Guide to Stringing Machines: Repeat Business — The Key to Stringing Success
by Tim Strawn
If stringing racquets is a part of your business plan, then repeat business is a key to your success. In fact, the number of racquets you string in any given year is not just an indicator of the health of your individual business, it’s also one measure that can be used to determine growth in the game of tennis, just like ball or racquet sales.
Data from the Tennis Industry Association shows there are 5.3 million “frequent” players in the U.S., who annually play at least 21 times and average 68 play occasions. If this industry could convince frequent players to restring just one more time each year, think of the positive impact over 5 million more string jobs would have for your stringing and retail business, for manufacturers, and for players and the quality of their play.
But there’s one question in this scenario that needs to be revisited: How often should a player restring their racquet?
Some say it’s not that complicated a question, while others see it as deeply complex. The longtime recommendation has been to string your racquet “as many times per year as you play in a week.” We’ve honored this axiom for so long, I doubt anyone can even tell us where this idea came from.
The advantage of that old maxim is that it’s a simple concept to grasp. But many who service racquets believe in this day and age, that one saying simply is not going to get it done. The game has changed. Racquets and strings have changed, the materials used have changed. It seems that it’s time to retire that saying and to find something better.
The complexities involved in this endeavor are numerous, but if successful, the potential for a nice shot in the arm for stringers and retailers is inevitable. But how do you convince the playing public to restring more frequently? There still are many players who think the only indicator for restringing is when a string breaks.
When Should Strings Be Replaced?
In your own business, think about this: How much time is spent presenting new strings to players each year, extolling the virtues of the string, but without ever considering the subject of how often that particular string should be replaced?
The selling points of string are typically conveyed from the manufacturer representative to the stringer/retailer as new products are introduced. They may point to a graphic on the string package that shows ratings on durability, power and spin. So, if you have a player who is looking for more power and you recommend a string that has a high rating in the power category, you might assume that you’re on the right path. However, that’s merely a start.
What if we took it one step further and addressed the question of when that string is going to need to be replaced? Right now, we pretty much leave it up to the player to figure it out for themselves — or wait until their current string breaks. The majority of players lack both the tools and the knowledge to know when their string is no longer performing at its best. What role do stringers, retailers and manufacturers have in telling the consumer when the string they’re thinking of purchasing no longer will perform at its peak?
As an industry, we need to put our heads together to come up with something that can be messaged out to all players through the media, manufacturers, teaching pros, league captains, facilities, retailers and stringers. The TIA has taken steps in this direction with its Tennis Tune-Up campaign (see PlayTennis.com for more), which is in its beginning stages. The process is still ongoing, and needs to be continual — a never-ending campaign that involves all segments of this industry to urge players to restring their racquets regularly and frequently. To repeat — repeat business is a key to your success.
Promoting the Idea of Repeat Business
One way to look at how to increase the awareness of the importance of stringing more frequently is to take a look at what some racquet technicians are already doing to promote this idea. We contacted various technicians from around the world and asked them to answer a few simple questions about how they handle the subject of timelines on restringing.
Larry Hackney of TennezSport in Union City, N.J., said at his business, they mark every string job per the customer’s tension request in a personal file and then explain string types and lifespan based on their own personal knowledge of the string. They also ask their customers to track the hours of play until breakage or they feel their strings are dead.
As an added service, TennezSport offers a free “tension check” with the Beers ERT 300 device if the string is not broken. They test the string’s tension immediately after the racquet is complete to acquire a baseline measurement and the information is tracked via a customized log.
“We have more people coming back to check tension versus hours of play,” says Hackney (above). “This really opens their eyes on string performance and life, especially with many co-polymer strings. If there’s a loss of 30 percent or more, we suggest new string.”
Andrea Amaral (below), from Vassouras in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, takes a similar approach. She designed her own customized computer program to track string jobs and, like Hackney, uses the Beers ERT 300 to take a baseline measurement once the racquet is complete.
“We place a label on the racquet with the DT [dynamic tension] reading from the ERT 300,” says Amaral. “We encourage our customers to let us check their strings if they’re not broken. This allows us to show them the actual tension loss since the racquet was strung. This method has increased our stringing revenue by 30 percent.”
John Gugel (below), RSI’s 2012 Stringer of the Year, also developed a program for tracking racquet data from service to service, and which can generate and print racquet labels. Gugel uses the program to encourage frequent restringing; it can automatically generate email reminders to players timed to when they last had their frame serviced.
Gugel also utilizes the Beers ERT 300 to check a customer’s tension and provides more than one option for data on labels, one of which is the DT reading from the ERT 300. If a client shows up and wants to know if it’s time for new string, Gugel can glance at the label on the racquet, grab his ERT 300, take a quick reading for comparison to his original baseline measurement and make his recommendation.
These technicians have taken a proactive approach when it comes to restringing racquets for their clients. None of them takes this issue lightly and all agree that “string as many times a year as you play in one week” is outdated. The questions, however, remain: What can we replace that simple maxim with? Can we do better with such a complex issue?
And beyond that: How best can this industry as a whole encourage players to string their racquets more frequently?
Stringing Machine Selector
Whether you’ve figured out the secret to getting your customers to restring more often, or are still looking for ways to increase your string business, you need to make sure you have the right stringing machine, with all the right features for you. On the following pages, RSI’s annual Guide to Stringing Machines lists dozens of models from 12 different manufacturers, with their features, prices and contact information.
USRSA Master Racquet Technician and tour stringer Tim Strawn owns and operates the International Alliance of Racquet Technicians at gssalliance.com and is the founder and owner of the IART Symposium (formerly called the GSS Symposium). The seventh annual IART Symposium will be Sept. 21 to 25 in Tampa, Fla. Visit gssalliance.com or contact Strawn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-632-1148.
See all articles by Tim Strawn