Tennis Industry magazine


Retailing 128: Basic Training

To thrive in a tennis retail environment, make sure you master the fundamentals.

To survive and thrive in specialty tennis retailing, you need to “master the basics,” meaning you need to change your store’s strategy from the traditional product-centric focus of the last four decades to being consumer-centric. You need to take advantage of every opportunity to identify and create individual tennis lifestyle solutions — instead of just selling “tennis gear.”

Happy Face

One of the basics of retailing is something you know well: the power of a smile. A smile by you and all of your staff establishes the foundation for your whole consumer-centric strategy.

But it goes much further. The positive influence of a smile leads to the power of word of mouth in promoting your store brand, and with all the electronic communication and social media there is today, word of mouth is probably the most powerful marketing tool at your disposal. And it all starts with a smile.

Hang Out the Welcome Sign

Invite everyone into your specialty tennis shop to learn about how the tennis lifestyle can lead to a healthier and happier individual and household.

For retailers, the group of best customers, or “sweet spot,” is now 11 percent smaller than it was 10 years ago. Baby-boomers are not being replaced one-for-one by Generation X, the current best customers of tennis shops. The only way to get out of the current slump is to increase close rates — that is, reach out and attract more shoppers from your neighborhood and community to your store so you and your staff can convert more of them to paying customers.

Hanging out the welcome sign also means your store becomes as inclusive as it can be, embracing the cultural and ethnic diversity in your neighborhood and community. This means making everyone — women, men, children, teenagers, seniors, enthusiast tennis players, infrequent tennis players and folks who have not yet discovered the fun and enjoyment of tennis — welcome and comfortable in your store.

Invoke the Power of “How”

Right after your smile and warm greeting, “How” should be the basic beginning of each engagement with a shopper. “How can we be of service to you today?” “How can I help you?”

Keep Up Your Prices

Never sell anything in your store below your cost of doing business — with the only exceptions being necessary inventory adjustments — and then invoke the rule that the first loss is the best loss! Learn to buy and price the merchandise your store sells for a fair profit and don’t stock any merchandise that doesn’t allow you to operate your store as a profitable, growing specialty retail business.

It’s All About the Customer

Make it as easy as possible to shop your store and also as easy as possible for your sales associates to sell. Keep your product portfolio as simple and easy to manage, sell and buy as you possibly can.

The next step is adapting your product portfolio to your website and developing your online strategy. Commerce-enabling your website is a strategic decision you will have to make depending on your market and customer base. Ideally, you want to make it as easy as possible to buy from you.

Neighborhood and Community

Your market space is essentially your neighborhood and community, and while the internet gives your store wider reach, your ability to tap into your shop local/buy local movement is vitally important to your being able to increase your store’s conversion and close rates.

Retail technology, along with hand-held and mobile technology, have changed the face of retailing, but before rushing to embrace technology, specialty tennis shops need to carefully consider two basic factors. First, what technology is affordable and will contribute to the customer experience and satisfaction that your store will be providing? Second, what technology will differentiate your specialty tennis shop from your competitors?

Neither question is simple, but tennis shops need to focus on mastering the basics of providing an extraordinary retail shopping experience as a part of any decisions concerning bringing technology into their brick-and-mortar stores.

Invest in Your Staff

All of this leads to this last point — invest in the people who staff your store. This is the single most important to your objective of providing above-average retail shopping experiences, and making your staff one of the reasons satisfied customers come back to your shop and recommend your store to others.

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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