Tennis Industry magazine


Late-Year Rally Is Leading To An Optimistic 2004 Forecast

By Keith Storey

There’s no denying that 2003 was a down year for racquet sales at pro/specialty stores. For the whole year, sales were down in units, dollars and average price compared to 2002.

But if you take a closer look, 2003 fourth-quarter numbers show a decided upturn, compared to the same period in the year before. In addition, the average price for a premium frame recovered late in the year, unit sales were up and, as a whole, the market exhibited a recovery from a poor first half. Plus, dealers are expressing optimism about future sales going into 2004.

The numbers for the whole of 2003, as compared with 2002, show that the gap in unit sales continued to close, finishing up 3 percent for the fourth quarter. Dollar sales in the last three quarters had a somewhat similar recovery compared to 2002, and the average price, which had sunk well below $140 in mid-year, recovered slightly in Q4.

Combine these signs of recovery with the fact that racquet inventory levels are looking better and that dealers themselves are forecasting improved sales, and there may possibly be good news around the corner for tennis retailers.

Early in 2003, nearly 60 percent of dealers said they were overstocked with tennis racquets. But late in the year, that figure had dropped significantly. Now, just over half of all dealers say they are at the right inventory levels. This, as we’ve seen, has helped push the average racquet price back up, adding to dealer margin.

All of this has helped dealers feel much better about what the current year may bring. In early season 2003, only 17 percent of dealers were predicting an increase in racquet sales. By the end of last year, that figure had improved dramatically, to 36 percent. And significantly, while 41 percent of dealers early last year predicted a decrease in future racquet sales, that figure has dropped to 21 percent who feel their sales will decrease.

So if the current trends continue, retailers — and racquet manufacturers — may indeed have reason to feel optimistic about what’s ahead.

Racquet Sales, 2003 vs. 2002

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 YTD
Units Sold
2002 110,861 170,475 245,664 145,095 672,095
2003 102,011 160,782 241,887 149,672 654,352
% Change -8% -6% -2% 3% -3%
Dollars (000s)
2002 $15,763 $23,946 $33,650 $20,464 $93,824
2003 $14,432 $21,432 $31,557 $20,410 $87,832
% Change -8% -10% -6% 0% -6%
Average Price
2002 $142.19 $140.47 $136.98 $141.04 $139.60
2003 $141.48 $133.30 $130.46 $136.37 $134.23
% Change -1% -5% -5% -3% -4%

Source: TIA/Sports Marketing Surveys USA-Retail Audit

Inventory Levels Improve

Over Under Right
Early Season 2003 57% 3% 40%
Late Season 2003 44% 4% 52%

Source: TIA/Sports Marketing Surveys USA-Dealer Trend Reports

Dealer Forecasts for Future Sales

Increase Decrease Same
Early Season 2003 17% 41% 42%
Late Season 2003 36% 21% 43%

Source: TIA/Sports Marketing Surveys USA-Dealer Trend Reports

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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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