Golf: Things will get better ‘quicker’

THERE is light at the end of the tunnel. More so with some golf clubs reopening this week.

That’s the view of Transview Golf (Malaysia) country manager Frankie Choo, who, among other things, told TeeUp in an email Q&A that he foresaw the golf industry rebounding from the Coid-19 pandemic a lot faster than some of the other sectors.Following are excerpts from the interview:

Q: From an overview standpoint, how do you see the state of golf in Malaysia?A: I believe most golf courses will survive post MCO (movement control oredr) as their business patrons are mainly local residents. Golf tourism is still in a nascent stage in Malaysia as compared to Thailand, for example. As for golf retailing, the chain store operators suffer more during the MCO because of the higher operating costs as compared to a standalone golf retailer. Nonetheless, I believe most retailers will survive. Overall, I am optimistic about the state of golf in Malaysia – golf will be one of the first sectors to revive. People will still play golf and we do not see the game coming to a halt. Yes people will be cautious, however golf is outdoors and a non-contact sport.

Q: And, in particular, what shape is Transview Malaysia (and Singapore) in right now?A: The MCO and Circuit Breaker measures in Malaysia and Singapore have affected the cash flow. In 2019 the group was on target and 2020 started off promisingly, before the Covid-19 pandemic hit us. There is no revenue coming in but we still have to keep our operations going by paying the staff and overheads. Fortunately for us, we have always managed our finances prudently and diligently, and that has kept us on a solid footing to tackle the ongoing challenges head-on. We also see this crisis as an opportunity to expand our product portfolio and market share in Malaysia and South-East Asia as a whole.

Q: Are you thinking of maybe expanding your online portfolio, in view of these developments?A: Online shopping is the way forward and we have embraced it. Prior to Covid-19, we expanded our online presence and will continue to capitalise on the digital platforms in line with the demands and behaviour of the consumer market.

The range of goods we carry, from equipment to consumables and apparels, is ideal for various sales channels and we have no limits on the possibilities and potential through our traditional specialty stores, our Golf Partner outlets, pro shops, online presence and events.

Q: With regards the stimulus packages unveiled by the Malaysian Government, what sort of impact do you think they might have on the golf industry, and in particular the golf retail sector?A: The recent measures taken by the Malaysian Government to address the financial impact of the COVID 19, were targeted and specific, to ensure the well-being of the people and the Malaysian economy. Tourism and its related activities, supply chain disruptions for manufactures, affected individuals and general easing of cash flows for businesses, were addressed accordingly with specific measures to ensure continuity and good health of the Malaysian economy. We are confident that the spending habits of the golfers should be only temporarily affected by the pandemic.

The golf industry is a particular target market and with limited big and sizeable components, it should augur well for players like us. The overall recovery and timing will also be dependent to a certain extent on the confidence of all people in the overall economic recovery.

Q: Golf club operations have resumed this week to some extent in Malaysia, but with restrictions, what sort of early impact has this had on your business overall, if any?A: Our strong relationship with the golf courses had ensured that we were prepared for this opening. Staff and customer health/safety is our main priority right now and we’ve initiated all necessary SOPs set down by the government and practice them in our outlets to ensure it is safe to shop.

The response has been encouraging with the opening of some golf courses early this week Given that we are in the Puasa season, customer enquiries and sales has been slowly generating momentum. We do believe that the opening of the golf courses will certainly have a positive early impact and we are confident that the numbers should be more positively reflective after the Raya period.

Q: The golf industry endured some tough times with the Asian Crisis of 1997 and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, how does this situation compare, if at all it does?A: I believe there is no comparison between the past crises and Covid-19. This is a health crisis, that basically crippled the entire aviation and tourism industry. And generally businesses might not recover fully until between 12 to 18 months. Restoration of public confidence and the recoupment of loss revenues over a period of time has to be expected and managed accordingly, cash being the major factor for corporations to ride through this period and recover soonest. At the same time, consumer spending has been active digitally during the MCO. Corporations have also responded, with discounts and waiver of certain charges.

The business communities are all facing the same issues and in some cases are helping each other to create more breathing space, and bounce back together.

Coming back to sport, we believe golfers will continue to play the game as long as they are allowed to but for some, I doubt their spending level on golf products will be the same as pre-Covid-19. The profile of golf participants has changed over the years and the sport is no longer just for the affluent and wealthy. The saying that golf business is recession-proof has its merits to some extent.

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