Canadian Retailer ‘Modern Golf’ Sees Explosive Growth During Pandemic with Plans for More Stores

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Overall, the retail industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, however certain segments of it have thrived.

One of those segments is golf. With more people encouraged to spend time outdoors, golf experienced a boom in 2020 and is poised to grow even more in 2021 as the pandemic continues.

Retailer, Modern Golf, has reaped those benefits this year.

The company has four locations currently with three more under construction geared to open in early January 2021.

Paul Fisher, Managing Partner of Modern Golf, said golf traditionally has been a difficult retail business as pro shops have the advantage of not having to pay rent and operating costs are relatively low.

“They’ve been able to exist because of that. Off course retailers, the Golf Towns of the world, the little ma and pa operations, it’s been a really, really tough run for those businesses over the last 10 years,” said Fisher.

“But COVID changed everything for everyone in golf retail. From Modern Golf’s perspective, we’re running 150 to 200 percent revenue growth month over month. I think everyone in the industry is experiencing growth that they never would have imagined. Obviously there’s a huge, huge amount of new golfers coming in because of COVID but also a huge influx of golfers that left the game.

“We’ve seen a tremendous influx of golfers that really haven’t played much in the last seven or eight years and they’re all coming back into the game and they’re all spending a tremendous amount of money. So whether this is a cyclical boom or not, for the golf industry this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all the people in it who have kind of grinded away over the last 10-15 years where it’s been tough.”

Both Calgary Modern Golf Locations Opened During COVID-19 Pandemic

The company’s four current locations are two in Calgary, one in Vancouver, and one in Mississauga. In 2020, the company opened its two Calgary locations.

The three new locations will be in Vaughan in a commercial pad near the Vaughan Mills shopping centre; in Oakville at Dundas and Trafalgar; and one in Heartland in the outlet area of Mississauga. The Heartland store will be a new store format for Modern Golf as an outlet store.

Fisher said COVID has forced people outside and golf was one of the safest activities people could partake in from a social distancing standpoint.

“I think the mental health benefits of golf are incredible. It’s a peaceful sport. For the people who have come back to the game they’re realizing wow it really is nice to be outside, go for a walk and be with my friends and be able to feel safe while all this COVID stuff is going on,” said Fisher.

“I think work from home has really changed things and it will probably be what changes things the most in the industry going forward . . . If work from home is real and there’s a restructuring in work/life balance and maybe people are not in the office as much, golf is going to continue to surge if people have the flexibility to be able to work around their own schedules and that means they can sneak off to the course and play.

“That’s going to have a huge impact on the industry and the sport probably the largest. I think people are going to go back to the office at some point but it’s going to be different. But some businesses have realized that not everyone needs to be there chained to their desk. Whatever that means going forward, we’re going to see golf at minimum 30 to 40 per cent bigger than 2019. The industry is re-setting. Rounds played, retail sales figures, if you take your 2019 numbers and multiply it by 1.3 or 1.4 that’s probably the new size of the golf industry.”

Six More Modern Golf Locations Are Planned for 2021

Fisher said the company has plans for an additional three locations in the fall of 2021 beyond the three that will open in January.

“We’re choosing between what markets we like,” he said. “Our model works. It’s very successful with the combination of the fact we’re selling equipment during our core season, we’ve got an incredible staff of PGA professionals that not only can fit golf equipment in the summer but they can also teach lessons and run our practice memberships in the winter. So there’s no market that we’re scared of.”

Locations are about 5,000 to 6,000 square feet.

“I think the perfect size business in Canada is probably about 20 locations maximum. So we’ll grow up to about that size. And from there I would say we would then start to look at international opportunities with the US in that. Probably Europe would be our next frontier.”

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