Custom club fitter sees demand grow after pandemic
(Willowbrook, Ill.) — In a post COVID-19 world where staples like J. Crew, GNC and other local shops are disappearing, the outlook for brick and mortar business ventures seems bleak. More retailers are moving to an e-commerce model, and even more are downsizing to stay competitive in a new retail landscape. The golf industry would seemingly fall in line with these company casualties, but one brand is succeeding amongst the chaos — Club Champion, a custom golf club fitting company.
Recognized as the top fitter, builder and retailer of the best brands in golf, Club Champion stands out in a niche market. Their dynamic vision has led Golf Digest to include them in the bi-annual Top 100 Clubfitters ranking since the inception of the list. The company’s thorough processes and attention to detail have gained a strong recognition among golfers, leading to an overall revenue growth of 46% and over 100,000 appointments in 2019 alone.
“We offer a service that every avid golfer can benefit from,” said Nick Sherburne, Club Champion’s founder. “Our business model works because we can show measurable improvement. The retail landscape has changed but the success of our process has not.”
After a harrowing few months during the COVID-19 pandemic, Club Champion’s executive team wasn’t sure what to expect. At one point, all but five stores were closed, including significant restrictions at their Chicagoland operations facility. Though able to continue assembling custom clubs remotely, Club Champion’s fitting services were limited by stay-at-home mandates and manufacturer closures. Thankfully, the demand for outdoor activities and the ability to social distance on the course drove a demand for golf that carried over into the fitting world.
According to Club Champion CEO Joe Lee, “We knew people were itching to get out and play — really, to get out and do anything — but we couldn’t have imagined the sort of demand we would see as operations resumed. That demand, coupled with a nationwide reopening promotion, drove a 49% increase for June same store sales year-over-year and outpaced anything I’ve seen in my decade with Club Champion.”
Coming out of the pandemic, the company’s store set-up proved beneficial; Club Champion is appointment-only, limiting the number of people in the store and touching equipment. They also enhanced their cleaning procedures, mandated masks where required and added social distancing regulations to keep both customers and employees safe. Now, Club Champion is climbing back to normal operations nationwide, including fitting volumes, hiring for many positions, increasing shipment counts and more.
Beyond successfully hurdling COVID-19 challenges, Club Champion has also succeeded in a market that’s heavily influenced by brand advertisements thanks to their brand agnostic approach. Because they focus on the golfer and not the manufacturer, they’re able to give each customer a unique and informative experience that delivers real results on the course. A Golf Digest study found that eight out of nine Club Champion custom-fit golfers lowered their scores by as much as six strokes per round and added an average of 21 yards off the tee.
It’s not just golfers who are impressed by Club Champion; equipment manufacturers also hold back nothing with their praise for the custom fitter. TaylorMade CEO David Abeles commented, “Club Champion truly is one of the most innovative club fitters in the business. They provide a consumer experience that is undeniably helpful for all golfers to play better.” Callaway CEO Chip Brewer confirmed, “Club Champion is a fantastic consumer experience. One of the great, new age golf retailers who understand that fitting is the future.”
It’s that consumer experience that has made Club Champion one of the fastest growing retailers in golf. They’ve opened 36 stores in the last 24 months, bringing the total to 74 locations with plans to open additional stores in 2020-2021. Their Tour-level fitting experience is sought after by golfers of every skill level, and their fitting studios service most of the major golf markets in the country.
Lee believes in the Club Champion method and the results it garners. “Other people sell golf clubs, we sell improvement,” he said. “We not only solve equipment problems, but we show and explain why each particular piece of equipment (shaft, head and grip) works for the customer’s swing.”
For more information about custom club fitting and Club Champion’s process, visit clubchampiongolf.com.