Tennis Industry magazine


Retailing Tip: Educational Advantage

With classes and other educational offerings, you can become part of the experiential economy.

By Jay Townley

Addressing the changes in retail over the last six months, Matthew Shay, CEO of the National Retail Federation, said: “The velocity of change is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Before, things happened over a generation. Now, they’re happening overnight.”

As store traffic shrinks and more consumers shop online, particularly with smart phones, the strategies employed to bring shoppers into brick-and-mortar stores are more critical than ever. They have also become both vitally important and increasingly dependent on fulfilling customers’ desires for experiences and for creating memories.

Retail is transforming to an “experience economy,” says Christopher Leinberger, chair of the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University. Offering classes and education fit right into consumer expectations. These experiences can bring in consumers to buy more tennis gear, and they can expand your store’s range of products, along with revenue and profit potential.

Consumers are looking to buy more than just “stuff” from a store. Retailers that have a history of offering classes and education have not only survived disruptions caused by the fast changes in retail, but some- — such as outdoor retailer REI — are actually thriving amid the chaos.

Tennis retailers and pro shops can offer classes on subjects such as racquets performance, optimal stringing, and proper shoes and clothing. They can also teach techniques and strategies for playing tennis.

If you have a pro shop at a tennis facility or are near courts, consider some on-court time to teach consumers how to demo new racquets or string. You may want to charge for certain classes, while others may be worth providing for free. Tie in store coupons or other offers to make sure attendees buy from you.

Health, fitness and exercise also offer opportunities for your retail store. For example, a yoga class might be something that would appeal to customers.

Specialty retailers that offer the widest possible educational opportunities to their customers fit right into the emerging dynamic of local urban economies, where “smallness,” accessibility and a high-quality experience that can’t be replicated through e-commerce is a part of the retail transformation.

“This is certainly not the end of retail,” says Leinberger. “This is a much bigger transformation than we’ve had in 50, 60 years. The previous big transformation … was from walkable urban [centers] in the early 20th century — the Main Streets — to regional malls. We’re going back now to the 21st-century version of Main Street.”

For specialty tennis retailers to live and prosper on this new Main Street, they’ll need to be part of the “experience economy.”

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



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