Golfballs.com, Louisiana’s First E-business, Celebrates 15 Years

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Golfballs.com, Louisiana’s first online retailer is celebrating 15 years online. Tom Cox, CEO of Golfballs.com discusses the challenges and successes that Golfballs.com has had over the years and why Golfballs.com has become the business that it is today.

Golfballs.com

Golfballs.com Celebrates 15 Years

It all started with wedding receptions and water-logged golf balls, and an idea to somehow tie the two together.

Now, Golfballs.com has grown exponentially in scope and has been honored by some of the world’s top Internet publications and organizations. The company has become an industry leader in golf equipment sales, and has maintained its position as one of the most recognizable names in the e-business world.

The company also remains Louisiana’s first and oldest Internet retailer, and in February this year became the world’s first golf e-business to hit the 15-year mark.

But to Tom Cox, President and CEO of Golfballs.com since the company’s beginning foray into the online world, it’s not about technology, websites or the Internet’s limitless possibilities. Ever since Golfballs.com went live in February of 1996, it has been about making the customer happy.

“We have always been about customer service above all else,” Cox said. “That’s been one of the foundations of the company… uncompromising customer service. When you do that well, it manifests itself in all of the high ratings and good reviews and customer loyalty.”

The ratings and numbers bear that out. Inc. Magazine named Golfballs.com one of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies in 2007, 2008 & 2009. The company was named by Internet Retailer magazine to its “Best of the Web” list in 2007 and “Hot 100” websites in both 2008 and 2010. The company has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine and has had its products featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Golfballs.com has an “A+” rating with the Better Business Bureau and a 4.5-out-of-five-star rating for customer satisfaction from Amazon.com. Amazon, one of the world’s leaders in e-business, approached Golfballs.com for counsel and advice when the U.S.’s largest online retailer launched its sporting goods line. In fact, Golfballs.com joined Amazon coming online in 1996 and was on the forefront in the “e-tailer” industry.

Not bad for a company that started out selling used golf balls … ones that golfers had knocked into water hazards and abandoned. And for a company that, as Cox readily admits, went about things exactly backwards from the industry standard.

“Most companies start off with a retail store,” Cox said, “and then go into online sales. We did just the opposite.”

Golfballs.com does have a retail outlet, located at 126 Arnould Blvd. just off Johnston Street in Lafayette, La., and its 6,000 square feet of retail space that opened in 2004 is now packed with the latest in golf equipment and apparel along with hitting stations, a launch monitor to match equipment to golfers, and a staff of golf experts.

But behind that retail area is a warehouse that contains over $2 million in golf equipment inventory that feeds the online business. More than 90 percent of the company’s approximately $11.5 million in annual sales is web originated and transacted online, and that remains the major focus of Golfballs.com – and remains what Cox envisioned when he and former partner Rob Greer teamed in 1995 to develop a web site.

At the time, Cox was the club manager at Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club in Broussard, a suburb of Lafayette. He served in that post for 11 years before two seemingly unrelated business transactions merged into one idea.

“I was interviewing web developers to build something to promote memberships and our wedding reception business,” Cox said. “That same week, I had a meeting scheduled with a golf ball diving company that made a proposal to pull the balls from the ponds on the course. I had this idea to marry the two businesses together, and that got it started.”

At first, the website sold used balls that had been fished out of those ponds, but as more and more people began doing their shopping online – a concept foreign to virtually all consumers only two decades ago – the offerings on the site broadened. Used balls were last sold on the site in 2002.

Since then, Golfballs.com has evolved into a full-line online golf shop, carrying the industry’s top brands such as Titleist, Callaway, FootJoy, Nike, TaylorMade and Bridgestone along with many more. Many of these companies recognize Golfballs.com as a top national account.

And it is no longer about just balls. In the last decade, the site has become a full-service golf retail business, providing golfers with a wide selection of clubs, shoes, apparel and other items. The site has approximately 7,000 visitors on the average day, and the company employs up to 50 people depending on the season.

In its first year of operations in 1996, Golfballs.com reached $17,000 in annual revenues. The company proceeded to eclipse the $1 million mark in 1999, and in 2010 the company topped $11.5 million in annual sales. When the “dot-com” business crashed in 2001, Golfballs.com was among the small percentage that survived and flourished.

“Making it through that crash was tough,” Cox said, “and we’re in the midst of another difficult economic period right now. But we’ve still been able to grow, and I believe it’s because we had a vision for the business and we’ve been able to communicate that vision throughout the company.”

Part of that vision has included branching off into other related ventures. In 2000, Golfballs.com was one of the first online golf retailers to open up a full production department, customizing golf products for customers, and is now an industry leader in personalized and custom logo golf items. Using top-of-the-line equipment and technology, Golfballs.com can print nearly anything on a golf ball, including words of text, company logos, golf ball alignment aids and even customer-submitted photos.

In addition, a full embroidery department can embroider high quality messages and company logos onto everything from golf bags and caps to golf towels and shirts – all while maintaining a quick turnaround.

Golfballs.com has worked with over half of the Fortune 100 companies for custom logo items, and during the peak of the Christmas holiday period the company staff has around-the-clock shifts to process and ship approximately 1,500 daily orders for consumer and gifting business. Within the past two years, the company has added to that service in launching LoyaltyLogo.com, a partner with a full promotional products line.

“Our continued success is a direct result of listening attentively to our customers,” said Cox.

Whether it means introducing fun variations of imprinted golf balls or expanding the selection of collegiate logo golf gear, you can count on Golfballs.com to focus on customer-driven innovation.

ABOUT GOLFBALLS.COM
From humble beginnings in a 100-square-foot room in a small-town warehouse, to its current state-of-the-art 20,000-square-foot facility, Golfballs.com has grown to become one of the world’s leaders in on-line golf ball and equipment sales. Co-Founder Tom Cox has served as president and CEO since its 1995 start-up, growing the business from $17,000 in first-year sales to a 50-employee company that has over $11.5 million in annual sales, and which has sold over 50 million golf balls direct to consumers in all 50 states and over 50 countries. Golfballs.com has an in-house production department and is an authorized internet retailer for key brands including Titleist, Callaway and Nike and has been an approved Titleist imprinter since 2003, creating a company-wide focus on the sale of customized and personalized golf equipment. The company opened its retail outlet store in 2004 and recently launched loyaltylogo.com, a full-service promotional product distributor catering to businesses.

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Dan McDonald