their shows to make them more attractive to golf industry professionals? Or should they just sit tight and ride out the recession?



There were many golf professionals and buyers who did not attend the golf show in Orlando because the cost of taking their family was more prohibitive this year than in other prior years. The Golf pros I talked to said they usually make the Show a family trip but they were in a frugal mood this year...that had little to do with the Show itself, it was the money situation.

One can only assume that Reed Exhibitions was counting feet instead of heads to come up with the 4.5% drop in attendance at the PGA Show. Our company recorded less than half as many leads as we normally collect at the PGA Show and a couple of my competitors told me their contacts were down by the same amount. One of my clients said it best when he told me, "for the next two years, the primary job anyone in the golf business will have is to make certain they are here in two years". True but, on every level, the washout of businesses - courses, manufacturers, distributors - in our industry will, in the long run, serve to make the survivors stronger and more viable entities.

We noticed that our traffic remained about the same as the previous 3 or 4 years in Orlando. The biggest difference for us was the quality of traffic. The leads were more qualified and there weren't as many "tire kickers" walking around without an agenda. However, we did see quite a big drop off in traffic at the Golf Industry Show in New Orleans.

Our leads were down 37.2% from 2008. We suspect attendance was down 30 - 35%, which is a far cry from the 5% down number reported by the organizers of the show. There is no question, the economy had a dramatic affect on attendance at this years show. The PGA Show is unquestionably "the golf show" for both domestic and international golf properties. Having said that, it needs to do something to increase its appeal. One suggestion would be to open up the show to the public on the last day. The last day is dead most years anyway....The PGA of America is missing an opportunity to promote the game to the masses by not inviting the general public. This may be just what the large equipment mfgs. need in order to justify larger marketing $ before they recommitt to coming back to the show or increase their current booth siz. The show lost alot of appeal when Taylor-made, Titleist, Ping and other large companies begin to back out 4 - 5 years ago. We need for these major players in the industry to find value in the show once again. By opening up a day to the public, these companies as well as the golf professional and the golf industry would benefit. Companies like ours would not directly benefit the last day, but overall it would be to our advantage because the increased promotion of the show throughout the previous year by the PGA of America would lead to increased attendance of our desired traffic. (the golf professional, GM and owner)

The show traffic was down over all at the golf show, but the traffic at our Dakota peat booth was up. Superindents told us, because of the economy they going away from of straight sand.

I attended the GIS in New Orleans and found traffic to be down considerably from previous years. I know many people I talked to said they simply could not afford to go this year and would spend the time looking for work. I think the venue also had some negative impact from the bad press N.O. has gotten since Katrina. The quality of attendees seemed to be good.

I personally like the shows for a number of reasons. First seeing the new product first hand and second networking with some of the company executives to understand business philosophy. One thought for the companies, it doesn't have to be a broadway show at the show, Your brand , your products and your people, if they are any good they will speak for themselves.

Attendance is down at the shows and in this economy it is hard to justify the need of attending the shows, unless you are looking for something special. I think the GIS show is better to attend because of the stronger educational opportunities. The only improvement that I would suggest is combining the two shows and having one true Golf Industry Show.

I think the PGA and the Golf Industry as a whole needs to get back to the idea of actually promoting the game of golf and serving those that keep us employed. I believe we have gotten away from the basics of what makes golf great. It involves the Industry Professionals, the Manufacturers, the Courses, and others. But first and foremost it involves the public who play the game and use our products. Maybe its time to re-think our goals and objectives at these shows as well as in our daily activities. Then once we have correctly diagnosed that "root cause" we can better implement the necessary steps to succeed. The "sky" is not falling and the "Emperor" is naked! Maybe we should look to lead the Business world instead of just falling in line with what everyone else thinks and does. Its a "ME" world out there and the truth of the matter is we need to break out of the box and turn the "ME" back to "WE"! Self interest and selfish motives will get you just what you deserve. We are part of a great sports tradition and history. Once upon a time golf was the "class act" of sports....the average person may not have understood that but the popularity of golf has now put us in a position to capture that image and hold on to it! The sports world is struggling with integrity and class. Golf has the unique opportunity to position itself as the "Best of the Best"! Let's not fail the legends that came before us and made this game great! Maybe we should change Customer Service to Serve the Customer! Just a thought!

I attended the GIS show in N.O. and was surprised about the positive attitude that most people brought to the show. Golf is just one of the luxuries that can be managed and we will see a slowdown in the near future in tournament attendance as well as rounds played. But this will correct itself just like anything else. STAY POSITIVE!!!

Was in Orlando for the first time in three years. The traffic was considerable lower than it used to be.Less people, definately. However, The show is still a great way to keep in touch with the industy, and beeing a reporter, I was as busy as ever. I kind of like the idea of opening up for the public on day three. Maybe making it an exclusive event with a limited number (ex. 5/10.000) of tickets available. I hope the best for the business. Morten

I attended both show and found the PGA to be down slightly in quantity but still good quality attendees and leads. The GIS show on the other hand was nothing short of a disaster from a vendor perspective. My market is the CMAA show only and since CMAA was rolled into the GIS, the show quality has consistently eroded. The biggest issue for companies focused on CMAA is the poor scheduling of the show/conference. The show is Thurs - Sat, but the conference did not start till Saturday. On Saturday, there were education/opening sessions that conflicted with the show hours. Additionally, there was a misprint in the managers agenda stating the show ended at 2 pm instead of the actual 5 pm on Friday making matters even worse. The CMAA expects vendors to fund and support the show/conference, but made little to no effort to ensure the managers would be there to support the vendors. The planning/scheduling of CMAA part of GIS was short sighted and produced disastrous results for the vendors, who spent 3 days standing around the expo hall. My company will not attend this show next year or probably ever again. Trade shows are becoming obsolete. They were designed to bring buyers/sellers together in a pre-web world. Given the easy availability to access products and solutions on the web, the expense of traveling and the current state of the economy, I do not see a future for shows as we currently know them. For my money, the best move CMAA can make right now is to merge with the PGA show. It makes no sense to schedule these shows back to back, attendance is cannibalized between the shows. This might breathe a few more years into the shows, but ultimately I predict they have seen their day and will disappear in the near future.

The GIS show was in New Orleans, not considered as much a family friendly site as Orlando or San Diego (many attendees look to the convention as an opportunity to use part of their time to vacation), that hurt attendance. The economy hurt attendance and cut back on attendees purchasing power. Finally, the world is changing, the internet etc. is taking over. Even when the economy improves conventions may not have as prominent role in the future. Finally, as a CMAA member I can tell you that the CMAA staff went out of their way to try to promote attendance.

We saw a drop of 30-35% from last year in Orlando, but there always seems to be a drop off in attendance between the Orlando and West Coast show. The addition of club managers etc. has been a bust. It will be interesting to see how the change in show hours etc. are going to effect attendance - at least the GCSAA is trying something different.

We're (Golf Course Business Consultants, Inc) trying to come to consensus right now on attending the Golf Inc conference with an Expo booth. We've had a large booth at the GIS the last two years and many of our members think that is the ideal conference to attend. I'm not one of them: Too many Associations hosting with different agendas. Attendance was down this year, but I think that was caused more by the location than the economy. I'd also like to know why all the golf industry conferences are bunched together in the first quarter. With travel time, travel expenses, etc it makes it hard to pick and choose which conferences to attend.

We're (Golf Course Business Consultants, Inc) trying to come to consensus right now on attending the Golf Inc conference with an Expo booth. We've had a large booth at the GIS the last two years and many of our members think that is the ideal conference to attend. I'm not one of them: Too many Associations hosting with different agendas. Attendance was down this year, but I think that was caused more by the location than the economy. I'd also like to know why all the golf industry conferences are bunched together in the first quarter. With travel time, travel expenses, etc it makes it hard to pick and choose which conferences to attend.

One of the answers to the decline in exhibitors is the cost of attending these shows. Even though the CMAA has combined with the GCSAA and the NGCOA our visitors from these associations decreased in 2007 and was reduced to a trickle in 2008. After crunching the numbers it was decided to increase our advertising in professional and business publications rather than exhibit. Because of the escalating costs each year for the exhibitors I believe more and more of them will drop out and the "SHOW WILL BE OVER" - pardon the pun

I like the idea of combining the PGA and GIS into one "true" golf show. This would save the vendors money and allow them to get in front of all the buyers without having to choose a show or pay for 2 shows. I am an owner and only attend the GIS because I find the education and networking the most valuable thing for me, but I miss all the vendors and Pros at the PGA show. I always get some great ideas at the GIS and would hate to see it go away, but a combined show would be more valuable for the industry.

From a vendor's perspective, does anything change that much in 9 months (the amount of time until true 'show prep' kicks in for vendors)that warrants spending this much $$ every year? Customers complain about costs increasing, and vendors complain about the high costs of attending these shows (upwards of $50,000 - $500,000 +), both of which kind of tie-in? I would recommend doing the same as the Ryder Cup, every other year. Then their would be some real excitement. The regional shows help bridge the gap for those really needing a yearly fix.

Great comments from everyone. I was especially interested in the suggestions of some that the PGA and GIS shows be combined into one mega-show. Does this sound like a workable idea or would it just make it even more difficult for attendees? Seemingly the superintendents would have little interest in visiting the apparel booths (and vice-versa for the pro shop retail buyers). And would there be any reason for the CMAA attendees to stop by the equipment merchandisers? Does anyone fear that such a show would be TOO big? Keith Carter, Golf Inc. managing editor

It's been fascinating to read all the comments regarding the shows. What did Mark Twain write, "the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated?" Perhaps, the same hold true for the golf industry related shows. I stated in our February newsletter, the AGM e-Tailer, that human behavior is difficult to predict. Many thought the annual PGA Merchandise Show would be filled with doom and gloom - it wasn't. Reality rose above pessimism and it was downright refreshing. Serious buyers walked the aisles - the decision makers who knew that business, despite the economy, must continue. Were these buyers doing business differently? Absolutely. The point being is that they were doing business. An AGM post show survey of both buyer members and AGM Vendor Partners indicated the mood of the show was overwhelmingly positive, it met the expectations of both buyers/vendors, the quality of the attendees was higher than in previous years, attendees were serious about doing business, 89.4% of buyers left orders at the show (according to AGM Vendors), and over 82% of vendors offered special incentives to drive traffic. So much for predicting human behavior.

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