In many ways, Jill Spiegel seemed destined to spend her working life in Metro Detroit after she graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in advertising, pursuing a career somehow connected to the car business.
After all, she had grown up in Orchard Lake Village, a suburb some 25 miles northwest of the Motor City. Her father T.J. Young ran North American Paint for the Ford Motor Co., and her two brothers also held jobs in the automobile industry. Surely Spiegel could apply what she had learned in college to a position with, say, one of the many advertising agencies in Detroit touting the vehicles Ford, Chrysler and General Motors made. Or maybe even procure a job with one of the automakers themselves.
But Spiegel had other ideas, and within a week of graduation, she moved to Atlanta, where one of her three sisters lived. In 1985, Spiegel joined what was then known as Federated Department Stores – and what was later renamed Macy’s Inc. – as a trainee. Thus began a career in retail. She stayed at that company for 24 years, serving along the way as divisional merchandise manager and vice president of planning. Then Spiegel moved to the Belk department store chain, where she held the position of divisional merchandise coordinator.
In 2011, Spiegel joined PGA Tour Superstore as vice president of merchandising, soft goods. At the time of her hire the retailer had just opened its 11th store. Today, it operates 60 outlets in 23 states and expects to add several more to its portfolio by the end of 2023.
Company finances have been rising, as well, and last August, PGA Tour Superstore chief executive officer Dick Sullivan told Global Golf Post that sales had climbed some 500 percent over the past 12 years.
That’s impressive growth, and Spiegel has played an important role in making PGA Tour Superstore the leading retailer in golf. So no one was terribly surprised when company owner and chairman Arthur Blank, better known as a co-founder of Home Depot and the owner of the Atlanta Falcons, elevated Spiegel last fall from chief merchandising officer to president as he also promoted Sullivan to executive chairman while having him continue as CEO.
With that ascension, Spiegel assumed responsibility for all merchandising and planning, marketing and operations functions across the Atlanta-based organization.
At the same time, the avid golfer and one-time marathoner became one of the most important female executives in the golf industry.
“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity,” said Spiegel, who is married and the mother of two sons, both of whom are University of Georgia Bulldogs. “Dick will now be looking mostly at growth strategies, while I focus on our day-to-day operations.”
“With Jill’s decades of experience in retail and the dynamic leadership she has demonstrated during a time of very rapid growth in our business, she is very prepared to take on this new leadership responsibility.” – Dick Sullivan
Sullivan appears to be just as pleased with the new arrangement.
“With Jill’s decades of experience in retail and the dynamic leadership she has demonstrated during a time of very rapid growth in our business, she is very prepared to take on this new leadership responsibility.” he said when her promotion was announced. “Jill has earned deep respect and built highly beneficial relationships across the golf industry that has helped drive our outstanding results.”
Growing up, Spiegel was not drawn much to golf, even though it was a sport both her parents played at the Pine Lake Country Club, which is located in her hometown and was founded in 1902 as the Automobile Club of Detroit by a trio of iconic carmakers in John Dodge, Ransom Olds and Henry Ford.
“I was a big swimmer,” Spiegel said. “I learned to swim at Pine Lake and spent a lot of my childhood looking down at the black line of a pool. I even swam at Michigan State for a year. My mom Barbara, who was a homemaker with five kids and also a big gardener, tried to get me to play golf as a teenager, and I liked it, but I liked swimming more. And running, too. I became a big runner and completed eight marathons before deciding that my body could not take it anymore.”
Spiegel gave up golf when she and her husband started a family.
“But I picked it up again when I came to work at PGA Tour Superstore,” she said. “Then in 2016, I became a senior vice president and began handling hard goods as well as soft goods. Once that happened, I started playing even more. It was a great way to develop relationships with people in the industry. It also became something I enjoyed doing with my husband. And no matter who I was playing with, I liked looking at what equipment people were playing and what they were saying about it.”
Getting back into the sport also reminded her of the things she liked most about it. Such as a handicap system that made it easy and enjoyable for people of varying abilities to tee it up. “I also liked being outside and getting exercise,” she added. “And with golf, you can be social and competitive at the same time.”
“I also enjoyed the analytical part of retail, the merchandising and planning, as well as the creative aspects. It was a good blend, and I developed a real passion for the business.”– Jill Spiegel
The insights she picked up from those rounds of golf certainly helped Spiegel in her work at PGA Tour Superstore. But even more important was the experience she picked up from her previous jobs at Macy’s and Belk.
“I decided to give retail a try when I first moved to Atlanta and took that trainee position at Federated, and I found that I really liked it,” Spiegel said. “It’s hard work, especially working in the stores. But I loved interacting with fellow associates and customers. I also enjoyed the analytical part of retail, the merchandising and planning, as well as the creative aspects. It was a good blend, and I developed a real passion for the business.”
Spiegel knew a bit about PGA Tour Superstore when a headhunter approached her about a job opening there.
“I had a boss at Belk who was a golf fanatic, and every year, I gave him a gift certificate to PGA Tour Superstore,” she said. “I was in Naples (Florida) when the headhunter called and went to check out the PGA Tour Superstore there.
“I was impressed by what I saw, and by Arthur and Dick when I met them. I also thought the position was a great way to merge my passions for sports and for retail. With only 11 stores at the time, the company was pretty small compared to Macy’s, which has as many as 900 around the country, and Belk, which has more than 300, and it felt a bit like a start-up as a result. But I was very glad to be there.”
PGA Tour Superstore grew quickly from there. Not even the pandemic could slow it down, and sales rose more than 90 percent from 2019 to 2022.
“We kept opening stores, even when business was tough,” she said. “Three came on line in 2020, then six in 2021 and eight in 2022. We tried to take advantage of the boom in golf that occurred during that period. And at the same time, we found lots of opportunity in real estate with retailers in other industries closing down stores.
“It was a time to put our foot on the gas.”
In addition to relishing the chance to work in sports and retail, Spiegel has also enjoyed the advances golf has been making in recent years.
Spiegel is also energized by all that is going on in the off-course golf entertainment world, with places such as Topgolf and PopStroke, and how they are making the game younger, more accessible and more diverse.
“The face of the game is certainly changing,” she said. “Some 25 percent of all golfers – and close to 40 percent of new golfers – are women now. The number of junior players is growing, too, and we want to be the one-stop shop for families.”
Spiegel is also energized by all that is going on in the off-course golf entertainment world, with places such as Topgolf and PopStroke, and how they are making the game younger, more accessible and more diverse. She says PGA Tour Superstore is committed to serving that group, as well.
Clearly, getting into the retail business all those years ago was the right move. For Spiegel, and for the company she now serves as president.
© 2023 Global Golf Post LLC
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