The End Is Neigh

By Jim McNaney






This past January 25th, the PGA Merchandise Show kicked off what was meant to be a return to normal. The annual expedition, which started back in 1954 as a trade show, hoped to regain the glory days as the largest and most important golf industry gathering.

Like everything else, the past two years have been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The 2022 edition promised to be a return of the glory days.  PGA Professionals networking.  Equipment manufacturers showing off their latest and greatest products.  Apparel companies revealing the hot trends in fashion for the upcoming season.

Unfortunately, that did not come to fruition.

While over 500 vendors showed their wears, many of the game’s biggest players, including Callaway, Taylor Made, Titleist, Tour Edge and Mizuno were not in attendance.  Publicly, Titleist announced that they would not be sending people to the Orlando Convention Center for The Show when they were not even letting employees back in the office.

The unmentioned (and perhaps the most important) reason for the no-shows is the fact that many companies do not see the value of the spend.

The pandemic made the 2021 edition virtual.  There were over 11 pages of exhibitors that participated and the resulting sales, especially for golf equipment, went through the roof.

Companies are realizing that The Show, in its traditional format of “10 Miles of Merchandise” does not make sense in today’s marketplace.

Essentially, the PGA Merchandise Show has become a shell of what it once was.

For years, the annual gathering of PGA Professionals and vendors was THE place to get business done during the day.  At night, hosted parties and events gave the industry a chance to catch up with one another and socialize (not to mention for many, it was a chance to escape the miserable weather in the north for a few days and thaw out).

It was not a bad day at the office.

Now, about the only thing left is the networking for PGA Professional and even then, it is not just industry insiders that are attending.  The PGA says The Show is not open to the public.  My experience tells me otherwise.

While I have not attended in over a decade, every year I hear stories from my students or even friends of the great time they had walking the floor of the convention center.  It is no longer a secret the general public does get in…a lot.

While at one time, The Show was the first place to see the latest and greatest of all that will make you a better player, today the product life cycles are not in sync with late January.  In fact, most Professionals and retailers have not only heard about the new products but are actually sitting on the new products waiting until a release date to put them on the shelves.

Manufacturers are realizing that they can more effectively communicate to their customers via Zoom, distance learning and personal visits from local reps.  Retailers and Professionals can consume the information on their time making it more likely to retain the information.

All in all, it is just a better model.

It appears the writing is on the tombstone for The Show as we know it.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED going to The Show.  It was a blast to see old friends, ogle the new toys and get out of the cold, but the main reason I stopped going was there was no real reason for me to go.

I have not been in the market for a new job in years and my current position does not require me to deal with apparel, footwear, tee times systems or anything with course maintenance.  As mentioned, I had already seen or been exposed to the new equipment on the way.  About the only thing I would find useful would be the ability to meet face to face with Professionals that wanted to become full-time Teaching Professionals.

Even there, the recruiting industry has gone on-line.

Perhaps it is time for the PGA of America to take back control of The Show (currently Reed Exhibitions is the licensee and runs the expedition).  Bring it back to the days where the main focus was on the PGA Annual Awards Dinner, training opportunities for Members, networking for new jobs and discussions on how to better serve the Members and Associates of the PGA of America.

Perhaps it is time to move the event to different locations.  Keep it in the warm weather states but if it occasionally was on the West Coast or Arizona, it might draw better from the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  That is for far smarter people than I but I can see when something has lost its usefulness.

I hope I am wrong.