AMERICAN Golf, the 100-strong golfing equipment chain, has outlined plans to expand by almost a third after a record sales performance driven by two of its Scottish stores.
The firm, founded in the 1970s with a single outlet in north-west England, aims to create up to 250 jobs as it opens 30 branches over the next three years.
The expansion includes ten store openings during its financial first quarter – all south of the Border although Scotland is expected to feature beyond that.
It also plans further major investment in its e-commerce business and will launch a ladies “store within a store” concept, creating 11 dedicated centres to cater for a growing number of female players.
Kevin Styles, who joined the private equity-owned group as chief executive last June, said: “Last year was a game-changing one for the business. We delivered record sales and, more importantly, made some major improvements and investments to get the platform right for our next growth phase.”
Details of the growth plan emerged as the retailer reported a 3 per cent rise in full-year sales to a record £133 million. Since its year-end on 31 January, the firm has opened a milestone 100th store, in Gateshead.
It highlighted its Braidhills store in Edinburgh and Clydebank branch as the two best performing outlets in the chain, which employs a PGA professional golfer in every shop.
The group used the Gateshead opening to roll out a new store format which it believes will “raise the bar in terms of brand offering, range authority and expert advice”. As a result of the planned expansion, the headcount is likely to pass through the 1,000 mark.
American Golf’s new chief finance officer, Stuart Owens, said: “We occupy a position of real strength in the sector as Europe’s leading specialist multi-channel golf retailer in a global and growing sport.
“Combined with a solid financial platform and an unrivalled proposition, we see enormous potential to continue growing the business and consolidate our position as the dominant European leader in golf retail.”
Styles said the rise in sales had come against a challenging retail backdrop, while adverse weather had led to a 13 per cent decline in the number of rounds played by golfers last year.
Despite these difficulties, the company’s share of the UK retail golf market increased by 28 per cent. It claims now to be more than five times bigger than its nearest competitor.
The firm, in which Sun Capital Partners has a majority stake, said its club card membership had grown by more than 160,000 to pass the one million mark, accounting for a claimed 25 per cent of all UK golfers.
Styles added: “What didn’t change was our focus on helping customers improve their performance, by providing them with the best advice, expert fitting and the kit that’s right for their game.
“It’s all about saving our customers more shots. Performance is our proposition, and this is backed up by the expertise of our team, state-of-the-art club fitting technology, the widest product choice, great value and the best multi-channel experience in the sector.”