Mixing It Up
More and more players are using hybrid strings, and for your business, it’s a winning combination.
By Bob Patterson
Most likely, your local players, especially frequent players, know about hybrid stringing. And chances are requests for hybrid string jobs have increased greatly over the last couple of years.
You can hardly watch a professional match on television without hearing the commentators talk about the strings the players are using. Although their comments frequently are filled with misinformation, at least they are talking about our industry and provoking questions from players.
This presents a great opportunity for you to educate your customers about new strings and possible combinations for hybrids. It also provides a subtle chance to flaunt your expertise and knowledge about strings and stringing.
Pre-Packaged Sets Only?
If you are sticking with only pre-packaged sets from manufacturers, you may be both missing out on some business and shortchanging your customers. While the pre-packed sets are convenient and may make sense for some applications such as at big-box stores, they are limiting and don’t usually make sense for specialty shops.
If you are stocking pre-packs and you have the same strings in full sets or reels in your inventory, you’re probably carrying extra inventory that you don’t really need. Instead, invest a couple of dollars in a box of zip-lock sandwich bags and you can make your entire string inventory available to use with hybrid string jobs.
For packaged string, simply halve the set and place the other half in the sandwich bag. Label it and store it to be used for another hybrid job down the road. If you work from reels, obviously you can pull off only the length you need.
By using your entire inventory, the hybrid possibilities become virtually endless.
Addressing Specific Needs
Other than their popularity and novelty, why should you promote hybrid stringing in your shop? With your current inventory of string, you can expand your offering to your customers tenfold without investing in additional inventory. You can also address each customer’s specific needs better than before. It also provides an opportunity to promote your craftsmanship by engaging the customer in a conversation about their game, their style of play, and their needs.
Of course, the most popular hybrids are a durable poly-based string in the mains and a softer synthetic or natural gut in the crosses, but don’t let your hybrid options end there. Many pro players have followed Roger Federer’s lead and use gut in the mains and poly in the crosses. The key is to use your expertise and experience to ascertain what may work best for your customer and get them to experiment.
You may have a customer who loves the feel and playability of natural gut but cannot justify the expense. Get them to try a hybrid using natural gut and a soft multifilament synthetic. Chances are they will love it and you will have a customer for life.
For this approach to be successful, you need to make sure you have a well-rounded inventory of strings. You will need to cover all the bases in material and construction as well as thickness. Make sure you carry a wide variety of gauges in several of your most popular strings.
You will also need to educate your customers and promote the service. In-store signage is a great way to bring attention to hybrid stringing. Your expertise and willingness to talk to your customer about their game and specific needs will be the closer. If you can enhance their experience on the court by fitting them with the right string setup, they’ll be thrilled, and you will reap the rewards. Not only will they continue to use your services, but also, they’ll tell everyone they know about their experience.
Bob Patterson is a Master Racquet Technician and the owner of RacquetMaxx (www.racquetmaxx.com), a customization and stringing service. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.