Hilton Head Island golf shop’s secret ingredient might not be golf

About five years ago, Madeline Duncan went to AmericasMart, an enormous gift trade show in Atlanta and changed the rules for shopping at the Heritage Group golf pro shops on Hilton Head Island.

“The first year, I had blinders on,” said Duncan, director of merchandising for the four Heritage Group pro shops, one each at Palmetto Hall, Oyster Reef, Shipyard and Port Royal. “Everything I looked at had something to do with golf.”

On her next trip, she branched out and hasn’t looked back since. Now, the golf pro shops carry jewelry, housewares, everyday apparel and gifts, as well as traditional golf merchandise.

Hilton Head golf shops find success beyond golf-themed items.

“When people walk into our store–especially women–they say, ‘Wow! This is different. I wish my home club would do something like this.’ The merchandise makes us look different,” Duncan said.

For example, you might walk into Port Royal or Oyster Reef and see a table-setting display, an umbrella stand made of seashells, or shoes for shopping with nary a golf motif in sight.

The expanded wares “sent revenues through the roof,” Duncan said. Whereas many golf pro shops count on women to ring up a third of their sales, Duncan said women account for 45 percent to half of the sales at Heritage Group shops. That’s a pretty impressive scorecard.

What about golf apparel?
The bread and butter for Hilton Head Island golf pro shops remain golf attire. Here’s what’s hot.

For Men
Footjoy shirts are brisk sellers because of their fabric and fashion, said Bonnie Ridgely, merchandise manager for Old South Golf Links. Her husband is a golf pro and he had her order him a dozen. “They feel so good and don’t bind when you swing and they launder well,” she said. Under Armour also is huge. “It just flies out the door.” Although their clientele tends to be older, Duncan said she’s going to add PUMA–made insanely popular by Ricky Fowler–to see how it sells along their more traditional Polo line. Regardless of the brand, vivid colors are big sellers, Duncan said.

For Women
EP Pro is great for the links or lunch, Ridgely said. Another very popular line is Sport Haley for its “bling” and attention to detail, Duncan said, from appliques on the sleeves to dressed-up zipper pulls. Other popular brands are Annika Sorenstam’s line for Cutter & Buck and Greg Norman. Ridgely also expects big results when Under Armour adds its women’s line.

Ashworth Cardiff, a subsidiary of Adidas, was the first to introduce the sneaker look that Fred Couples made so popular. Footjoy has jumped on that band wagon, too, Ridgely said.

Golf shops on Hilton Head Island aren’t just for running in to grab a forgotten golf glove. Places like Harbour Town Golf Links, Palmetto Dunes, Old South, Palmetto Hall, Port Royal, Shipyard and Oyster Reef pro shops are shopping destinations themselves. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon after golf on Hilton Head Island.