Tennis Industry magazine

 

Net Return

Sports InterActive gives specialty dealers a fighting chance on the internet.

By Kristen Daley

Over the past 22 years, Herb Sweren has seen the retail industry evolve, with trends ranging from mail order to, most recently, internet sales. “All the way, it has made it more challenging for specialty retailers,” he says.

Herb Sweren

Sweren speaks from experience. He’s spent the majority of his career at Prince, where he started as a sales associate and advanced to vice president and general manager of its North American operations, helping those retailers compete amid the changing face of the industry.

Now, as founder and president of Sports InterActive LLC, Sweren is looking to help specialty retailers compete on the internet. Sports InterActive, a web development and eMarketing company, is his response to the booming ecommerce trend. The company provides tennis clubs, country clubs, and specialty shops with online sales capabilities and a catalog of more than 16,000 tennis, running, and fitness products in an “Online Tennis Mall.”

“I really thought there was a need for retailers and tennis clubs to have an effective website strategy to encourage and increase revenues on the court and off,” says Sweren.

Each order made at the website of a Sports InterActive dealer shop or club yields a 20 percent commission for the dealer. Orders are processed by Fromuth, which also provides back-end customer service support for the Sports InterActive Online Tennis Mall.

“Herb has an understanding of what the specialty dealer goes through,” says Patrick Shields, owner and president of Fromuth, which has had a 15-year relationship with Sweren, since his days as a sales associate at Prince. “He understands the market forces at work, and he sees an opportunity for specialty dealers to take advantage of something that they previously had not taken advantage of.”

It took Sweren about 18 months to create Sports InterActive, which rolled out to the industry last August. Since then, he has partnered with the Tennis Industry Association, whose TennisConnect.org software has powered Sports InterActive since October. Facilities that subscribe to both programs can now run their Online Tennis Mall alongside other TennisConnect features on their website.

“We play straight into one another’s strengths,” says Charlie Ruddy, developer of the TennisConnect.org software. “Sports InterActive puts a whole lot of specialty dealers and pro shops back in the game, back on competitive footing with internet and ecommerce sites, and they can still support their local club.”

“I, along with others at Prince, was very supportive of the TIA and its efforts in the beginning stages,” says Sweren. “It’s a nice fit to be able to work with them again in this way.”

In addition to the online mall and optional TennisConnect.org features, Sports InterActive has a database-driven String Center 2.0 technology that helps shops and tennis clubs track a customer’s or member’s stringing history and use it to send targeted e-mails reminding players of the need to re-string. “Stringing can be a very profitable business,” says Sweren. String Center is an “add-on solution” for all Sports InterActive packages.

Sweren says Sports InterActive is “by far the most comprehensive program that helps clubs grow both their court business and compete in the marketplace from a retail perspective.”

“I can promote my programming and my mall simultaneously,” says Billy Power, director of tennis at Texarkana Country Club in Texarkana, Ark., who supplements the online mall with TennisConnect.org’s features. “The product is made so that anyone can have their own website and run it and be successful.”

For more information, call 410-358-1304 or visit sports-interactive.net.

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About the Author

Kristen Daley  is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.

 

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