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When snow hits the course, Rock Bottom Golf takes its online show on the road

Cold weather and snowy golf courses aren’t usually good tidings for golf equipment retailers selling into northern climates, but to Rock Bottom Golf, they mark the beginning of a busy winter season in places like Cleveland, Detroit and Minneapolis.

All it takes is a couple of tractor trailers, a team of employees ready to hit the road, and a ready audience at dozens of trade shows.

Rock Bottom drives two tractor trailers filled with displays and products to consumer golf shows for 12 or more consecutive weekends—attending consumer golf shows in 25 to 30 cities from January through March, and producing about $1 million of total sales that were on course to hit $23 million in 2006, says co-founder Todd Rath, who is chief operating and marketing officer.

At each show, Rock Bottom sets up a booth where it collects e-mail addresses, sells products and meets face-to-face with many of its regular online customers. “Our booth looks like our web site,” Rath says. “We collect a couple of thousand e-mails at every show.”

In addition to serving as a marketing and customer outreach tool, the show circuit also helps Rock Bottom to turn inventory. The retailer tries to turn its inventory five or six times each year, and the winter show circuit usually accounts for at least one of those turns, helping Rock Bottom to clear the racks in time to introduce new merchandise for the busy spring season, Rath says.

Rock Bottom sends out two crews in two tractor trailers to attend two shows each weekend. One of its display booths is 1,600 square feet, the other half that size.

The booths are set up to display and sell merchandise ranging from golf clubs to apparel, and many shows have driving ranges where they can test out Rock Bottom’s equipment.

The retailer owns one truck with a 40-foot trailer and leases the second one. In the early days, Rath would help drive the trucks but now assigns dedicated drivers among the teams of employees that attend the shows.

“Our employees like meeting the customers,” Rath says, adding that workers get paid extra through a separate company Rock Bottom set up to manage its show attendance.