Golf Goes For Retail Gold

In Celebration of Golf is a 13,000-sq-ft golf-themed gift shop located in Scottsdale, Arizona, started by golf pro-Roger Maxwell. In Celebration of Golf also features art, home furnishings, clothing, and collectibles. Maxwell, calls In Celebration of Golf a toy store for grownups and a hangout for golf junkies. The store features 12 themed departments named after an aspect of the golf game.

History of Golf  in a Magical Retail Setting

Marrying the tradition, romance, and history of golf in a magical retail setting is the realization of a lifetime dream for Roger Maxwell, a golf professional for 23 years and former director of golf at Marriott’s Camelback Inn. Combining his business acumen with a passion for the game, Maxwell has created a 13,000-sq.-ft. gift, collectibles, apparel, home furnishings and art shop, In Celebration of Golf, in Scottsdale, Ariz. It has become an entertainment phenomenon affectionately referred to as a “golf heaven,” a “grown-up toy store” and “the ultimate hangout for golf junkies,” by golf pros, visiting celebrities, tourists and local press. Maxwell agrees: “This is a Disneyland of golf. I took my love of the mystique and pageantry of the game and created a golf experience, which is exactly what The Walt Disney Co. did for its characters and film world when it created the Disney Stores.”

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In Celebration’s magic is first spun through store design and layout, a marvelous rendition of a real golf course, mimicking both the outdoor feeling of luscious green, cropped grass and the intimate indoor feeling of a golf clubhouse. It has an overall ambiance of dark wood plank floors and tartan plaids. About a dozen themed areas or celebrations, each named after a specific feature of the game, and embellished with decorator fabrics, wallpaper, and furnishings for purchase, highlight distinct merchandise collections and store services.

The experience begins at the entrance or “First Tee” marked by replicas of old-time players. Customers or “guests” are greeted by “caddies” outfitted in the same white canvas overalls used by caddies at The Masters in Georgia. Guests are invited to pick up a bag tag, ball marker, divot fixer, and a scorecard guiding them to the celebration. When they sign the guest book, a loudspeaker message informs them: “This is your marshall. Slow play is required.”

Guests then follow the fairway to adjoining celebrations, furthering their fan in this shopping/golf fantasy. Spending, on average, an hour or two inside, guests explore some or an of the following delights:

Ye Old Golf Shoppe with golf-themed furnishings, gifts and decorative items; The Caddy Shack with one-of-a-kind items, including 30 types of golf-motif wallpaper; The Library, a complete golf reading room, The Art of the Game, with golf art and an artist in residence; Men’s Locker Room and Women’s Locker Room complete with showers; The Clubmaker’s Workbench, a club repair service; The Bag Room, with customized and themed golf bags; The Antiquities of the Game, with golf related antiques, rare books and hard-to-find items; The Club Room, with brand name golf clubs; The Practice Tee with a computerized indoor practice facility; The Players, Room, with signature apparel lines, including golf prolines; The Spike Shop, with golf footwear selections; and the Trophy Presentation room, where purchases are wrapped free in one of 13 different golf gift wraps and a choice of 40 ribbons.

In Celebration’s treasure trove of merchandise, which ranges from rare to humorous, fashionable, giftable and collectible, is a big part of the draw. The $1.5 million inventory, culled from about 540 vendors, has mostly an upper-end look and goes from moderate to expensive — up to $25,000. Average transactions are $168, with golf art and gifts among the most popular items, reports Maxwell. Gifts, art, and antiques comprise about 50 percent of inventory; apparel and accessories, including golf clubs and shoes, make up about 40 percent, and custom-made items about 10 percent.

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The Fastest Growing Sports Collectibles Market

Collectibles and one-of-a-kind treasures dear to Maxwell, who is a lifetime collector of golf memorabilia, which he believes is the fastest growing sports collectibles market — add drama. On tap are such notable examples as a customized golf car used by Bobby Jones during a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan, a handwritten letter from 1930s LPGA star Babe Didrickson to PGA star Walter Hagen, and a 14-ft. pound driver cast in bronze.

Contemporary gift items are also favorites. Among the fun showstoppers: crystal whiskey decanters shaped like the wood of a golf head, a desk clock inset into the side of a golf ball, a clock with clubs as numbers, sweatshirts that say, “Will golf for food,” and chess sets using various forms of golfers and golf bags for the different pieces.

And the fun is interactive. Customers can play 18 holes of golf on a visual simulator, they can watch the golf channels; read any paper or golf magazine from around the world, and they can use real showers. Guests can also take golf lessons; watch sports artists, demonstrations, consult with personal shoppers; or get their clubs repaired. Additionally, management plans occasional special events, such as private cocktail and dinner parties, book signings and trunk shows. Maxwell also offers coffee and tea on a regular basis. Guests can receive membership “club” cards and whimsically designed gift certificates, i.e., 1995’s replicas of tickets to the U.S. golf open!

Maxwell also attributes his success to enthusiastic salespeople: “I try to hire golf professionals and those committed to golf.”

His advice to other gift retailers: “Dare to be different. Use your creative juices to create retail magic.” Maxwell has done that in spades and is already reaping the rewards with estimated first-year sales of $2.4 million, expected to reach $3 million. Based on his present success, expansion plans call for additional stores in high-traffic resort areas around Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando and Las Vegas.

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