LAS VEGAS — Small signs are welcome, even in a town where neon is king and lights the desert sky for miles. And golf no doubt is thankful for them, suggesting as they did, that the game is not dying after all, contrary to more than one headline of late.
The PGA Fashion & Demo Experience is wrapping up today at the Venetian here and Ed Several, senior vice president and general manager of PGA Golf Exhibitions, used the term "cautious optimism" to describe the state of the game based on a few positive indicators at the show.
For the first time, the show was limited exclusively to apparel and accessories, though equipment was available to demo on Monday at Cascata Golf Club in nearby Boulder, Nev. But the focus on apparel did not diminish the number of buyers ("we're running about flat from a year ago," Several said) or exhibitors, the latter, in fact, increasing from 187 to 194.
They include new companies and companies new to the golf business who are placing a bet on the growth of the game. Or, in the case of Wolsey, an iconic British brand that was founded in 1775 and has European Tour player Robert Rock on its endorsement staff, entering the U.S. golf market for the first time.
LazyJack Press, meanwhile, is a tie company formed in 2012 that successfully launched its initial collection in Barneys. It was exhibiting here in an effort to break into the golf market.
"I think there's cautious optimism that golf is beginning to pervade from not just the links and the game side of it, but it's starting to grow out into the lifestyle piece of it," Several said. "A lot of manufacturers here are capturing that."
The golf show was only one of several apparel shows running simultaneously in Las Vegas. "In the apparel world, just like the golf world invades Orlando in January, you're in Las Vegas in August," Several said. "The unique thing here is if I'm a golf shop owner, I get to see the world of fashion and yet buy within the golf realm. By being here you get an education in apparel like you've never heard before."
In this environment, fashion prevailed. It was unfashionable only to denounce the future of a game that companies old and new apparently believe in.