Tennis Industry magazine

 

Our Serve: What We Need

By Peter Francesconi

This is an exciting time for the tennis industry.

The 2014 Tennis Show, which took place at the end of August, had exhibitors rushing sign up. The show highlighted new and innovative products and services and garnered a large industry audience. Some of the products on display, for instance, included LED lighting innovations that could lead to substantial energy- and cost-savings for facilities. There also were cutting-edge on-court analysis technology companies that provide players with stats to help them improve, along with “software as a service” companies that help make the tennis-provider business more efficient. And tennis equipment manufacturers debuted new racquets, strings, shoes and apparel designed to capture the playing public.

Tennis participation is another reason to be excited — it’s been growing, both overall and in the frequent player category. Tennis has a good story to tell — the sport is ranked in the Top 10 in terms of participant growth, as the Youth Tennis initiative continues to bring in more kids, our future customers. And the ground-breaking Lake Nona project promises many benefits, including aiding player development in the U.S.

But there’s one area that, typically, is a challenge when it comes to finding consistent good news — tennis retailing. Even during good times for the sport, it seems that tennis retailers still have a tough time. The thing is, we need our tennis retailers — they’re important “touch points” for tennis, which is, at heart, a game that grows locally. Now, though, there’s a new racquet technology that, in addition to giving players more flexibility, may be what tennis retailers are looking for to help spark sales and address other challenges in selling products.

In early August I joined about 60 retailers at a launch in New Orleans for the newest Dunlop frames — the iDapt racquets (see page 30). Codenamed “Project I.D.” and cloaked in secrecy, this project has been in development for four years, driven by Dunlop GM Kai Nitsche and Director of Marketing Hunter Hines. None of the dealers at the launch knew what to expect. And when the product was unveiled and the strategy described, I have never seen a group of tennis retailers — typically skeptical of many things — be so unanimously amazed and pleased.

It obviously remains to be seen how Dunlop’s new racquet will be received — and perceived — by players and other retailers. A lot will depend on how Dunlop supports this launch through its marketing and service.

But it’s an exciting sign for this industry that new, innovative products are in the pipeline, helping to push this sport forward.

Peter Francesconi, Editorial Director
peter@racquettech.com

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About the Author

Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.

 

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