The PGA Merchandise Show, today the world’s largest and most influential golf business event, had its informal beginnings in 1954, when a handful of golf merchandisers assembled in the PGA (Professional Golfers Association) National Golf Club parking lot during a series of winter tournaments. Over the ensuing years, this yearly gathering of golf equipment manufacturer’s representatives grew, and the PGA Merchandise Show, initially held under a circus-sized tent, travelled around the Florida peninsula, finally moving indoors for the first time, in Orlando, in 1975.
In 1998, the PGA of America sold an equity share of its golf shows to Reed Exhibitions, a leading trade show organizer. Together, the PGA and Reed, under the umbrella of PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions, produce and manage the PGA Merchandise Show, which has evolved to become an all-encompassing global platform for the introduction of new products, indoor & outdoor product testing, wide-ranging education seminars, industry symposiums, national awards presentations, fashion features, player development programs, and professional networking events.
“Trade fairs have been around since medieval times,” says Ed Several, Senior Vice President and General Manager of PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions. “And it’s always been about people meeting face-to-face to learn, to discover, and to solve problems. The PGA Merchandise Show is really an opportunity for the golf industry to gather; to discuss different ways of growing the game; to explore new products; to be able to get information that you can’t get by simply going online or researching. It’s an opportunity for people to learn from experts and to see the latest products, not just on screen on a computer, but to be able to touch them, test them, and talk to the designers of those products. At the end of the day, we’re about bringing people together to make connections; to further their business goals and objectives; to advance their careers; and to grow the economy.”
In 2016, the PGA Merchandise Show attracted more than 42,000 PGA professionals, retailers, and golf business leaders from 91 countries around the world. The top five countries (outside of the U.S.) represented in attendance were Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico, and Germany. The top five U.S. states represented in attendance were Florida, New York, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. The next PGA Merchandise show will be held in the Orange County Convention Center, Jan. 24-27, 2017. “More than 1,000 companies from around the globe will meet with industry influencers within one million square feet of exhibit, meeting, demonstration and presentation space,” Several says.
A typical PGA Show week is packed with exhibits, demonstrations, product-testing, industry presentations, educational seminars, teaching workshops, exhibitor and industry special events, professional networking programs, and celebrity appearances. Last year, PGA of America Hall of Famer, Lee Trevino, helped to open the PGA Show in a special Opening Ceremony televised live on the Golf Channel. Other PGA Show participating celebrities included: Lexi Thompson, Bubba Watson, Jesper Parnevik, Lydia Ko, Blair O’Neal, Ian Poulter, Greg Norman, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Troy Merritt, Annika Sorenstam, Johnny Miller, Hal Sutton, Justin Thomas, Nancy Lopez, David Leadbetter, Hank Haney, Michael Breed, Mike Malaska, Cameron McCormick, Jim McLean, Claude Harmon, Lynn Swann, and Lou Holtz.
One of the PGA Show’s most popular events is the PGA Show Outdoor Demo Day at the Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge. “The 42-acre practice facility at Orange County National includes a golf range that is the nation’s largest, measuring one mile in circumference,” Several explains. “Because of this, over a hundred companies are able to participate. Golf industry professionals come out in droves for the opportunity to personally test the newest equipment – drivers, irons, and putters. And they’re seeing the latest innovations and talking to designers about game-improving technology. At the end of the day, these professionals are focused on one thing: improving the enjoyment and the scores of golfers. So, they’re hitting the different equipment to see what would best meet their customers’ needs.”
“Importantly,” Several continues, “when they go to fit a customer for golf clubs, they can say, ‘I hit this club; I know its performance characteristics; I spoke to the designer and I know how it can improve your enjoyment playing the game. The PGA Show Demo Day is an opportunity for a retailer to become an educated seller, which benefits golfers all around the world. But we don’t stop there,” he adds. “We continue the testing opportunities by building the largest, indoor golf range inside the Convention Center. So, you can continue to test, indoors throughout PGA Show Week. It’s a total, sensory experience.”
In addition to the indoor golf range, exhibits by more than 1,000 companies and brands, industry presentations on the main stage, fashion features, golf travel and fitness pavilions, and a dedicated New Product Zone, another PGA Show program is called the Inventors Spotlight – an opportunity for inventors to gauge interest from the golf community regarding a particular product or service not currently available for mass sale in the market. “A popular destination on the PGA Show floor since its inception six years ago, the Inventor’s Spotlight offers a valuable opportunity for inventors to showcase their most innovative golf inventions to industry influencers and product development experts,” says Several. “In working with the United Inventors Association, we are able to provide golf-related inventions with an opportunity to develop from the conceptual stage to the commercial, ready-for-production and sales stage.” Each year, the PGA Merchandise Show and the United Inventors Association (UIA), recognizes the hard work and dedication given to the process of innovation by delivering a set of awards created by professionals in the inventing and commercialization industry.
What’s new for 2017? “Specifically, in 2017, we look forward to expanding the ‘Performance & Sports Textile Sourcing’ program first introduced in 2016,” Several says. Performance & Sports Textile Sourcing will showcase fabric mills and factories from around the world. Complimentary education sessions will provide expert insight into technical fabric innovations, international trade policies, American manufacturing, and the advantages of duty-free sourcing. Attendees will also have the opportunity to make consulting appointments with sourcing professionals who can provide basic sourcing protocol and guidance, plus assist with identifying appropriate suppliers.
“We have developed Performance & Sports Textile Sourcing on the PGA Show Floor based on an exhibitor desire to expand their sourcing matrix and develop a deeper knowledge of performance fabrics, manufacturing, and international trade opportunities,” explained Several. “Golf and resort apparel development executives, designers, CEOs, and entrepreneurs will be able to meet face-to-face with experts from around the globe in one convenient location and develop their understanding of fabrications, manufacturing, and international sourcing opportunities.”
The PGA Merchandise Show is the annual kick-off for the business of golf and a barometer reflecting the health of the industry. “Based on the last few years’ events, the success of the PGA Merchandise Show indicates that the golf industry is healthy,” exults Several. “The future is exciting and bright. The historical traditions of the game of golf will be combined with exciting new technology platforms to expand the appeal of the game to many more people. Mobile software applications will enable players to record their stats and progress; new ways to play such as TopGolf where golfers participate in an environment featuring music, automated ball feed, and electronic scoring will bring in new golfers; and the ability to interact via social media channels with other golfers will all offer all new ways for the business of golf to grow. The grand traditions of the game of golf will never be lost, and the advent of technology will enhance these traditions to elevate golf and the business of golf to all new levels. And the PGA Merchandise Show is the ideal, global platform that industry leaders, top manufacturers, PGA Professionals, and golf organizations utilize to grow the business, participation, and interest in golf.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: The PGA Merchandise Show
WHAT: Annual trade show for the golf industry
WHERE: Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida