Joel Tadman analyses the potential effects the Covid-19 pandemic will have on the golf equipment sales and launch cycles after lockdown ends

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How Covid-19 May Effect The Equipment World

We have now seen all too vividly how golf is not immune to the effects of Covid-19. With golf clubs and the pro shops within them shut, the demand for new equipment is borderline non-existent, which is having a huge impact on the manufacturers.

There is talk online of redundancies, furloughing and factories closing, hardly surprising given this is happening in every industry around the world. Any momentum brands had created with launches at the start of the year has evaporated, leaving me to question what might happen when things return to a relative state of normality. Product ranges like Callaway Mavrik and TaylorMade SIM, as impressive as they are, won’t have had the shelf life needed to sell through, but retailers will have inventory they need to shift.

Depending on timings, it could lead to a phase of aggressively discounted prices to sell stock in time for the start of 2021. This may disgruntle the retailers that committed to large orders at the end of last year, who could never have foreseen what was coming at the time. Not ideal, but perhaps a small hit on profit margins is better than piles of left over stock clogging up stock rooms.

More pertinently though, any golfers that bought new clubs at full price before the lockdown will feel seriously aggrieved if manufacturers do decide to lower their prices. So there is clearly a fine balance to be struck.

An alternative, perhaps preferable strategy for the companies, would be an extension of the traditional product cycles. For TaylorMade and Callaway for example, this is annually, but there’s a chance we won’t see anything new from them next January, especially if the lockdown goes on for longer than expected.

The challenge here is that consumer awareness of product tends to drop in year two and they may well also be competing against brand new products from other brands. Ping, for example, usually run on 18-month launch cycles, and so we were expecting G410’s replacement sometime this summer, but it now seems highly likely this will be pushed back.

Having launched the original TS drivers in September 2018, Titleist will also have likely been planning a metalwood launch at some point later this year but this usually happens around specific tour events when they are able to seed the product to its staff players, and the newly packed PGA Tour schedule, if it even comes into fruition, may not tick the required boxes.

The questions are – will the recommencement of tournament golf and social golf be aligned? Will having golf back on TV, even with no fans in attendance, or being able to stroll the fairways again spur people to buy a new £450 driver? It’s logical for people’s priorities to be on the physical and financial health of them and their families, but perhaps a lavish purchase could bring about a newfound joy when positives in recent months have been hard to come by.

Ultimately, this is all conjecture, and in the grand scheme of things this all seems somewhat irrelevant. But with golf companies feeling the strain and left in limbo until lockdown ends, a safe return to normality sooner rather than later is what the golf industry sorely needs. Fingers crossed.