Reasons to be cheerful in 2022

With a back drop of a crazy two years that no one could have predicted, it might seem pointless trying to predict the next 12 months. However, we can’t let that stop us and here are my thoughts.

The numbers don’t lie

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the golf market and, yet, it hasn’t been all bad. Just before things kicked off in February 2020, standing at the front of a room of 200 golf professionals, I made some bold statements: “…the golf market is very resilient. Whatever happens, it rarely changes from the long term average of more than + or -10%”.

By the end of the first lockdown in May, when retail sales had shrunk by 54% in value, I’ll admit I was worried. But since then, the stats have shown themselves to be very solid.

At the end of 2020, the specialist golf retail market was only down by -10.7% in value. One year on, things are holding firm. The latest results from the Golf Datatech UK retail audit show that 2021 was up in value +23% vs. 2020. When we compare 2021 to 2019, (the last ‘normal’ year), last year was still up over +10%. Golf truly is resilient.

Depending on the sales mix, there could be some examples of real differences. However, if we are looking at the market overall, things are pretty healthy and consistent and there’s no reason to think things won’t carry on this way.

Vaccination success

There’s no doubt that the UK’s vaccination program has been a huge success. While Omicron caused a huge surge of infections last Christmas, the impact on the NHS and economy was far less severe than last year’s wave. People were still contracting the virus but the associated health effects have been greatly reduced. Both hospital emissions and deaths were proportionately much lower. Whether or not this perceived weakening is as a result of a mutation of the virus, it all bodes well for the future and hopefully there will be much less disruption to our health, as well as the economy, moving forward.

This should make planning and managing a business easier.

The economy is bouncing back and employment is high

Gross domestic product – GDP – grew by 0.9% in November. This put GDP above its pre-pandemic (February 2020) levels for the first time. It would appear that the ship has been steadied and the UK economy is growing.

In line with the return to growth in the economy, unemployment is now only 0.2% higher than pre-pandemic levels. What’s more, a further reduction in restrictions will open up the economy even more and we should get back to pre-pandemic levels, or better, in the next few months.

Hybrid working is here to stay

The pandemic forced people to work from home, changing the way they work and the technology they use. Now this has been implemented, many organisations are allowing their staff to maintain some form of hybrid working – part office, part home worker.

Some research suggests this will lead to a five-fold increase in home working days when compared to pre-pandemic levels. For many, this will mean a better work life balance and hopefully more time available for leisure activities. That’s good news for golf and a sign that many of the new, or returning, golfers will be able to carry on spending time on the course.

Phil Barnard is founder of XPOS and Partner of Golf Datatech.  A regular speaker and commentator on golf retail, Phil’s data-powered insights continue to help improve the way brands, manufacturers and retailers approach their product and inventory strategies.

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