Tracey Stearns, AGM, is the Director of Retail at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
After the pandemic shut down golf shop operations in March of 2020, I realized more members would be working from home and looking for apparel to suit their new situation. As part of the club’s monthly retail publication, The Thread, I launched “Congo Comfy Classics,” an offering of sweatshirts, sweatpants, activewear, socks and sneakers that cater to fitness activities and being comfortable in casual settings.
The pandemic has shifted a great deal of attention and increased sales in a category that is really seeking focus: leisurewear. With many individuals now working from home, the importance is not in wearing a woven and tie, but being comfortable in their new “work” environment.
The “Congo Comfy Classics” digital offering was emailed to members at the start of the pandemic, focusing on products like Peter Millar sweatshirts, Nike activewear and Levelwear loungewear. Levelwear, for example, has been a very popular brand for women’s leisure garments here at the club and our best-selling brand in fitness retail – so it was a perfect fit for this offering.
As the athleisure category continued to generate great sales and awareness, we decided to take it beyond this digital offering and create a casual/fitness section in the golf shop, featuring sweatshirts, T-shirts, athletic shorts and joggers. Some standout items include men’s, women’s and children’s screen-printed logoed sweatshirts from Levelwear, a custom “throwback varsity style” sweatshirt from American Needle and “lux athleisure” items from Polo Ralph Lauren, including a beautiful group of women’s velour zip-up hoodies and mock-neck pullovers with a cinched waist.
Now, more than ever, we are seeing a strong response to sales in the athleisure category, which is one we will continue to make available and grow here at Congressional Country Club. I think many of us want to create a store where members and guests can purchase unique logoed apparel that can be worn on and off the course. Offering collections outside of the typical golf clothing only enhances your shop and increases your sales. Not only can members wear many of these items for comfort and working out, but they’re also trending as fashion.
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