The 60th edition of the PGA Merchandise Show came to a close Saturday and interestingly enough, it might well have closed that day for the final time.
Organizers have announced a new Tuesday - Friday format starting next year, after feedback from both exhibitors and attendees indicated the date change would better serve the industry. A trial run of sorts will be implemented in 2014 before likely being adopted going forward. I'll spare you the details but this move makes a lot of sense.
After last week I would also suggest the industry appears to have re-embraced the show model. Reed Expo numbers revealed 1,000 companies, around 43,000 attendees and over 75 countries were represented at the Orange County Convention Center, although numbers don't reflect buzz. The volume felt like it was cranked up a notch on the show floor's 10 miles of aisles last week. Foot traffic was strong all three days (and at Demo Day Wednesday) and many of the companies I spoke with sounded upbeat about being present. That's good for business.
Highlights of this year's show? Clearly a number of brands made strong statements, including Callaway Golf which appears to have turned a corner. CEO Chip Brewer and his team are moving beyond lifestyle pursuits and positioning Callaway as a pure, authentic golf brand once again. Sound strategy in my opinion.
Titleist unveiled the next generation of Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls with some help from tour staff members Lee Westwood and Zach Johnson. The new products began shipping Friday, January 25th.
TaylorMade-adidas Golf's enormous east end booth had huge traction including a more vibrant presence inside for both its Adams Golf and Ashworth brands.
Cobra Golf had a huge week in Orlando in support of its new AMP Cell line, footwear and apparel divisions. PING too had an outstanding showing of its recently unveiled G25 line, Scottsdale putters and also announced the signing of short game guru Stan Utley. Wilson Golf got plenty of notice for its new D-100 line and Staff Duo golf ball. Tour Edge's latest products also get top marks. Designer/CEO David Glod and his Tour Edge team continue to impress with its new Exotics (especially the new fully adjustable XCG6 driver) and Bazooka lines.
And the Swoosh? It might well have trumped everyone in Orlando. Nike Golf received a world of attention based on the new Covert product line and next generation 20XI golf ball. Nike CEO Cindy Davis indicated to me in an interview an even bigger, global presence for the brand going forward with the recent signings of World No. 1 Rory McIlroy along with Nick Watney, Kyle Stanley, Seung-Yul Noh and Thorbjorn Olesen. By the way with Tiger Woods' victory at the Farmers Insurance Open Monday, Nike staffers have now posted three worldwide victories so far in 2013.
On the soft goods side of the ledger, adidas, Peter Millar, AUR, Ian Poulter Design, Nike and Travis Mathew were hugely prominent. John Ashworth's Linksoul had a big-time presence as did Toronto's Levelwear and Second Skin. Although I missed him at the Show it was also nice to see Ralph Dunning back in a big way with Dunning Golf (now part of Greg Norman). Two newer brands to pay attention to this year are Tom Morris apparel and Mobile Warming Gear.
Some trends to watch for during 2013:
Drivers, Drivers, Drivers: All categories are well represented but 2013 is a driver year. Every major (and a few second tier) OEM's are hitting the market with new, and for the most part, fully adjustable big sticks.
Minimalist Footwear: Kind of its own sub category the minimalist footwear movement is getting a big push from products like FootJoy's M-Project, adidas adizero, ECCO Biom Zero, Vibram Five Fingers, Nike Golf, Kikkor, and True Linkswear.
Return of traditional Leather/Knit Headcovers: The classic, timeless look of leather and knit (with pom-pom) headcovers was certainly on display in Orlando.
Teaching Aids/Personal Launch Monitors: I noticed plenty of products available to help you maintain connection throughout the swing including the return of Canadian company Swing Jacket. Others to watch for include Swing Shirt, Tour Striker, Orange Whip, Swing Barrel, and Sean Foley's one and only teaching aid endorsed product PSP Golf's The Little One. Among the better Personal Launch Monitors was SwingSmart, Swing Byte and the ES-12.
Yellow/Grey/Red: All three colours will be prominent in 2013.
And finally, my personal Top 30 products from last week's PGA Merchandise Show (in no particular order):
-Sunice Albany Jacket
-Mizuno MP-69 irons
-Callaway X-Hot Driver
-TaylorMade R1 driver
-Boccieri Secret Grip
-Nike Covert Driver
-Scotty Cameron GoLo 2013
-Odyssey Versa Putters
-Faldo by Edel
-PING G25 irons
-Bushnell Tour v3
-Pure Grip DTX
-Wilson Staff Duo golf ball
-Titleist Pro V1/Pro V1x
-Tom Morris Apparel
-Mobile Warming Gear
-Cobra Amp Cell
-PING Scottsdale putters
-Tour Edge XCG6 Driver/Hybrid
-ECCO Tour Hybrid
-Cleveland 588 RTX wedges
-SkyCaddie Breeze Rangefinder