Tennis Industry magazine

 

65 Keys To Successful Retailing

We asked leading specialty retailers and others in the tennis sales business to share their hottest tips for success so you, too, can increase your profits.

By Mitch Rustad

  1. Change up your merchandise by moving things around every two or three weeks. You’ll be amazed at how things will get noticed by just moving it from a wall display to a floor rack or vice versa.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.
  2. Try to offer a wide range of apparel, so some lines are geared toward a younger, hip look, and some are classic for more mature customers. It’s important to understand the different technical fabrics, and know what different customers are looking for in terms of fit.
    — Steve Vorhaus, Rocky Mountain Racquet Specialists, Boulder, Colo.
  3. In apparel, carry a mix of the big-name brands and smaller lines, to offer your customers the best variety possible.
    — Chris Gaudreau, Racquet Koop, New Haven, Conn.
  4. Display your merchandise in the most appealing way possible. A great display seduces the customer into spending more time in your shop — and eventually buying more as well.
    — Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York
  5. Presentation is very important to the first impression. If a customer walks in and you have a poster of Jimmy Connors on the wall, it limits your ability to connect with today’s consumer. The store needs have a 2008 look to it. Today’s tennis is technical and so you need to look as if you know exactly what you’re talking about.
    — Dustin Perry, Prince Sports
  6. Every time you get a new line, print up a flier or e-mail everyone and tell your customers about new arrivals. You need to advertise you have new products and create a sense of urgency.
    — Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods
  7. With every restring job, we give away a free can of balls, and we’ve built up our stringing business.
    — Pam Ponwith, All About Tennis, Scottsdale, Ariz.
  8. Whether it be customization, stringing, or pure product knowledge, the more you know, the more you can do for your customer, and the more reason for that consumer to continue to go to your store.
    — Sarah Maynard, Director of Marketing & Promotions, Volkl Tennis
  9. Forty-percent of any apparel buy is color-driven. Include luscious colors, like mangos and teals, to your selection.
    — Maria Stefan, president, Ellesse USA
  10. Closeouts (especially shoes) should be displayed right on the sales floor, which let’s customers personally pick and choose and serve themselves, saving your staff time in the process.
    — Dale Queen, Your Serve, Atlanta
  11. Sponsor a local tennis league so that all the members get a shop discount. That promotes tennis and your shop.
    — Dustin Perry, Prince Sports
  12. Make an extra effort to give customers the right shoe the first time. If you get them fitted properly the first time, that gives them a good first impression, and they’ll be back.
    — Betsy Bromley, Advantage Yours, Clearwater, Fla.
  13. Carrying as a wide selection of footwear brands as possible is definitely the way to go.
    — Dan Oh, Dan’s Sports Racquets, Simi Valley, Calif.
  14. Negotiating a sponsorship with an individual vendor and becoming a partner could make sense for some retailers. Many manufacturers are in the mood to consider a variety of partnerships in today’s competitive retail environment.
    — Kim Lutian, Van der Meer Shipyard Tennis Resort, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
  15. Make sure your customers demo several models — based on their style of play, tastes, etc. — and then help them make the best decision. Rather than making the quick sale of the latest racquet, by allowing the customer to be part of the decision, you will gain a long-term customer instead of a one-time sale.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.
  16. Closeouts can sometimes help you sell the new stuff, because a lot of the people who come in looking for half-price merchandise end up buying things at full price.
    — Dale Queen, Your Serve, Atlanta
  17. Make sure you’ve got compatible replacement shoe models in stock when old favorites are phased out. Let your staff know exactly what’s going away and what is going to be replacing it.
    — Greg Wolf, Midwest Sports, Cincinnati
  18. Don’t forget to cross-merchandise. Put your bags near your racquet wall, and socks next to footwear, so when they buy one, they buy the other that supports it.
    — Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods
  19. Always stock the latest racquets and be up on the newest technology. That’s why you’re considered a specialty store.
    — Leon Echavarria, Racquet World, Miami
  20. For better inventory turnover, keep your model stock on the low side. It’s better for cash flow and avoids product obsolescence. You should turn your stock at least four times a year.
    — Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York
  21. Knowledge of the game is everything.
    — Dee Langford, Tom & Dee’s Tennis Shop, Louisville, Ky.
  22. Engage company reps as much as possible. Our reps are a wonderful source of information and guidance when it comes to what products to stock and what items are hot. They can also help tremendously with advertising dollars and co-op in-store promotions.
    — Kim Cashman, Advantage Yours, Clearwater, Fla.
  23. Focus your apparel buying on what is selling well and what your customer is requesting. You’ll end up with increased sales and happier customers.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.
  24. Have a strong demo program. Our demo program costs $30 for 30 days, and a customer can test two racquets at a time, and test as many as they’d like in that time.
    — Pam Ponwith, All About Tennis, Scottsdale, Ariz.
  25. Keep a close eye on the big three expenses — rent, advertising and salaries — which should represent about one-third of your overhead. If you keep those in line, profits will follow.
    — Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York
  26. Bring in one or more local ladies to help you pick your apparel inventory. Men will buy anything, but women are much more selective. My sales have gone up since I’ve had women select my inventory. I give them a free outfit for their time.
    — Chris Gaudreau, Racquet Koop, New Haven, Conn.
  27. Learn everything you can about racquet service. Get certified as a USRSA Certified Stringer or Master Racquet Technician, and then promote your status as a certified expert.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.
  28. You should have three to four demos for every “hot” racquet in your shop, in a variety of grip sizes. Restring and regrip demos every two months so the racquet will keep playing like new.
    — Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York
  29. Set up an information bulletin board or kiosk in your shop to display local tennis information. Provide a place for local tournament entry forms and league information, and provide tournament T-shirts (don’t forget to add your logo) or other gifts to participants.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.
  30. Use point-of-purchase materials offered by manufacturers to make your store an exciting place to visit.
    — Kim Cashman, Advantage Yours, Clearwater, Fla.
  31. Try creating boutiques for your products by brand. If you have a very small shop, try cross-merchandising. Put the junior racquets, junior apparel and junior shoes all together in one area. If a mom comes in for a junior racquet for her little one, she may end up buying an outfit and new shoes, as well as the racquet.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.
  32. Work very closely with your local teaching pros. They have a great influence in the local community.
    — Leon Echavarria, Racquet World, Miami
  33. Create a blowout section, so if a customer is looking for a deal, not what’s hot, they know to go to that section of the store, because there’s always a new deal or special or value buy there.
    — Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods
  34. Don’t hassle anyone over return merchandise, even though some may take advantage of it. Mostly, customers really appreciate it.
    — Leon Echavarria, Racquet World, Miami
  35. Try to be a shop that has everything. We specialize all the time. We even have bumper guards and grommets for every racquet we stock.
    — Pam Ponwith, All About Tennis, Scottsdale, Ariz.
  36. We always try to have something on closeout, so there’s always something on sale for people. There are always people that don’t have or aren’t willing to spend the money, so you’ll lose them if you don’t offer a sale or closeout.
    — Betsy Bromley, Advantage Yours, Clearwater, Fla.
  37. Create a great demo program. If you offer back what you charge people as a credit, it allows the customer to invest in your store. It’s super-valuable.
    — Steve Vorhaus, Rocky Mountain Racquet Specialists, Boulder, Colo.
  38. Don’t take 15 minutes before you say hello to a customer. Get to know them. That’s the first step to increasing any sale, but especially in footwear
    — it’s more hands-on than any other category.
    — Bruce Dayton, tennis sales manager, Diadora
  39. Think margins all the time. I would rather make 50 percent margins on less volume than 35 percent margins on 50 percent more volume. The additional labor and administrative costs can put you at a much lower net profit.
    — Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York
  40. Internet sales are certainly increasing, and some specialty retailers are selling on the ‘net as well, so the smart retailers will have an online presence.
    — Keith Storey, vice president, Sports Marketing Surveys
  41. Model your presentation like a large department store
    — including the signage, the lighting, the props, even the way the merchandise is displayed. Does your shop or store look like a department store on a smaller scale? The big guys spend a lot of money and research on finding what works and what makes their products sell. With a little effort and very little expense, you can boost your sales.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.
  42. Keep talking to your rep constantly, to keep in touch with the latest footwear trends. It’s crucial to react quickly to what the stars are wearing, and to adjust futures accordingly.
    — Greg Wolf, Midwest Sports, Cincinnati
  43. Always remember to ask your customer if they need grips, dampeners, etc., when they’re at the register, because the afterthought products can be sold there.
    — Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods
  44. Exceptional personal service and expertise will keep customers coming back.
    — Dee Langford, Tom & Dee’s Tennis Shop, Louisville, Ky.
  45. Most of the people buying shoes are repeat customers, so it’s important to provide a comfortable area for customers to try shoes on, ask questions and just take their time.
    — Dan Oh, Dan’s Sports Racquets, Simi Valley, Calif.
  46. Promote tennis in your community! If tennis participation is stagnant or declining, your business is likely to follow that same dismal path.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.
  47. Organizing your shoe wall by categories — new arrivals, in-line, specials, and closeouts — can be a highly effective means of showcasing your inventory.
    — Greg Wolf, Midwest Sports, Cincinnati
  48. Buyers would be wise to focus their attention on performance shoes — not entry-level brands — to keep footwear customers coming back and to establish higher-end brand loyalty.
    — Betsy Bromley, Advantage Yours, Clearwater, Fla.
  49. When you merchandise racquets on the wall, organize them based on player types, so the consumer understands which frames are geared toward power, control, or player frames.
    — Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods
  50. There are always people requesting different shoe widths. There’s a real market for it, so I try to carry a variety of widths for men and women.
    — Dan Oh, Dan’s Sports Racquets, Simi Valley, Calif.
  51. Every specialty tennis shop should carry a low-end product for tennis, squash, and racquetball. Take the opportunity to service every level of customer; in time, they will more than likely come back to buy that second racquet.
    — Dustin Perry, Prince Sports
  52. When you know you have a slew of new product coming in, be sure to mark down your old inventory — sooner rather than later — to make enough room for the new shipment.
    — Greg Wolf, Midwest Sports, Cincinnati
  53. For each season’s apparel, do a storyboard of all the lines you want to carry. This helps you mix it up so you don’t end up duplicating colors from all the different manufacturers.
    — Steve Vorhaus, Rocky Mountain Racquet Specialists, Boulder, Colo.
  54. Offering a wide range of strings and various grips will give you an opportunity to create unique set-ups for your customers. This helps you separate yourself from the competition and establishes you as the expert in your area.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.
  55. Know your product and its technology so you can sell any product based on its performance, and not just rely on the fact that it’s used by a superstar pro player.
    — Sarah Maynard, Director of Marketing & Promotions, Volkl Tennis
  56. If you’ve got five pairs of old shoes left, don’t display them next to the new, higher priced models.
    — Greg Wolf, Midwest Sports, Cincinnati
  57. A customer might take a closer look at a more expensive shoe if it has a warranty.
    — Dan Oh, Dan’s Sports Racquets, Simi Valley, Calif.
  58. The most successful retailers think outside the box. Too many shop managers choose items based on their own personal preferences rather than putting themselves in the consumer’s shoes.
    — Dustin Perry, Prince Sports
  59. To keep the look of your store fresh, re-merchandise every 30 days or so, especially your apparel.
    — Steve Vorhaus, Rocky Mountain Racquet Specialists, Boulder, Colo.
  60. If your shop is at a tennis facility, organize a tennis carnival with some of your vendors. Have racquet demos and skills contest for players and beginner clinics for potential players. If your store doesn’t have courts, make arrangements with a nearby facility to host an event with you.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.
  61. Every time you sell a new racquet, offer a very affordable string upgrade. This lets the customer test something they’d normally not get, and you’ve very likely created a higher end string consumer and increased your profitability.
    — Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods
  62. Think proactively. Instead of waiting for someone to walk into the store, drive retail sales into your shop by sponsoring teaching pros to represent your products. Give them each a store demo bag imprinted with your logo for product placement out in the field, so the pro can help influence the customer and drive business into your store.
    — Sarah Maynard, Director of Marketing & Promotions, Volkl Tennis
  63. To sell more footwear, let customers know they can and should try things on in the store, and spend more time with them.
    — Bruce Dayton, tennis sales manager, Diadora
  64. Don’t forget added-value programs. If a customer buys a new racquet, offer them a bag at a discount. Offer a free pair of socks with a shoe purchase. Give them extra incentives, because cross promotions are always very successful.
    — Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods
  65. To sell more racquets — listen! Engage the customer in a discussion about their game. Let them tell you what they like and don’t like about their current racquet.
    — Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.

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About the Author

Mitch Rustad has been a long-time freelance writer based in New York City.

 

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