Tennis Industry magazine


Playing the Numbers

By Peter Francesconi

Everywhere you turn in this business, you’re hit by research numbers — participation figures, retail sales numbers, attendance and TV viewership figures.

A recent addition to all the numbers is the SGMA Sports Participation Trend figures, which indicate that a million more people played tennis in 2004 than in 2003. The criteria of 6 years of age or older, participating at least once per year, doesn’t exactly mean it’s time to double your racquet order, but the SGMA says 17.3 million people fit that criteria in 2003, while in 2004 that number jumped to 18.3 million, a 5.9 percent increase.

These numbers are a bit different from the data gathered in the third annual USTA/TIA Tennis Participation Study, which we reported on in the June issue. The massive USTA/TIA study showed participation in 2004 was relatively flat from the previous three years, at 23.6 million total players (playing at least once in the past year).

But despite the discrepancies, the SGMA numbers still are a hopeful sign for the industry, especially when combined with the USTA/TIA study figures that show there were 5.7 million new players in 2004. And while “frequent players” as defined by the USTA/TIA (21 or more times a year) are still a concern at a flat 4.8 million, the participation initiatives of the last few years seem to be having an impact, no matter whose numbers you look at.

These, of course, are the big numbers, the industry-wide figures that get quoted in the media, that help determine whether grassroots initiatives to increase play live or die. What might be more immediate to your business may be the numbers you can find in the TIA’s Cost of Doing Business report. The recently released CODB tells retailers and facilities in a detailed manner how they compare to tennis businesses of similar size and type.

For instance the 2005 CODB says that on average, retail shops of 1,000 square feet or more sell 641 tennis racquets each year. Also, 97 percent of all facilities and shops have a computer, and 92 percent have access to the internet. The CODB also includes data on racquet demo programs (97 percent of all shops have one), including how much they charge for demos and how long players can have a demo. This is just a fraction of the data in the CODB that can help you benchmark your business in key operating areas. (For the full report, call the TIA at 843-686-3036, or visit for more information.)

All the numbers we encounter in this business can, at times, seem a bit overwhelming. But keep in mind, it’s the numbers that drive this business — and keep us all in business.

Peter Francesconi

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About the Author

Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.



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