By ED TRAVIS
It’s been just a few months since Jill Spiegel took over the job as President of PGA Tour Superstores and already her presence and leadership style are being felt.
Spiegel succeeded Dick Sullivan, the former President, and Chief Executive Officer, who moved into the spot of Executive Chairman and CEO. Sullivan, who is considered by many to be one of the top golf retailing executives in the country, oversaw PGATSS growth to become of the largest specialty golf and tennis retailer.
The promotion to President makes Spiegel one of the highest placed women in the golf industry and she brings to the position more than ten years of experience with the company, most recently as the PGATSS Senior Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer.
Michigan native Spiegel’s first job at PGATSS when she started in 2011 was Vice President Merchandising Soft Goods. Prior to that she held merchandising positions at Belk Department stores and was Vice President of Planning for New York-based Macy’s.
In an exclusive interview during the recent PGA Show Spiegel was frank in her assessments and how she plans to move store sales upward capitalizing on the steep growth over the past two years when PGATSS sales doubled.
She immediately emphasized a primary focus in the new year will be on customer club fittings with a revamped approach to the instore Studio experience in all their locations. This has already begun with additional training for club fitters and a multimillion-dollar investment in the Fitting and Services departments plus, and certainly a marker of the depth of commitment to employee education, a new Performance Training Center for store associates has opened.
Spiegel’s most revealing comment was, “We’re here to help the game’s growth through the relationship of our store associates have with customers.” Part of the relationship building will be the continuation of programs to bring new golfers into the game especially women and juniors.
Growth plans for this year include opening eight new stores in among other locations Raleigh, Oklahoma City, Boise, and Chicago. The same number were opened in 2022, all in cities where PGATSS did not have a presence and at the end of 2023 will bring the total number to 64.
In an aside Spiegel also pointed out women like to shop for apparel at PGATSS. She said there are large differences between selling golf clothing and golf clubs and a different focus is required. With a much shorter lifecycle than hard goods apparel must have the latest styling and a large brand assortment which requires seasoned apparel buyers on staff, tight inventory control with frequent markdowns plus creative display and knowledgeable personnel.
Its clear golf attire has become a lifestyle choice for many, and Spiegel said in fact that at some of their warm weather resort locations women’s apparel outsells men’s upending the usual thinking.
As the official retailer of Women’s Golf Day, PGATSS is a longtime supporter of growing the game and have a companywide program for young women called “Girls Got Drive.”
For PGATSS growing the game is not just a nice sounding phrase and hasn’t been for a number of years. Each store offers weekly no cost clinics to juniors plus there is additional support to organizations introducing women into our sport such as “She Who Golfs,” “Fore the Ladies, and “Women on Course.”
Spiegel also commented on the First Tee life and leadership training as well as golf instruction and how her company will continue to be involved.
For the third-year store general managers in conjunction with local First Tee chapters will teach a Leadership Series for teens. Upon completion of the Series, 40 students will be tapped to attend a First Tee Summit at PGATSS owner Arthur Blank’s West Creek Ranch in Montana. Four scholarships of $20,000 will be awarded at the Summit.
Plus, this year for the first time, in addition to the 40 students selected for participation in the Montana Summit, 48 students will be selected to participate in the week-long inaugural Atlanta Leadership Academy to be held in June.
An example of PGATSS’s progressive thinking a trial instituted at the new Milwaukee Wisc. store memberships to the nine simulator hitting bays have been sold. Seating behind the bays encourages friends and family to watch and play games on the simulators together. Spiegel said this was “not unlike a Topgolf entertainment center though on a much smaller scale and serves to foster socialization around the golf experience in a group activity.” It becomes one more step to involve new people in the game potentially converting them to oncourse play and purchase of apparel and equipment.
Spiegel also noted that pickleball racquet and ball sales are “exploding” reflecting the enormous increase in those playing and general interest in the game. This was apparent at the PGA Show where pickleball courts drew a constant crowd of attendees watching exhibition matches that included Tiger Woods’ former golf instructor Hank Haney.
Jill Spiegel steps into Dick Sullivan’s role as leader of an aggressively growing company that is a recognized leader in golf retailing and committed to programs making the game more inviting to women and juniors and turning nonplayers into players.