Nickent Golf shutters its doors

Nickent Golf, which just a few years ago gained acclaim for its popular hybrid clubs, is preparing to liquidate its business.

Struggling with cash-flow issues since the first quarter of this year, Nickent’s mercurial run in the equipment market has come to an end.

“Our bank has refused to fund any future operations of the company,” John Hoeflich, Nickent’s president, told Golfweek on Nov. 19. He said the company has been in receivership since May and that when efforts to find additional capital failed, Nickent found itself with no other options.

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Nickent's proprietary wrench and screw system enables its 4DX Evolver driver to switch shafts easily.

The equipment maker’s fortunes turned in early 2008 when it made an ill-fated gamble on the nascent adjustable-driver market. Hoping to make inroads into the driver category, Nickent pushed aggressively to be among the first to unveil a conforming driver that could easily swap shafts for immediate play.

At the 2008 PGA Merchandise Show, the company unveiled its adjustable driver package – a clubhead, two shafts and a wrench – for $479. But neither its driver, nor the product category as a whole, captured much consumer interest. Then, in the second half of 2008, the economy tanked. The combination proved fatal for Nickent.

“We bet heavily on the interchangeable shaft concept, and what has happened since is a reflection of the difficult times in the industry,” Hoeflich said. “Banks have made it difficult for those who survive on lines of credit.”

He shared financial data that provides a glimpse of how quickly Nickent’s situation turned for the worse: For the first six months of 2008, the company’s sales increased 57 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. But in the second half of 2008, sales plummeted 50 percent from the comparable period in 2007.

Such a turnaround, to some degree, also mirrors Nickent’s fast rise and fall. In a span of three years, Nickent’s sales tripled to $15 million in 2007, and now, two years later, the company is gone. At its peak, Nickent employed 60 workers; the remaining 22 were dismissed last week, according to Hoeflich.

“In this economy, it’s a tale that’s being repeated over and over again,” he said. “Small businesses are being forced to shut down. All of a sudden, 60 jobs are gone and who knows when they’ll come back.”

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