Bringing Millennials to Clubs

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, to attract Baby Boomers, clubs began relaxing dress codes and becoming more welcoming of spouses by organizing special dances to encourage husbands and wives to spend time at the club together. Now, nearly 40 years later clubs are finding themselves facing the same predicament when it comes to attracting millennials. According to City Lab, a major deterrent for Millennials is perception-driven. Millennials aren’t interested in joining clubs that carry the reputation of being stuffy and formal. This calls for clubs to innovate!

Recently, we focused on the technological innovation we learned about while in Florida for Golf Inc. Innovation Day, and this week we are taking that innovation a step further to discuss innovative ways to bring Millennials to clubs. While there is no magic bullet solution that will prevent the graying of a club, City Lab offered a few reasons that Millennials aren’t joining clubs, and we have a few suggestions to combat the problem.

Decreased Interest in Golf

According to a 2014 National Club Association report, club membership is down 20 percent since 1990. While not all of this attrition can be attributed to Millennials choosing to not join clubs, the fact of the matter is that clubs are not attracting members at the same rate that they are losing members. Yes, the case could be made for oversaturation of the market; however, we cannot discount that the old model of joining a club in order to play golf is not the driving factor it once was and it is not what is necessarily attracting Millennial members to clubs. Millennials are looking for their club to offer golf as AN amenity rather than THE amenity. Some clubs are capitalizing on the boutique fitness trend by offering more health and wellness options, while others are capitalizing on food-centric trends and upping their game in the dining room. We have also seen a rise in ‘hobby’ clubs like the Otto Club , Sporting Clubs, Hunting Clubs and also clubs embracing the WeWork movement and offering comfortable working spaces within the club.

Perception of Exclusivity

RCS has been promoting clubs focus on welcoming Millennials, minorities and moms—the three M’s. According to Pew Research, when the Silent Generation was young (ages 22 to 37), 84% were non-Hispanic white. For Millennials, the share is just 55%, meaning the millennial generation is bringing the most ethnic and racial diversity we’ve ever seen. For an industry with a reputation of exclusion, millennials are looking for clubs to embrace diversity.

Emerging club trends tell us that 83% of new moms are millennials and women are now the leading or sole breadwinners in 40% of households, compared to 11% in 1960. Further, 23% of women make more money than their husbands. The #inviteHER movement sparked by the LPGA is a prime example of a way that the clubs of tomorrow are looking to smash perceptions of exclusivity. While Millennials are not interested in being a part of an organization that is not welcoming, they are interested in creating a sense of community. In the age of Facebook and declining church attendance, clubs offer a place to socialize and make friends and face to face connections.

Some clubs are even going as far as tapping into the “mommy tribe” movement and offering quality, affordable childcare that rivals traditional daycare options as a means to attract members to their club.

Remember, if you #inviteHER, you must also #welcomeHER by providing training to staff about what matters to that market segment. Here’s a hint: aesthetics matter and a staff that is helpful and welcoming to a new golfer matter. Just take a look at Women On Course who believes that golf is more than a game. It’s a lifestyle that empowers women to succeed at work and enrich their social lives. They offer a membership of their own providing networking, social events, and other lifestyle activities meant to bring successful women together around the game of golf and the golfing lifestyle.

Financial Burden

According to a 2017 CNBC article, more than 70 percent of college graduates leave college with student debt; with 60 percent of these borrowers planning to pay off these loans sometime in their 40’s. This statistic alone goes to show that most Millennials are not in a solid position financially to be investing thousands of dollars into club fees and dues—so even if they wanted to join a club, it is not a sound financial decision.

Some clubs are rethinking initiation fees, offering trial memberships, or a reduced monthly rate to young professionals under 40. Many clubs are looking to drive Millennials into their facilities by offering reduced fees and dues as a means to get the potential members in the door, and then are banking on the fact that once they are in the door, they will find a way to justify the cost. In fact, RCSU subscriber club Pinnacle Peak Country Club in Scottsdale, AZ offers potential members the option of a one-year trial before committing to the initiation fee as a way to draw in a younger crowd.

Innovation is what keeps the world moving forward, and as clubs examine their strategic plans and membership numbers, RCS is here to help position clubs in the market to ensure viability and sustainability .

Whitney Reid Pennell, president of the RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services) is a celebrated management consultant, educator and speaker. RCS, the creators of the Food and Beverage Boot Camp™, specialize in operations consulting, strategic planning, food and beverage management, and training programs.

For more information, phone (623) 322-0773; or visit the RCS website at www.consultingrcs.com.

#inviteHER #welcomeHER #membersservice #RCSU #industrygrowth #golfindustry #privateclubs #privateclubservice #Millennial

Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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