Building Bigger Bolder Bowling Clubs
Significant reasons bowling clubs can grow include the understanding of what their community wants and taking feedback seriously, tweaking their club model to suit the changing world around them. This played a huge role in the decision for Modbury Bowling Club to grow bigger and bolder with their pro shop.
Taking his bowling club to another level with a pro shop had been on the mind of General Manager Jose Gil for several years. Starting up a Pro Shop within the Modbury Bowling Club this year has provided another income stream as well as offer the broader community of bowlers in the northern suburbs a local place to buy bowls gear, so there’s a win/win situation for all.
In Jose’s own words “I’ve always wanted to do it while I’ve been president. I’ve been president for six years and now General Manager. One thing that’s a problem for bowls is if you have to go down to Cross Road which is on the other side of the city. When you live on this side, that’s an hour’s drive.”
“It’s been trial and error; it hasn’t been easy. For anyone thinking about doing this, it’s not an easy task. You need to be a very good negotiator. I had to negotiate with Taylors, Henselite, Hunter Bowls and Aero. They all deal differently. You’ve got to complete credit applications; the biggest thing is having money to get the stock here. There’s a bit of an investment”
“From the time of inception, it took possibly about six weeks to get to a point where I’m now happy to start promoting it and start talking to people. Getting credit applications done, getting stock in, paying for the stock, most suppliers want you to pay up front before they supply you with the stock. They won’t do it on consignment, they have some strict guidelines on how they want you to sell it, and not to be undercutting it. They want you to be selling it at recommended retail prices and not giving people mates rates, because that devalues the product. And in their eyes why would they do it. The principle behind this is to add another profit centre for the club, so this club is quite fortunate now to have the bar as a profit centre, our kitchen which is a very good profit centre and now we have a pro shop which is becoming a very good profit centre, so we have three areas providing a profit.”
“The pro shop has been received magnificently,” said Jose. He continued to explain “we’ve had people from Lockleys buy gear, we’ve just sold a set of bowls to a guy from Hamley Bridge. I’m getting a lot of enquiries from people just finding out what we’ve got. Members love it and when we have people visiting, they all look through the window and say oh wow what’s that.“
You might be surprised to hear Jose talk about their biggest sellers. “Shoes and bags have been the best product lines. I’ve sold about six sets of bowls which has been surprising. Not that I didn’t think I would sell them, but that’s a big-ticket item that’s certainly harder to sell. Sometimes you must wait six weeks for a custom bowl. There’s nothing stopping you from going online and doing it yourself, but I think people like the personal touch, talk to someone, find out what the right size is, helping them through the journey. It’s something I love to do; they can see that passion comes from me.”
“Establishing the trade accounts has been my biggest learning” said Jose “because I’ve never done that before for a retail store. There has been a lot of challenges but the biggest is probably time. It takes a lot of time, if you don’t have the door open it won’t happen. “
Jose was happy to talk about customers and explained “At the moment it’s Modbury members who are the biggest customers, because they’re here all the time. They come in all the time to talk about gear. We’ve got bowling arms here which were provided by a grant, so we can let members borrow one to try out before they buy one. Social members come in and hover around and see what they might like. Once the season starts and we have members from other clubs here it will be interesting to see how we handle that. Probably the biggest challenge will be, while I’m bowling, who I will have here manning the shop. This could be quite successful.”
Bowls SA would like to thank Jose Gil, General Manager, for his openness to talk to us all about how Modbury Bowling Club is going about building their club bigger and bolder. These tips and this insight can be helpful to other clubs who want more understanding to continue to tweak their model and achieve growth for their own community.