Racquet service: Stringing stars
With their stringing and service expertise, these shops grow their bottom lines while helping customers play better tennis.
Knowledge Means Power
Knowledge is the theme that makes the Bryn Mawr Tennis Junction one of the Philadelphia area’s premier destinations for racquet stringing. Knowledge is what they have, is what they share, and is what they want more of.
The store features USRSA Certified Stringers who maintain consistency in their work by using multiple Wilson Baiardo machines, while also putting their racquets through a Babolat RDC machine. (They also lend their expertise to the pro tour by stringing at the US Open and Miami Open.)
The business mantra for Bryn Mawr Tennis Junction, of course, is to ensure proper margins on the products they sell. But store owner and USRSA Master Racquet Technician Philip van Asselt says the customer-service goals include offering players as much information as possible — even as customers rush in to drop off racquets for 24-hour service or take advantage of stringing promotions including buy 10 string jobs, get one free.
The store offers about 200 demo frames, which help teach that string is an equally important component of the game. As a result, more racquets are being strung with synthetics in the mains and softer, multifilaments for the crosses.
Of course, van Asselt doesn’t see the mission to impart knowledge as his store’s alone: “I would love to see manufactures talk more about string,” he says. “Customers need to be educated, and help from string manufactures is vital.”
He makes sure the store does its part, though, by offering advice about string life based on hours of play, and that to avoid potential arm injury, a racquet should be restrung every 8 to 20 hours of playing time, depending on the type of string. Additional advice and information, as well as news of promotions, are sent to customers through a newsletter. It’s all about spreading the knowledge.
— Kent Oswald
Have a Good Plan
Master Racquet Technician Shawn Arnette, the owner of Courtcraft Tennis in Lilburn, Ga., quickly realized that opening a tennis specialty store would require a good business plan. “Racquet service is such an integral part of our store’s operation that it’s hard to justify, let alone imagine, trying to operate a specialty brick-and-mortar tennis operation without the contribution it brings to the bottom line,” he says. “It’s the bread-and-butter of our business, and it’s about the only area in which an internet retailer can’t be as successful.”
Having an experienced staff of USRSA Certified Stringers is essential to instilling confidence with his customer base, as they help players choose the proper string and tension for their games. Courtcraft technicians get to know their clients by closely inspecting their racquet and finding out how they play.
“We’ve created and displayed a String Selection Chart in our stringing area that lists all the strings we stock,” Arnette says. “The chart lists each string’s material, stiffness index and tension retention. It’s a great tool our technicians can use to assist players in exploring and understanding the various string categories.”
Information for the chart is based on data from the String Selector found on the USRSA’s racquettech.com website, an invaluable supplement to your in-store purchasing experience.
Making your customers aware of the importance of selecting the right string and the right tension is essential, says Arnette, but so is making sure your service is convenient and efficient. “We keep detailed records of every service, and we guarantee 24-hour turnaround on stringing,” he adds. “We can do it in the same day, or even on the spot, if our workload permits.”
— Bob Patterson
‘Give Them More’
Tom Rohrbacher’s business philosophy is simple: “First of all, you have to give them more.”
For his players at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in California, that means not only readily sharing the wisdom he’s gained from his more than 35 years of teaching, but also providing regular customers with discounts, stenciling strings and even putting finished racquets in plastic bags for players who will be traveling.
Rohrbacher, who is the tennis director at Ojai Valley, has received many honors, most recently the USPTA’s 2016 Pete Brown Lifetime Achievement Award. He teaches 20 to 25 hours a week and coaches the local high school boys’ team. He also notes that more top players are coming to him with their own strings, as opposed to buying sets in his shop. Even though Rohrbacher loses out on some revenue, he encourages this, because players who bring in their own strings will come in more often. “Once you get them in the shop, they start looking around, and that helps you sell other things,” he says.
A trend Rohrbacher is keeping on top of is an uptick in players mixing natural gut with poly for a superior feel. He also notes that players are looking for textured strings to increase spin, and are exploring softer polys to ease stress on the arm and wrist.
Even though Rohrbacher’s base of operations is at a beautiful resort, his office and shop space, featuring his Babolat Sensor machine, take up less than 500 square feet. His local competition includes extensive public and private operations — a situation requiring Rohrbacher to bring into play another piece of advice, which he subscribes to: “You have to be a go-getter.”
— Kent Oswald
Understand Players’ Needs
For more than 35 years, Mark Campanile, the owner and operator of The Racquet Man in Northbrook, Ill., has been doing his thing — servicing racquets and helping players improve and enjoy the game more. “Our mission is straightforward: To educate and service our clientele in a highly professional, efficient, and uncompromising manner,” says Campanile, a Master Racquet Technician and USRSA Certification Tester.
Campanile says there is more to servicing racquets than installing strings and grips. It is about finding out what the client needs and providing that. “Before any racquet is strung, or any service provided, we want to understand the player’s needs, personality and skill level,” he says. “Then we can confidently advise on proper string and tension.”
Campanile goes even further by offering an on-court “Racquet Evaluation” service, in which a selection of more than 80 demo frames is used. “The evaluation can take from one to three sessions, but in most cases the player leaves the shop with a new racquet and a feeling of complete satisfaction.”
— Bob Patterson
Tips for Superior Racquet Service
- Be Consistent: Consistency is key in every part of your business — from how you weave the strings to the records you keep.
- Get Certified: Demonstrate to your clients that you are a trusted and knowledgeable technician as a USRSA Certified Stringer and/or USRSA Master Racquet Technician.
- Listen: Learn to listen to your clients so you can best match them to the right string and tension to help them play better and enjoy the game more.
- Be Visible: Set up your stringing machine in a visible place within the store to draw attention to your services.
- Embrace Technology: Use software to maintain accurate records and send out email reminders for racquet service, and to notify players when their racquet is ready for pick-up.
- Keep Learning: Utilize the resources of the USRSA and seek out experienced veterans in the industry for advice; most are willing to share their knowledge and experience.
- Do More: Offer 24-hour turnaround service. Create a custom racquet label for each frame serviced. Bag finished racquets in a poly bag with your logo on it.
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