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Golf Retailer: Tiger Selling Better Than Last Year

In light of all that has happened, Nike has understandably scaled back in its Tiger Woods presence both at the retail level and online.

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But data from one retailer suggests the shoe and apparel giant might want to step it up.

The folks at Golfsmith, the largest golf specialty retailer in the US, say sales of Tiger Woods branded Nike Golf product are up eight percent over the last five months, compared to the same period of time last year.

Golfsmith said it sold 9,564 Tiger-branded products from October 1 through March 13 this year, as compared to 8,855 Tiger Nike items during the same period of time last year.

The highest category of growth were sales of Tiger hats with his familiar “TW” logo, which grew by 24 percent in this period compared to the last period. Not only that, the greatest volume of sales came in during the first three weeks of December, when details of Woods' transgressions were so newsworthy that the New York Post had him on its cover for 20 consecutive days.

"People have not abandoned Tiger as a brand," said Golfsmith CEO Marty Hanaka.

Data was collected from Golfsmith’s 74 retail stores coast to coast, its Web site and its call center.

Woods branded merchandise makes up less than 10 percent of Nike Golf’s $650 million business, so it’s not as if the events surrounding Woods has affected the bigger company. In fact, Nike stock is up more than seven percent since Woods’ accident triggered his downfall.

The absence of the sport’s biggest star hasn’t hurt Golfsmith either. Shares are up more than 67 percent year-to-date. Golfsmith admits that its Woods gear was discounted, but so too was everything else in its stores. Hanaka says the Tiger sales growth number is a real number.

"This was not a firesale," Hanaka said.

The uptick in sales of Woods’ branded products is surprising because it seemingly goes against every poll that has been released that suggest that the American public certainly wouldn’t be interested in buying much gear associated with the golfer.

Woods’ popularity hit a year low in February, according to data collected by ESPN Sports Poll. The poll reflected that 3.1 percent of sports fans considered Woods their favorite athlete as compared to his 12-month high 7.3 percent of the fan population. It’s still worth noting that Woods was still the most popular athlete, according to the poll, behind Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.

Woods, who lost his endorsement deals with Accenture, AT&T and Gatorade, is scheduled to make his 2010 competitive debut at the Masters in Augusta, Ga., next Thursday.

Nike has said that, for the Masters, Woods will wear a dark grey polo on Thursday, a "Green Blade" polo on Friday, and if he makes the cut, a "Lilac Frost" polo on Saturday and "Carmine," his usual shade of red on Sunday. Although the shirts worn by Tiger have the "TW" logo on his back, the ones that are sold at retail don't.

If Woods' nemesis, Phil Mickelson, wins the Masters, Golfsmith will fully refund anyone who purchased one of three Callaway drivers before the event started.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com