Tennis Industry magazine

 

Research Can Help Keep You at The Top of Your Game

By Keith Storey

Every business owner needs to be knowledgeable about the industry from which he or she makes a living. In tennis, not only do you need to know about the ups and downs in the market and how they will impact your sales or court occupancy, but also you must be aware of various trends and be able to anticipate what may be coming down the road.

Sports Marketing Surveys has been involved in market research in the tennis industry for 20 years, and the information we’ve gathered — and continue to amass — has helped both large and small players in this business. In this inaugural “By the Numbers” column, we’d like to present information and analysis that can help you make better decisions for your business.

The Bad News

By now, we all realize that 2003 was not a stellar year for tennis. Racquet sales at pro/specialty outlets through the third quarter were down 4 percent in units and 8 percent in dollars over the year before, and the average price for a premium racquet dropped below $135, further crunching retailer margins. Added to that is the fact that ball shipments — the traditional indicator of participation — also dropped by 4.6 percent through the third quarter over 2002.

The USTA/TIA U.S. Tennis Participation Survey shows that there were 5.1 million new players in 2002, yet overall participation was essentially flat, meaning the sport was losing as many players as it was gaining, the “leaky bucket” you may have heard about. Another key survey finding is that there are 20 million “lapsed” tennis players — people who used to play regularly but no longer do. Half of these lapsed players are under age 45.

New and Frequent Players

In participation, there are clear signs that the tennis-player base is aging. In 1995, 8 percent of all players were 50 or older; as of the 2002 Tennis Participation Survey, that number is at 14 percent. What’s more, of that percentage, 23 percent of frequent players (those who play at least 21 times a year) are 50-plus. Over the next 20 years, the over-50 age group in the overall U.S. population will rise from 80 million to 115 million, an increase of nearly 44 percent. In the same time period, the under-50 U.S. population will rise by about 4 percent.

With respect to race and ethnicity, the profile of new players is becoming more diverse. While African-Americans make up 6 percent of all tennis players, they make up 9 percent of all new players. And Hispanics, at 13 percent of all players, make up 20 percent of all new players. This is particularly important when you consider that the Hispanic population is set to nearly double by the year 2025, from 35 million to 68 million (from 12 percent of the total U.S. population to 19 percent).

The Opportunities

What does all this mean for you and your business? Well, you may need to consider new business strategies.

Tennis has been a tough sell these last few years, but by examining the numbers and getting an idea of what’s down the road, you’ll be better able to ride out rough patches and set yourself up for the future.


About the author

Keith Storey is the Vice President of Sports Marketing Surveys, based in Jupiter, Fla. He has over 20 years of experience in market research and business analysis, most of which has been spent in the sports industry.

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About the Author

Keith Storey is the Vice President of Sports Marketing Surveys, based in Jupiter, Fla. He has over 20 years of experience in market research and business analysis, most of which has been spent in the sports industry.

 

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