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TIA Forum Outlines Keys for Industry Growth

The fourth annual TIA Tennis Forum was held during the 2010 US Open in New York City, detailing the latest news about the state of the tennis industry, including player data, equipment sales data, and grassroots initiatives. The Forum also highlighted the revamped and repositioned TennisIndustry.org website and featured Billie Jean King’s induction into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame. (To see a video of the Forum, go to www.youtube.com/tennisindustry.)

Tennis Industry Association President Jon Muir outlined three key industry “platforms”—increasing the number of frequent players in the U.S., ways to better define and boost the economic growth and impact of the tennis industry, and effective ways to distribute clear, consistent messaging about tennis and the reasons to play it.

U.S. Tennis Association President and Chairman of the Board Lucy Garvin also welcomed the industry audience members to the Tennis Forum. “I’m pleased that the TIA and USTA are working closely together to grow the sport of tennis,” she said. “The TIA is made up of all the important entities in the business and we all work together and support each other.”

The TIA is the not-for-profit trade association for tennis, made up of tennis businesses that cross all sectors of the industry, including manufacturers, court builders, teaching pros, facilities, retailers, professional tours, media and organizations.

Tennis Equipment Sales

Tennis ball shipments year to date through the second quarter of 2010 were up 1.6% in units and 2.7% in dollars from the same period last year, according to TIA research. “The fact that we’re seeing ball shipments go in a positive direction is a good sign,” said Muir. “It’s on a higher path than we’ve been on for the last few years.”

Racquet sales at pro/specialty stores were up 6% in units and 8% in dollars year-to-date through the second quarter compared to 2009. At wholesale, second-quarter racquet shipments saw a slight decrease, however there was a 7.4% increase in wholesale racquet dollars for the second quarter, indicating a growing trend in performance racquet demand and increasing price points.

But, Muir cautioned, “When we try to summarize the broader state of the economy, one word keeps coming up, and that is ‘uncertainty.’ We’ve had a big downsizing in the early part of 2010, it kicked up again, now it’s a bit back down again, and is trying to find the ‘new normal.’”

Tennis Player Data

“Taking advantage of the momentum [from last year’s participation increase] is hugely important. We have to keep telling our story,” said Muir. The TIA/USTA Annual Participation Study showed more than 30 million players picked up a racquet in 2009, the highest number in more than 20 years. “We did see a little bit of a dip in the frequent player base, which is a concern and something we’re going to continue to track.” There are 5.4 million frequent players in the U.S., according to the TIA/USTA study.

Yearly data from the Physical Activity Council, which includes the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, continues to show tennis participation is far ahead of other traditional sports in terms of growth. From 2000 through 2009, tennis participation in the U.S. grew by 43%, according to PAC data, far outpacing the No. 2 sport, racquetball, which saw a 2% rise in participation. All other traditional sports, including golf and soccer, showed declines in participation from 2000 to 2009.

Kurt Kamperman, the USTA’s Chief Executive of Community Tennis, talked about the need to boost participation and competition for kids aged 10 and under, using the QuickStart Tennis play format. In early September, the USTA approved a rule change governing 10-and-under tennis that requires competition to take place using slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls, on smaller courts, using shorter, lighter racquets.

“Scaling tennis down to the size of children will promote greater participation and ensure that young kids will be able to play tennis much more quickly,” Kamperman said. “This rule change to the competition format for kids 10 and under is critical to the long-term growth of our sport.”

Revamped and Repositioned Website

The TIA website was relaunched as the “one-stop-portal” for all things relative to the tennis industry. The new website offers a fresh new look that provides visitors with significant improvements to navigation and easier accessibility to additional tennis industry programs, marketplace news, research and initiatives.

“The launch of our new website marks a new direction for the TIA,” said Muir, “one that reinforces our position as the source of information for the tennis industry and our dedication to promoting the growth and economic vitality of the sport.”

The new website links visitors to industry initiatives in the GrowingTennis System, which promotes QuickStart Tennis, Tennis Welcome Centers and Cardio Tennis to connect programs and facilities to consumers through online searches. The site also highlights industry programs and efforts including Careers In Tennis, TennisConnect, the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame, Tennis Industry News, and more.

“Our goal for the new website is to provide a central hub for the industry,” said Jolyn de Boer, Executive Director of the TIA, “by connecting site visitors to industry news, research, initiatives, programs, resources, and most importantly, each other—to help everyone stay informed and engaged with what is happening in the industry.”

Tennis Industry Hall of Fame

Also at the TIA Tennis Forum, tennis legend Billie Jean King was inducted into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame. King, who last year received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, joins previous inductees Dennis Van der Meer, Howard Head and Alan Schwartz in the TI Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was created in 2008 to recognize individuals who have made a significant impact on the sport. Plaques of the inductees hang in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.

“We are honoring you because you were the spark. The spark that caused a boom. A boom that gave rise to the tennis industry as we know it today,” said Tennis Magazine Publisher Jeff Williams in his introduction of King. “We are all part of an industry that is bigger, an industry that is better, and an industry that is stronger because of you.”

King started playing tennis only because a childhood friend in fifth grade asked her to play. “If she hadn’t asked me, I wouldn’t have started playing,” said King, who likens her experience in tennis to life itself. “Tennis teaches you to keep playing, keep going and maintain optimism in life.”

 

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