Tennis Industry magazine


Retailing Tip: Sell the Experience!

Holiday retail can be fun and profitable if you offer customers ‘experiential’ gift options.

By Jay Townley

By now you should have your holiday planning in place — including stocking and replenishment, displays, merchandising and marketing outreach. And your holiday messaging (advertisements, email blasts, etc.) should already be reaching out to your market space and customer base. But there is still time to generate added revenue — and have some real fun — selling experiential holiday gifts.

First, though, let’s dispel the false assumption that the internet and the ability to shop anywhere, any time means brick-and-mortar retail isn’t as important as it used to be. Nothing could be further from the truth.

American consumers have made it clear that they are buying much more than “stuff”: They are purchasing experiences, enjoyment and relationships with experts who can help them realize their ideal tennis lifestyle.

Combine this desire to purchase experiences with the bustling holiday season, and you have a unique opportunity to package and sell tennis lifestyle experience gifts such as tennis lessons, a trip to a tennis resort or tickets to a tennis event.

Seeking ‘Experiences’

According to the National Retail Federation’s consumer holiday spending survey of the 2015 season, about 22 percent of consumers planned to give an experience-type gift, while 37 percent wanted to receive one. However, those numbers jump significantly for millennials (Americans born between 1981 and 1997): More than 35 percent of these 18- to 34-year-olds planned to give an experiential gift, and over 50 percent said they would like to receive one. In addition, 43 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds indicated they would like to receive an experiential gift.

“When we began examining the phenomenon of experiential purchasing — in which a retailer offers consumers a chance to buy an experience rather than just an object or service — we were fascinated to see just how widespread the approach has become at retail,” said global research firm NPD about its 2015 year-end review.

Giving & Receiving

How does this affect your retail business? To the gift giver — who is your consumer — you want to make sure to deliver an extraordinary shopping experience, with all the hallmarks that make your store a tennis retail service winner and keep customers returning.

For the recipient, who may not be a customer, you want to offer memorable gifts that can help lead them to your shop. Be creative. If your shop is part of a larger tennis facility with courts, link purchases to on-court activities. If you have a standalone retail shop, consider partnering with a local facility, parks & rec department or teaching pro to offer on-court experiences.

American consumers go to brick-and-mortar stores to do more than just shop. This knowledge gives specialty tennis retailers a huge opportunity to create a great holiday gift-giving retail environment and to craft memorable tennis gift experiences — all while increasing revenue and profitability, and having some fun!

Jay Townley is a partner in the retail consulting firm Gluskin Townley Group (



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