By  on January 26, 1994

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. -- His club only has 135 male golf members -- and 50 golfing wives -- but Sherwood Country Club head pro Paul Celano is making the most of his ladies' apparel business. In 1993, $140,000 was spent on that segment of his shop here, accounting for 20 percent of the pro's total sales.

"It's picking up fast," says Celano, who notes that the figure also accounts for 40 percent of the shop's apparel sales. "We have more ladies playing and more husband-wife members signing up." An additional 950 women guests play golf each year at the club.

Located just north of Los Angeles, Sherwood's pro shop encounters stiff competition from the omnipresent malls. "To keep an edge, we usually have goods that aren't as easy to find elsewhere," says Celano. "We've tried to shift from street and off-course wear to golf and activewear lines. Women's golf lines have gotten better -- now they're being designed to wear on and off the course." Admittedly, Celano gets some display ideas from local department stores, but takes pride that his shop resembles a high-fashion boutique.

Sherwood bestsellers include Polo, Jean Bell, Sun-Daze, IXSPA, Ashworth, Ellesse and Hanasport. And many women purchase men's caps with the Sherwood logo. "They're buying a lot of the baseball caps -- denims and two-tone wools -- to wear themselves," he says. It's something of a surprise, since aside from logoed caps, items with the Sherwood crest account for only 25 percent of the shop's women's business.

Both Celano and his assistant merchandise manager, Celia Francis, see definitive trends in 1994 golf fashion. For one, they say, people's interest in their shape and looks is reflected in this year's tighter outfits. "Fit has gotten a lot better," says Francis. "There's less elastic on pants. Everyone's going toward 18- to 19-inch shorts, leaving three to four inches above the knee."

Even though he likes where golf fashion is headed, Celano sees opportunities for apparel companies to improve. "I definitely think they have to start bringing back more color," says Celano. "The last three or four years of grays, blacks, khakis and olives have run their course. Ashworth has done some nice things, as have EP Pro, LizSport and Sun-Daze."Service with a personal touch is the key to success, according to Celano, who realizes there are some advantages to having a small membership. All members were surveyed last year for their sizes and receive phone calls from the pro shop when something new arrives with the right fit. "We try to treat everyone as if they're the most important person in the world," he says, although even his recognizable Hollywood members prefer not to be overtly pampered. New lines are also featured in the monthly member newsletter, and Celano plans on staging trunk shows and fashion shows this year.

Being insightful and asking the right questions add to the service. Celano even knows when to expect shop visitors. "Ladies tend to buy after the round," says Celano. "Men look before and then buy afterwards, even asking if we'll be open later on when they're through. Ladies buy most on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, after brunch. They also tend to come in weekdays in the mid-afternoons."

Francis says ordering is almost down to a science at Sherwood. "We're bringing in a bigger selection and not as deep a stock right now," says Francis. "We're very familiar with members' sizes and keep close track of who shops the most. With such a small membership, we can't buy as deep because nobody wants to see each other around in the same clothes."

Having all five of his pro shop employees involved in the buying process helps stimulate sales, claims Celano. "When the items come in, they're familiar with the product and why we chose it over other products. Thus, they know how to sell it," says Celano, who periodically gives each clerk a budget of roughly $5,000 for open-to-buy purchases. "It gets them fired up and allows them to learn about buying and sourcing. You really have to get the entire staff involved."

To accent the shop's ladies section, accessories are mixed in with the clothing. "They're not turning over as quickly as the clothes," says Celano. "But you have to have accessories to sell the clothes."

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