Tennis Industry magazine


Retailing 127: ‘Complaining Is Not a Strategy!’

For specialty retailers, the internet isn’t happening to them, the future is happening to retailing.

Recently, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos got a lot of media attention for what he said about Amazon working on developing drones to deliver packages of 5 pounds or less to customers within 10 miles of its distribution centers. For some, this concept may be a bit far-fetched; for others, it’s an indication of innovation and progress.

But something Bezos said resonated with Fred Clements, executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association, who wrote in his retail blog: “When asked about the disruption to traditional retailers from Amazon, Bezos was straightforward … ‘When you invent something new, if customers come to the party, it’s disruptive to the old way. The internet is disrupting every media industry … people can complain about that, but complaining is not a strategy. And Amazon is not happening to book selling; the future is happening to book selling.’”

Whatever you may think of Bezos and Amazon, he is right about the impact of innovation on the “old way”—and the simple fact that “complaining is not a strategy.”

The internet and online retailers aren’t happening to specialty tennis retailing…the future is happening to specialty tennis retailing. Understanding, accepting, embracing and leveraging the future is far more productive and profitable than fighting the inevitable and hoping it will go away.

For instance, smartphones are omnipresent today. Ignoring or chasing away shoppers who use their smartphones as an integral part of their shopping experience is a bad idea; it will only result in unhappy shoppers who will probably speak badly about your store—and who will then shop elsewhere.

As retail specialists, we’ve come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter if shoppers are “showrooming” or “webrooming.” The best strategy for specialty tennis retailers is to welcome everyone into your store and help them shop with their hand-held devices as just a part of the process and experience. It’s about customer service, and serving the customer the way they want to be served.

This goes hand-in-hand with your store having an internet presence through a website that is hand-held compatible, and your presence on selected social media. Part of your strategy is deciding if your website will be commerce-enabled or not, but a good to great website is a given in today’s consumer driven and dominated retail marketplace.

Here are other elements of your specialty tennis retail strategy:

Focus on people. Being “consumer-centric” means serving customer in all ways, but also employing customer service naturals. You want sales associates who are hard-wired to serve and really enjoy helping shoppers find their individual tennis lifestyle solutions. Make sales associates a part of the experience your store provides, and a reason for customers to come back.

Create a comfortable, welcoming environment. This is an evolutionary process that will be constantly changing, but the bottom line is a neat, clean store that you’re always improving. You want, first, a warm and welcoming store that invites shoppers in, and second, a place where shoppers feel comfortable and want to stick around for a while, and want to come back to. This can be accomplished with any size store.

Get them playing tennis! While this might be easier for a pro shop that is part of a tennis facility, stand-alone tennis facilities can make this happen, too. For instance, get players of the same ability together and make arrangements to play at local faculties. Get active in promoting Youth Tennis and in helping get kids to play. Promote and facilitate beginner’s orientation and lessons. Getting more people to play tennis, more often, ensures your own customer base.

Choose the right vendors. Vendors need to work with you and be interested in helping grow your specialty retail brand and business. Vendor selection involves the quality and value of the product portfolio you will be able to offer your customers and the realized gross margins you will be able to consistently achieve. Select vendors that will make the best partners now and in the future.

Stringing and maintenance services. A brick-and-mortar specialty tennis retail strategy needs to not only include stringing, but also any other aspects, no matter how small they may seem, of maintaining, servicing and replacing racquets and
gear. Create added value that differentiates your store from the competition.

For upcoming TIA retail webinars, and to view previous webinars, visit

This is part of a series of retail tips presented by the Tennis Industry Association and written by the Gluskin Townley Group (



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