05 Apr

The Commerce Department

Competition, Convenience and Technology Drive Club Retail

Retail space at private clubs

Pro shops, fine dining and poolside cocktails have been the staples of private club commerce for decades.  At the same time clubs are increasingly competing for member time and attention, they’re also finding opportunity to increase member value and, with it, revenue, with a broader definition of “retail” and a host of new enabling technologies.

Jill Philmon, General Manager and COO of Ballantyne Country Club in Charlotte (On the Road With, CLUB ROAD January 2012) is on the front end of a trend we see gaining momentum:  retail markets for members. “We would watch people drive by our club every day on their way to pick up wine or food and it dawned on us that we could meet this need if we have a more convenient and accessible place for it.” Ballantyne is in the midst of redesigning its clubhouse and plans to add a gourmet market where members can buy everything from wine, seafood and meats to pizzas and pre-made appetizers. The market will have a separate entrance, enabling it to dispense with dress codes and other club formalities that could otherwise hinder convenience. “We’ll provide it as a convenience to members,” says Philmon.

On the expansion of retail opportunities, says Chambers President & CEO Rick Snellinger, “The goal is to make it easy for members to choose the club when they’re making decisions about how and where to spend their time and money.” Snellinger led Ballantyne’s recent Master Planning effort and is working closely with Philmon to realize her vision for a more full-service club.

Revenue streams at private clubs

Perhaps one of the greatest enablers of expanded retail opportunity for private clubs of every type is the plethora of technologies out or in development.  We took a look at a few high potential products designed specifically for the club space:

  • Northstar Technologies, which develops club management software, is developing a new technology that will enable clubs to target their marketing communications to member preferences by monitoring their Facebook likes and preferences.  “This will help clubs with their retail businesses, programming and activities planning,” says Northstar Vice President of Marketing Donald Moro.
  • Northstar is joined by Jonas Software and other providers developing enhanced mobile capabilities that will enable clubs to do everything from schedule tee times to make dinner reservations.  According to Paul Gillard, Jonas’ Vice President of Sales & Marketing, right now “it’s all about remote ordering and faster service via wireless tablets.” The company has introduced tablet technology at more than 200 clubs to date, says Gillard.
  • Mobile point-of-sale, or POS, is also increasing in popularity at clubs (like an Apple store, where roving sales reps who can ring up your sale, process a credit card and give — or email — you a receipt from a handheld device). Club Prophet Systems is one provider of the mobile systems. CEO Rick Robshaw says the mobile devices don’t simply make the transaction simpler and faster, “They get staff out from behind the counter to interact with customers on a more personal level.”  Club Prophet has also developed an incentive-based data collection application for member prospecting and an iPad-based hostess system for reservations and table layout.

Clubs will continue to look for ways to enhance member value — it’s the backbone of our enhanced service industry.  With increasing outside competition for member dollars, they’ll also continue to expand their offerings to maintain and grow their share of their members’ discretionary spending.  Technology will enable clubs to do both with considerably greater ease.

What opportunities do you see in club retail?  Share them here.

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