Taking one for the Team
Team apparel can be big business for retailers, as tenniswear manufacturers offer outfits to suit all types of groups.
When you look at tennis apparel sales in the U.S., one thing you notice is that tennis team wear can account for big retail business. And in the future, it’s going to get bigger. League tennis players — whether USTA Leagues, WTT Rec Leagues or others — have been increasing in the last few years, and initiatives such as School Tennis, USTA Tennis on Campus, the No-Cut High School team programs and more have been adding to the notion that tennis is a team sport.
All of this means more and more people — both adults and juniors — are playing tennis on teams, which makes sense, because tennis not only is competitive, but it can be a very social sport, too. And with the increased numbers of teams, players are looking to coordinate their team outfits.
For some retailers, team wear accounts for a sizable chunk of their apparel revenue. If you’re not yet in the team game, or have only lightly dabbled in selling to teams, you should consider the ways you can cash in on this revenue stream in your area.
One way, of course is to make sure you meet school coaches and league captains in your area. “Over the years, we’ve formed some great relationships with high school coaches,” says Terry Hunter of Tennis Outlet in Lubbock, Texas. “We know what fits into the school’s needs and budget. The challenge is pleasing everyone.”
Hunter says when dealing with schools, retailers need to consider a number of factors. “Kids are fashion conscious, parents have their preferences, and the coach doesn’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about uniforms,” Hunter says, “So we try to make it easy and efficient for everyone concerned.”
At the Indianapolis (Ind.) Racquet Club, Kevin Lindley, the director of team sales, will sometimes loan clothing samples to schools so they can see it in person for sizing, color, and fit. “Criteria for a lot of teams concern school colors first,” he says, “and also a quality product at a good price, because schools are on tight budgets. In some cases, brand loyalty plays a factor.” Often, coaches defer to the kids, especially the team captain, for team uniform decisions.
Lindley says he does whatever it takes to help schools and teams with the ordering process. And the Indianapolis Racquet Club offers discounts to teams, too.
Here are some of the manufacturers who offer team apparel lines.
Fila’s Essenza men’s and women’s collection includes team stand-out bold color blocking and mesh inserts paired with Fila’s performance fabric, which is a unique stretch fabric that provides superior moisture-wicking for maximum dryness and comfort. The Essenza collection includes items that are available year round for at-once delivery. The color palette stays consistent season to season with a few pop colors rotated into the collection. There is a wide variety of styles available for all tastes and fits, from cami tanks and polos to racer-back tops, crews and long-sleeve shirts, and skirts/skorts for women, to sleeveless, polos, crews, and shorts for men.
Team wear comprises at least half of Diadora’s business, the company says. Diadora’s extensive team line is available in many styles and colors for men and women. Made of 100 percent moisture-wicking DiaDry Poly, the women’s line has two dress, four skirt and four tank styles. The men’s line features crews, polos, and two styles of shorts. With a 105,000-square-foot warehouse, Diadora says it is able to keep stock year round, with immediate shipping capabilities, and volume discounts are available.
With the growth of team sales, Lejay has expanded its Team Collection to include more style choices to fit every body. Team Essentials offer 11 solid colors in the LeDry high performance fabric, which also features UV protection. All styles can be custom-cut in any color combination and can take team or club logo embroidery. (Custom orders take two to three weeks.) Bold color-blocking and trim stands out on skirts, skorts, tanks, racer backs and a dress which has a built-in bra.
Wilson apparel licensee Athco launched men’s and women’s team tennis wear this year, featuring 100 percent poly interlock Hypertek, the clothes boast moisture-wicking and breathability. The women’s line also features Hypertek, poly/lyrca with meryl stretch fabric in racer-back tops, athletically fitting tanks, and classic cuts with tanks and cap-sleeved polos. Skorts come in a variety of colors. Men’s shirts come in three crew styles in all colors, white with accent trim and solid color with accent trim, two polos, and three different styles of shorts in three different lengths. The company says it is fully stocked, with immediate shipping.
Bälle de Mätch
Team wear constitutes about 40 percent of Bälle de Mätch’s business. The company says it always has inventory in all colors, and that orders get shipped out the same day they’re placed. Bälle de Mätch keeps the team line consistent, introducing one new piece a year, so coaches and players can count on continuity, stability and clothing that will always be in season.
The men’s side features crews, polos and shorts in 100 percent poly in a variety of colors. The women’s line sports racer-back tops, tanks, skorts and dresses in a playable spandex/poly blend, again in a full range of colors.
Prince’s team wear shows off classic silhouettes in a variety of colors and designs in contemporary styles. For men, 100 percent poly with breathable mesh at the underarm and back is featured in the short sleeve and sleeveless crews, polos, and long-sleeve crews. Shorts, warm-up pants, and jackets round out the line. The women’s side feature skirts, tops, shorts, jackets and pants in blends of poly and spandex with breathable mesh inserts and backs in a rainbow of colors.
See all articles by Cynthia Sherman
About the Author
Cynthia Sherman is a contributing editor for Tennis Industry magazine.