Tennis Industry magazine

 

Displaying and Selling Frames

What does it take to sell racquets? These four shops find success with both tried-and-true tips and innovative ideas.

What does it take to sell racquets? These four shops find success with both tried-and-true tips and innovative ideas.

E-Tennis, Winter Park, Fla.

Eleven years ago Tobias Svantesson opened E-Tennis in the Orlando area, and he hasn’t looked back. A recent move to a 2,000-square-foot space has not only increased his selling space, but his opportunity.

E-Tennis carries most all racquet brands on one 30-foot wall chock full of about 120 different sku’s. The store has multiple demos for every racquet it displays and a very attractive demo program in which they have about 400 people actively, and constantly, demoing.

When asked how many staff he employed, Svantesson joked that he had “too many,” but quickly added he wouldn’t trade any of them because of their “tremendous interaction with customers coupled with their expert training and knowledge of the products.” E-Tennis has two full-time stringers — a necessity for a business that strings 6,000 to 7,000 racquets a year.

Svantesson runs a unique shop. One idea he uses to merchandise racquets, which he says has had a positive impact on sales, is replacing the manufacturer’s racquet “face cards” with his own, which offers his own bullet points on each racquet’s characteristics and qualities. Also, instead of organizing racquets by brand, he organizes them by player types — from “players’” frames to beginner frames.

“This way, it neutralizes the information, giving all the brands equal play,” he says. “From a sales and customer perspective, it’s a useful, efficient way of supplying information.”

Svantesson adds, “We work really hard providing great customer service, because of other local and online competition. You have to have extensive knowledge of your customers and products, offering the latest products.” But he stresses the need for flexibility in marking things down in price when they don’t move.

Additionally, E-Tennis has partnered with a nearby tennis club where Svantesson sends his customers to hit with his demo racquets. He has also established a relationship with a local court builder, which he hopes to use in the future. Svantesson also builds relationships with the local teaching pros, “making sure they’re your friend” — even hosting quarterly meetings with them to talk about brands, new developments and the state of tennis in the Orlando area.

Svantesson insists building local relationships are “necessary building blocks for a successful business.” E-Tennis also is involved with community tennis tournaments, clinics and fundraisers, among other activities — further establishing themselves in the community.

— Cynthia Sherman

E-Tennis Racquet Sales Tips

Game-Set-Match, Denver, Colo.

Game-Set-Match opened in 1989 in Littleton, Colo., and now has two locations in the Denver area. Owner Adam Burbary says the store carries all major brands of racquets, with the largest racquet wall in the Rocky Mountain region. In his Denver store, he says, he displays about 800 frames.

And one of his key tips is to make sure, when customers enter the store, they can immediately see your racquets. “We feel like if we can show the consumer quickly and plainly that we’re invested in the sport, it helps pave the way to sell to them,” Burbary says.

In one of his stores just south of Denver, he displays about 800 racquets on a wall roughly 10-feet high by 35-feet wide that’s directly to the left of the entrance. “As soon as they come in, they can’t miss all the racquets,” Burbary says. “A big part of what brick-and-mortar retailers offer is immediate gratification of holding and looking at racquets in person. And we’re doing that for sure.”

Also, ask customers about their playing habits and abilities and then be quiet. “Listen to what they say, and then probe more. Learn as much as you can and then match them with a nice range of your best options. Learn if they’re a baseliner or attacker, if they have full, short or medium strokes, that kind of thing. And be sure not to overwhelm them with technology. If they want to know about it, they’ll ask.”

Another tactic Burbary likes to use is to offer to string any new racquet purchased while customers wait. “For one thing, it keeps them in the store longer and they may decide to buy something else,” he says. “And it’s just a nice touch for a customer who just bought from you.”

And finally, Burbary says he likes to occasionally move things around in the store. “It seems like when I do that, it stirs people up and they start talking more. It’s like they get curious about what’s going on and it seems to help generate more interest in the store and more people come in. I’m not sure why this is, but it almost always happens.”

— Doug McPherson

Game-Set-Match Racquet Sales Tips

Darien Sport Shop, Darien, Conn.

Chasing innovation in racquet sales is important, but it will only work if you keep your focus on the primary driver of sales. “Everything we do is for the convenience of the customer,” explains the Darien Sport Shop’s Steve Zangrillo Jr. of the theory guiding the local landmark his father opened 65 years ago this coming August.

The store is re-created seasonally as a one-stop shopping experience for a well-heeled, suburban New York City clientele. It’s the sort of place where someone pops in to pick up a cocktail dress and a new racquet and string job. With five private clubs (each with its own pro shop and teaching pro) as well as a tennis specialty retailer and Sports Authority in the area, there is one key to helping the independent retailer defend and expand its niche with tennis sales. “We don’t do price promotion,” says Zangrillo. “The Darien Sport Shop stands for customer service, good product, good knowledge, good service.”

Unmentioned but implied is customer communication, inventory control and working closely with manufacturers. The store makes regular use of its customer database to track purchases and predict interests. The information is then matched up with the house list to reach out to the store’s tennis-buying segment through targeted offers and informational emails. There is also the regularly updated Facebook page talking up the latest products and promotions.

In keeping with the theme of specialized retailing, the Darien Sport Shop carries only two racquet lines: Wilson and Babolat. While Zangrillo is wistful when discussing the possibilities of cherry-picking from different lines, being deep in the two specific lines rather than broad in brands allows the store to offer racquets that are recognizable to the customer base and encourages manufacturers’ support through staff training and the occasional trunk show.

“We try with the help of [the manufacturer’s] salespeople to get the hottest stuff and we stand behind the product,” he says. One example, “If we string [a racquet] and the person doesn’t like it, we’ll restring it for them.”

The one constant promotion is that each new racquet sale includes free stringing (a $35 to $40 value), with either Wilson or Babolat synthetic gut. There also is a rather flexible demo program — subject to some abuse, Zangrillo admits, although he has no plans to change it — allowing customers to try out (again and again) a new stick at no charge.

Most important, there is always the personal touch, the relationship that comes from first catering to customers in local youth programs and making sure they (and their families) have the right racquet and accessories as they age in time with the store.

— Kent Oswald

Darien Sport Shop Racquet Sales Tips

First Serve Tennis, Burbank, Calif.

If First Serve Tennis Pro Shops had a theme song, it would likely borrow from the ‘80s sitcom “Cheers” and include the line, “You want to buy a racquet where everybody knows your name …”

In a world where the internet and big-box stores seem to promise everything, “Customer service is huge,” says manager Francis Dimaya. “I believe in the service of it all. I know all the names of people who have been here more than twice.”

The racquet sales strategy is twofold. For younger players, who are the majority of the customers at his 500-square-foot shop at the Burbank Tennis Center, Dimaya makes sure he has the racquets with all the promotional materials suggesting they will be playing with the same stick as their tennis heroes. For more experienced players, both at the BTC and at the 1,000-square-foot Valencia store opened last fall across the street from The Paseo Club, he believes in listening to customers describe their game and then putting demo racquets in their hands until they find just the feel they want. (A small demo fee is applied against the purchase price.)

As often as possible Dimaya offers same-day stringing — and even while-you-wait service if business allows. Group discounts are provided to players in USTA leagues, at local clubs and at the high school on racquets and other tennis purchases. Dimaya goes out of his way to speak to local teams and work closely with high school coaches, because, “When the coach says ‘go to First Serve,’ that is what they do.”

He keeps up his store’s Facebook page, updating store hours, posting specials and allowing customers to interact with the store and each other. He also monitors postings about the store on Yelp and other social media.

Dimaya mines the offerings of the Babolat, Wilson, Prince, Head and Gamma reps with whom he works, to offer the available free string or clothing or shoe packages with racquet purchase. However, the emphasis of the sale has to be on what is best for the player’s game: “I could probably sell you any racquet I wanted to even though it might not be the best racquet for you,” he admits. “There is only so much you can do with price. At the end of the day I am hoping [customers] will come to buy the racquet from me for my service.”

— Kent Oswald

First Serve Tennis Racquet Sales Tips

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