Tennis Industry magazine


Apparel Retailing: Clothes Calls

Is selling apparel a challenge for your shop? These retailers make it look easy.

By Cynthia Sherman

Full-service tennis shops can’t afford not to carry apparel, although often, the apparel category is the most challenging as far as sales and profit — especially when it’s so easy to point, click and buy that skirt and top online. For brick-and-mortar stores, inventory needs to be presented in a visually appealing way, with clothing organized so customers can easily find what they’re looking for and enjoy their experience.

Resort at Longboat Key Club

The tennis shop at the Resort at Longboat Key Club in Longboat Key, Fla., provides a well-stocked inventory of everything a player needs, which fits perfectly with Tennis Director John Woods’ comprehensive tennis program. Apparel has always played a big part in the shop, and getting away from the traditional country club look and more into fashion was a key to building sales.

A few years ago, a large retail space was added, allowing the shop to carry more products from additional manufacturers, says Jackie Mitchell, who has run the shop at Longboat for 13 years. She emphasizes the boutique feel of the shop, which provides diverse choices that cater to both the club’s membership and vacationers. Among the nine lines are fashion-forward brands Lucky In Love, Sofibella and Bolle, which Mitchell says are popular among Longboat’s wealthy, well-traveled clientele. “How it’s displayed and looks when customers enter the store is important,” Mitchell says. “It has to hit their eye immediately.”

When ordering, Mitchell gets almost everything in a particular group and showcases it in front of the store with matching accessories like bags, shoes and socks. Showing skirts with different tops and always rotating displays gives customers options and encourages multiple purchases. With a knowledgeable staff and two dressing rooms, the shop provides an open, easy traffic pattern and comfortable environment. Members receive a 20 percent discount on apparel and shoes, and USTA groups also receive a discount. Holiday promotions help boost sales.

Game Set Match

Game Set Match in Denver is the largest retailer in a five-state region, with four stores. Manager Rachel Heise gives each apparel brand its own section and utilizes stationary fixtures, vendor POP displays, racks and mannequins. Customer demographics vary from soccer moms to trendy junior players, so Heise makes sure to stock a cross-section of styles and brands to fit that range, from athletic to more relaxed.

Apparel is a challenge, says Heise. “It takes up more than half the store yet accounts for less than half our sales. But you have to have it — and you have to have a wide variety.”

To differentiate from online competitors, Heise runs “team nights,” where teams get a 15 percent store discount. Also, while shopping, teams can have their racquets strung and gripped. Half the teams that come in end up ordering uniforms, which drives sales for fashion pieces and accessories. Heise takes advantage of social media to gain customers; she’ll promote new items on Facebook and send email blasts when a new line comes in. The store has a big sale during the US Open, sponsors local tournaments and makes donations, so it gets its name out in a variety of ways.

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About the Author

Cynthia Sherman is a contributing editor for Tennis Industry magazine.



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