Handling Your Players
Emphasizing your replacement grip business will serve your customers and give you a better grasp on profits, too.
Replacement grips are often overlooked as a routine part of racquet service. Frequently, they’re simply treated as just an add-on item. Even shops that offer a wide variety of string often keep the grip choices to a bare minimum.
In today’s marketplace, there are almost as many grip choices as there are strings. Obviously, you can’t carry every grip on the market in your inventory, but you should stock a wide variety of options for your customers. Smooth, contoured, and perforated grips are a few of the staples that should be in every shop.
You may also want to offer color choices in your most popular grips. If you also sell racquets, consider stocking the grips that come on your best-selling frames, since players often want a replacement grip just like the original.
Replacement grips, if approached properly, are a fairly easy and profitable sale. They are relatively inexpensive to stock and they take minimal space to store and display. But instead of the quick “add-on” approach, try treating grips as an important part of the services you offer.
You consider a customer’s grip as an integral component of the racquet, just like when a professional stringer asks the customer questions and then makes a determination as to the best combination of string and tension to provide them with the best performance from their racquet. Grips, like strings, will wear out and should be replaced on a regular basis. Your customers may need to be made aware of that fact.
When a customer takes a racquet in for service, the technician should examine the grip for wear, along with the strings and overall racquet. And the technician should question the player about grip preferences and concerns, just like with strings.
Evaluating the Grip
When evaluating the grip, start with proper sizing. Hopefully this was addressed when the racquet was purchased, but don’t assume so, especially if the racquet was not purchased in your shop.
If you don’t offer services to alter grip sizes, you are missing an opportunity. Increasing grip size with a heat sleeve process is fairly easy to master with the proper tools. You can also “customize” the wrap style, which will further widen the variety in your shop. Most grips can be overlapped to lay flat and smooth or overlapped very slightly to form a contour effect.
Also, you can vary the overlap more or less around the butt cap to change the feel and shape of the grip to suit your customer. If you don’t currently offer these options, spend a little time practicing them. You might even come up with a new technique.
Remember, grips are wrapped differently for right-handed and left-handed players. For righties, when you look at the racquet standing up (with the head up and handle on a table), the lines of the grip should go from upper left down to lower right. When a right-hander grips the handle, the lines of the grip roughly follow the diagonal direction of the fingers. A grip for a left-handed player, of course, runs in the opposite direction.
Most suppliers offer grip displays and other point of purchase material that can be used not only to display your grip selection, but also the various wrap styles you offer. This will allow customers to see and feel the difference. They will appreciate the fact that you can customize their grip, which will aid their playing style. And they will certainly be loyal customers since you’ll know their own unique wrap style.
If you make grip customization one of the services that you offer, your grip sales and your profits will grow handsomely.
How to Regrip a Frame
If you string racquets, you probably have most of the tools you need to re-grip, too, for instance needle-nose pliers; a narrow, flat-blade screwdriver; scissors; and possibly a staple gun.
After you remove the old grip and staple, make sure the handle pallet is clean and free of adhesive. The top of the grip generally is secured with either tape or a wide rubber band or rubber collar. If the racquet you’re working on has a rubber band or collar, it’s best to slide it on before you wrap the grip, then push it up and out of the way.
To begin wrapping the new grip, remove some of the tape backing and, starting at the butt cap, attach the tapered grip end (you may or may not want to staple this end). When you wrap a grip for right-handed players, attach the grip so that you’re pulling it to the right when the racquet is held upside-down.
Hold the frame firmly and turn the racquet slowly with one hand, using your thumb to hold the grip in place. Your other hand should unwrap the tape backing as you go, while you pull the new grip tight and overlap the edges. When you reach the top of the handle, trim the grip straight across with the scissors, then secure the grip with tape or slide the rubber collar down.
See all articles by Bob Patterson
About the Author
Bob Patterson , the founder of the RacquetMAXX customization service, is a Master Racquet Technician with more than 20 years of experience. He was RSI's Stringer of the Year in 2005. He is Executive Director for the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association.
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