The ABCs of Racquets and Strings
Webinar presented by: Bruce Levine, TIA Retailer Panel Member and General Manager of Courtside Racquet Club, Lebanon, N.J.
How do you get racquets into your customers’ hands? Levine has some basic concepts that he’s used successfully for years in his tennis retail business. He shared his knowledge with dozens of attendees at a free webinar on Dec. 8 as part of the TIA Webinar Series.
“One of the main things you can do as a retailer to help your customers, and to sell more racquets, is to become as knowledgeable as possible on tennis products and technologies,“ says Levine. Here are some key tips for selling racquets and strings from Levine’s webinar that can help your retail business. To download the presentation, visit TennisIndustry.org.
Best Advice to Give Your Customers: DEMO!
Players need to test-drive the racquet to make sure it will help their game and feel right to them. Levine, who coordinates the racquet playtesting for Tennis Magazine, has these suggestions on how to demo a racquet.
- Demo only two racquets at a time. Hang onto the one you like, then playtest that racquet against another new racquet, and so on, until you find the “keeper.”
- Make sure you hit every shot and try the racquet for every part of your game.
- Take a lesson or clinic with your playtest frame.
- With your playtest frame, practice with your friends—who will be honest about how the racquet affects your game.
- Play a match with the playtest frame.
Put a New Frame In Their Hands
- The “soft” sell: Don’t push, but ask them to try a new racquet and suggest one that may help their game. Also, a “demo day” is a good way for customers to try new frames with little pressure.
- The “hard” sell: “Tell them, ‘I want you to try this racquet,’” says Levine. The idea is that you know your customer well enough to be able to tell them they “need” a new racquet.
- The “need this” sell: “Racquets get old, and you need a new one,” Levine says he’ll sometimes tell his customers. Show them the new generation of the frame they’re playing with.
- The “it’s new” sell: “Some players just have to try the new technology when it first comes out,” Levine notes. “Key here is making sure you as a retailer stay on top of the newest offerings and can understand the technologies”.
Reasons to Buy a New Racquet
- Technology: “New stuff helps you do new things,” says Levine.
- Game improvement: A new racquet will make it easier to play the game. “As players get older and slow down, they look for things to help them.”
- Replacement: “Racquets get old and eventually die,” says Levine. It’s not just the strings that can lose their pop, but an old frame can, too. If a customer plays with his trusty old racquet just after it’s been restrung and complains that it doesn’t play like it should, “that’s a good sign that the racquet has gotten old.”
- Health/injury concerns: You don’t want players to hurt themselves swinging a particular racquet that might not be suited for them. “At Courtside, we’re cautious because we want our members playing tennis,” notes Levine. “For instance, look out for head-heavy racquets with someone who has a reasonably long swing. That could cause elbow and wrist issues.”
Who Are Your Customers?
“Know your customers and their styles of play,” says Levine. “It will give you an opportunity to better service them.”
Know their frequency of play—someone who plays a lot of tennis will be more comfortable spending money on a racquet. Also, know their “improvement potential”—are they working at getting better, or are they content with the level they are at?
And of course, know what their budget is for a new racquet.
Know the 3 Types of Racquets
- Power (“Game-Improvement”) Frames: Generally lighter, stiffer and powerful, with large head sizes. They appeal to players with shorter swings.
- “Tweener” Frames: Blending power and control, these frames appeal to intermediate to advanced players seeking more maneuverability, and to juniors transitioning to adult frames.
- Control (“Player’s”) Frames: Generally heavier in weight, more flexible, with a smaller head size. They appeal to better players.
Some String Basics
Strings are just as important as the racquet itself. For retailers, strings and stringing mean high margins and repeat business, so don’t ignore this important area of your business.
String types are natural gut, monofilament (a single strand), multifilament (a core with wraps around it) and polyester. Polyester strings, however, are not for everyone—top pros use poly because it is essentially a rigid, dead string and they can take a big swing at the ball. But for recreational players, poly strings often aren’t very forgiving and may cause arm problems.
Lower-level players need a string with some forgiveness and with some flexibility, so it is easier on the arm. Don’t sell a customer a fancy string if they don’t need it; sell them the closest string to gut that they can afford and that fits their style and their level of play.
And don’t forget the high-margin accessories such as replacement grips, string savers, vibration dampers, lead tape, new grommets, etc.
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