Tennis Industry magazine


Retailing 136: Your Path to Profits

Top specialty shops place themselves in the consumers’ “path to purchase” by doing four consumer-centric things well.

By Jay Townley

Prior to the great recession, brands, retail stores and sports specialty shops controlled the “path to purchase.” Consumers came to specialty tennis retailers to find out about tennis products and do their research before making a purchase decision. At that time, the internet was just becoming a feature of consumer research.

After the recession, control of the path to purchase slipped out of the control of the brands and, accordingly, out of the hands of retailers and specialty shops.

Today, a typical consumer uses 16 or more touch points when they research a purchase, and they take an average of 10 days to reach a purchase decision — and the number of days of research goes up as the price of the product goes up. Empowered by the internet, consumers can get what they want when they want it, 24/7, and have it delivered to their homes or workplace in 24 hours. They are less interested in things and much more interested in why and how retailers sell the things they do.

To be relevant and regain a position of prominence in the consumers’ path to purchase, specialty tennis shops need to focus on becoming consumer-centric and doing four things extremely well.

First, make it easy — and fun — to shop your store. It should be clean, easy to navigate and easy to understand store layouts. It should have well-thought-out signage and knowledgeable staff that are all focused on making shoppers welcome and above all, “comfortable” in the shop environment. If your specialty shop builds a reputation for being a fun and easy place to shop, the positive buzz will spread through word-of-mouth and social media.

Second, top specialty sport shops understand the art and science of being “sticky” — meaning that their open and easy-to-navigate store space is focused on keeping shoppers in the shop longer. The longer shoppers stay, the more they purchase.

Third, top specialty sports shops work hard at becoming their customers’ “third-place,” a term coined by retail guru Paco Underhill and given high visibility by Starbucks. As Underhill’s research shows (in his updated and revised edition of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping), there is work, home and the third place that consumers would prefer to be when they are not at the other two. This is all directly related to making shoppers comfortable and satisfied and happy with their shopping experiences.

Fourth, top sports retail stores stop the confusion that comes with the “tyranny of choice” that many specialty tennis shops have been talked into believing is what consumers want. Our research, going back before the great recession, found that the new product offerings, selection and merchandising in many specialty sports shops were confusing and overwhelming to shoppers … and were responsible for driving away “novices” who wanted to get back into a sport like tennis. Too many price points for one model family and too many model families are not only confusing to shoppers, but to your sales associates as well, and in particular part-time associates.

Top specialty retail shops understand the merchandising philosophy of Good, Better, Best, and taking a good, hard look at their product offerings and simplifying the selection to sell more. It means fewer SKUs and increased inventory turns — and profitability.

Complaining about the internet is not a strategy or a solution, but becoming a top specialty tennis retail shop by executing these four consumer-centric things well to will place you prominently in the consumers’ Path to Purchase!

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



TI magazine search

TI magazine categories

TI magazine archives


Movable Type Development by PRO IT Service