Course of Style: Report From the Fall PGA Expo

Under Armour showed new products to plenty of buyers in Las Vegas.

Attendance at the PGA Fall Expo show in Las Vegas this week was down from last year, according to the show’s organizers, mostly due to a sharp decline in the number of exhibitors. However, attendance by professional golfers was up, by about 16 percent.

There were about 200 exhibitors, down from 400 last year, which means there were 50 percent fewer golf apparel, equipment and gadget manufacturers willing to travel and spend money to exhibit their wares, a sign perhaps of the lingering recession. The PGA Fall Expo is a smaller, more apparel-oriented version of the annual PGA Merchandise Show that takes place in Orlando in January. It coincides with various “fashion week” events in Las Vegas the first week in September, including the giant MAGIC apparel and accessories show.

Held Sept. 1-2 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, the PGA show typically draws about 4,000 visitors, including exhibitors, but this year overall numbers were down about 15 percent (to about 3,400). “When exhibitors were making plans, in May or June, the economy was tough, things looked different,” said Ed Several, vice president and general manager of Reed Expo, which organizes the show. “Those exhibitors that came,” he added, “like Cutter & Buck and Greg Norman Collection, were booking orders all the way to the end. In this climate, there was a good buzz.”

Professional golfers might have been attracted by the many free seminars offered this year—e.g., “How to Dramatically Increase New Membership Sales at Your Club”—and a first-ever career fair aimed at golf pros. Companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy had regional recruiters on hand looking to hire PGA and LPGA golfers for their various retail operations.

In a down economy, professional golfers need to network, too.