After a career in publishing, Tom Stine co-founded Golf Datatech, a golf-retail tracking firm, in 1996. He answers five questions from E. Michael Johnson.
Q: How has the golf consumer changed since Golf Datatech started?
We're cautious about making general statements. Hardgoods sales in the on- and off-course channels were $2.42 billion in 1997. In 2012, the total was $2.62 billion. Not much change, but yet a lot of change up and down, and in between.
Q: How soon after a product is introduced do you know if it will be successful?
Nice try, but we don't track success. We track units and dollars. Success is relative to costs and revenue.
Q: What category has surprised you more than any other in recent years?
Spikeless shoes and golf apparel. Spikeless shoes were virtually nonexistent three years ago, a novelty at best, and now they have nearly 40 percent of the retail market. And apparel has increased every year since we started tracking it in 2010.
Q: You've formed a partnership with Yano Research of Japan. How is the Japanese consumer different from the U.S. consumer?
I'm not sure I can tell you the difference. They are passionate about the game like Americans. They are very interested in the latest technology in equipment. They pay more for equipment than Americans. Many play golf only at driving ranges. That certainly says something about their passion.
Q: How has your tracking changed from when you started until now?
It's more automated. We get electronic transmission of sales data from retail shops. We used to send out floppy disks by U.S. Mail to the shops, and they would download their data and send it back. But we have always focused on accuracy and reliability.