CAROLINE BASARAB BIO:
Caroline Basarab, PGA, is a Georgia PGA Section Member, and Director of Retail at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia. A passionate retailer, whose philosophy is to make each day better than yesterday, Basarab has parlayed her extensive experience and track record of success into becoming a mentor and team leader at Reynolds.
Since 2015 Basarab has overseen Reynolds Lake Oconee’s retail operations, which includes six golf shops, a tennis shop, golf distribution center, and supporting numerous special events. She is the first female award-winning retailer and has twice been named PGA National Retailer of the Year.
Prior to joining Reynolds Lake Oconee, Basarab led the retail operations at The Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Besides retail and golf, Caroline is passionate about animals and has rescued and fostered numerous dogs over the years.
THE CAROLINE BASARAB STORY:
My first job was in Dallas at the Four Seasons Resort, where we hosted in what was then known as the Byron Nelson Classic. It was here that I was introduced to all facets of tournament and retail operations – member services, merchandise selection, visual displays, and teaching.
My mentor at the time was Mike Abbott, who was an exceptional instructor and also, a two-time PGA National Resort Merchandiser of the Year. Mike and the experiences there inspired and started me on the path that became my career.
You were just named — for the second time — PGA Merchandiser of the Year. Curious to know what prompted you to get into the field you’re working now?
My mentor during my first job at the Four Seasons Resort and Club, Los Colinas in Dallas was Mike Abbott, an exceptional instructor and two-time PGA National Resort Merchandiser of the Year. Mike and the experiences he gave me here inspired and started me on the path that became my retail career.
How have things changed since the time you first started to present day?
I regularly ask myself, “what do I want to accomplish next?” When I won the national award the first time, I wanted to accomplish goals and pursue things that I hadn’t previously been able to do—public speaking and writing articles. PGA Magazine has been a great outlet for me to polish my skills.
Most recently, for the 2022 award, I conducted a fireside chat with Dave Marr live in front of 400 people and also, simulcast to thousands.
When I switched positions and moved from The Sea Pines Resort to Reynolds Lake Oconee, I added a new challenge and opportunity with buying for the private segment versus a resort. This provided an opportunity and fresh start to accomplish new goals. I learned new markets and became more familiar with visual merchandising.
To learn the private sector, tastes and needs of our members, I regularly meet and speak with them to get input, plus I buy for VIP events, member/guest tournaments, and other special occasions.
How many employees work with you in your efforts and what specific characteristics are you looking for?
The retail team consists of myself, retail manager, and two retail assistants. We also have our six head golf professionals and their respective staffs to assist with the restocking, special orders, and visual merchandising.
Many facilities are now eschewing having a broad range of hard goods — such as equipment — being sold. What’s your take on this and the approach you follow?
With the influx of new, post-pandemic golfers, our golf equipment revenues increased by 40% as compared to 2020 and continue to grow. Our TaylorMade Kingdom offers golfers of any level the opportunity to get fit and buy equipment. Additionally, we’re still conducting 30 demo days each year.
Reynolds Lake Oconee has several different golf courses but not all are open to guests coming to the facility. Do you follow a different approach in merchandise presentation for those open to the public and those that are not?
Yes, there are different visual presentations for resort shops as compared to private shops.
With my resort background, I am familiar with brands that are popular with the resort guest.
At our stores, we’ve added more lifestyle merchandise including candles, wooden serving trays, blankets, totes, and beach towels, as well as at leisure items such as hoodies, t-shirts, women’s athletic wear, including tennis and fitness. Our private membership has their favorite brands and obviously, we focus on those. These lines are showcased front and center in our private shops.
At Reynolds, we want our members to feel an extension of their home so, we want to provide an environment for them to come to the course, meet their friends, play and dine. Our staff abides by the motto from “Cheers”—“Where everyone knows your name.” We want to engage them as soon as we can, so that they stay longer.
The biggest selling item for men and women is what and how much floor space do you generally provide for items tied solely to the male side of the aisle versus those connected to the female side?
For men, Peter Millar is our best-selling brand. The amount of floor space allocated depends on the facility. The Preserve hosts the women’s 9-and 18-hole leagues, so we know that women frequent this shop. Accordingly, the mix is 70/30, women to men.
At National, the space allocation is 65/35, men to women. Our other shops vary from 50/50 to 60/40, men to women.
When you are looking for niche or specialty items to compliment what you already have — what piques your interest in including them?
I attend trade shows — PGA Show, Atlanta Gift Market — to gain ideas that we take back to our shops. It’s always interesting to bring in and try — but it’s key to understand the area and the culture of our area and membership, so that new products complement the Reynolds’ lifestyle.
This might include nautical lake products, college merchandise, seasonal decorations, or home goods.
What role does customer feedback play in your efforts and how do you encourage such comments? Was there a specific past comment you received that you fully embraced?
I visit our golf shops several times a week either remerchandising them with our staff or receiving feedback assisting customers. Additionally, I’ve formed men’s and women’s advisory groups that meet twice each year to discuss brands, colors, sizing, and visuals.
I always take member input seriously, especially if I am running low on sizes in particular men’s and lady’s apparel. If a few people are asking frequently for a specific brand, I will research it to see if this something that will complement our golf shops.
When you walk into a given merchandise area what are you looking for immediately and what other aspects flow from that?
I look at the visual presentation – is it clean, neat, and organized? Are the displays eye-catching and do they attract me, as well as customers, to purchase multiple items?
Then, once I am able to survey the shop, if I see things that are different and creative then this tells me it’s a well-rounded selection. If I spend $100 and leave with two bags full, they are doing a good job.
What specific advice would you give to someone interested in doing what you’re doing?
Learn the basic four P’s: Product Mix – finding the right brands, categories, colors and sizes; People – exceeding customer expectations; Price Points – customers are willing to purchase in your market, and lastly, Placement – merchandising in the best locations for customers that complement the shops traffic flow.
These basics are the foundation for my merchandising philosophy. We continue to improve these everyday with staff involvement and customer feedback. We want our guests to come back for the great customer service and merchandise selection, which in turn, creates loyalty.