Unmatched customer service and trendy on-court fashions net club and resort tennis pro shops an advantage over the competition.
Some of the stars on the WTA and ATP World tours are as renowned for their tennis outfits as they are for their booming forehands or their sizzling passing shots. There’s no reason that club players can’t be on-court fashionistas as well. Many club and resort properties have separate tennis pro shops to keep their tennis members and guests playing in style with the latest tennis apparel and top-of-the-line equipment
At the Top of the Rankings
One of the best ways for club and resort tennis pro shops to score sales is to offer lines that sporting goods chains and other retailers generally do not carry.
“We’re well known for our variety of clothes. We try to get unusual, glitzy, sparkly things for the fashion tennis player. Our niche is retail fashion,” says Tanda Bianco, Club Manager and Tennis Professional at Port Royal Racquet Club in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Summing It Up
Vivian Welsh, Buyer for the Quail Creek Country Club tennis pro shop in Naples. Fla., follows the same philosophy.
“We have a private, exclusive shop, and I try to carry brands that you’re not going to see anywhere else,” she reveals. “Every single item I get in is different. The same members are here day in and day out, so we only carry little bits of lots of different lines.”
The shop carries men’s and women’s tennis clothing and accessories such as hats, headbands and wristbands, and Welsh goes to shows twice a year to look for the latest fashions. Quail Creek CC also carries tennis bags with fun designs, patterns and styles. “The bags sell well. They get used a lot, so they only last one or two years,” adds Welsh.
When it comes to equipment, however, Quail Creek CC exclusively carries one of the most recognized names in the business.
“We are strictly a Wilson shop. We like the product. It sells well,” Welsh reveals. “By making ourselves an exclusively Wilson shop, they give us better prices.”
Joe DeLuna, Director of Tennis at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, Texas, says women’s and children’s tennis apparel makes up 80 percent of the tennis pro shop’s inventory.
One side of the shop features a racket wall while men’s tennis clothing occupies the opposite wall. The shop also carries junior and adult rackets and items such as sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses.
Merchandise with the Oak Hills logo, which includes bags, hats, clothing and warm-up suits, are popular sellers as well. “When members bring their guests here, they like to buy a shirt that has the club logo on it,” notes DeLuna.
Every two to eight weeks, the tennis shop staff, which includes one full-time and five part-time employees, moves merchandise displays and racks to keep the shop vibrant. “We display new arrivals in the front of the shop, and put signs on the sale merchandise,” DeLuna adds.
Oak Hills Country Club
Port Royal Racquet Club
Quail Creek Country Club
Game, Set, Match
Effective merchandising strategies translate into sales, and color and product coordination are hits at Port Royal. “We try to get a whole line of something so it creates a dynamic look,” notes Bianco.
Many of the brands that make racket bags carried by Port Royal also produce accessories such as makeup bags and water bottles. “Everything matches, and the merchandise creates a really nice display,” notes Bianco. “We try to get a whole line of something so it creates a dynamic look. Color is important.”
The Hilton Head shop also runs holiday specials and has a sale rack of older fashions that are marked down 25 percent to 50 percent.
Quail Creek, which offers its members a 20-percent discount off of retail prices, keeps items in stock for four or five months before marking them down to half-price. Welsh says the shop at the private facility never advertises and rarely offers specials.
“If we have a tournament, I might run a one-week special and mark items down an extra 10 percent,” she says. “But we start out at 20 percent off of retail to begin with.”
Members also receive a 20-percent discount off of merchandise at the tennis shop at the private, member-owned Oak Hills.
“Our members are our number one priority,” DeLuna explains. “Guests and nonmembers pay retail prices.”
He also says the shop discounts clothing that remains at the end of a season or that carries over from the previous season.
At Your Service
The ambiance and other amenities lure customers into the tennis shops as well.
The Oak Hills décor features dark wood fixtures, and the dark wood counter boasts an engraved logo on the front and a granite top. A TV room in the shop includes seating for eight people, and snacks such as chips, power bars and granola bars as well as beverages including beer, wine and sports drinks are available.
The high ceilings and open, airy layout of the Port Royal tennis shop create an inviting atmosphere, and the checkout counter is located in the middle of the store. “As soon as someone walks in the door, we can say, ‘hello,’” says Bianco.
Hats are arranged on wooden displays backed by fabric, and apparel occupies freestanding waterfall fixtures. The shop also features a shoe corner for tennis shoes and socks and a section for full-service racket restringing.
However, none of these features would matter if the tennis shops didn’t offer amenities such as special orders or regripping and 24-hour restringing services.
“Someone can bring a racket in for restringing any time during the day, and we’ll have it ready for them by 8 o’clock the next morning,” Bianco reports.
Port Royal has 24 employees for its entire tennis operation and 10 employees that work in the shop only. “All of the shop employees play tennis, but it’s not a requirement,” notes Bianco.
The four-person tennis staff at Quail Creek includes one full-time and two part-time shop employees. The shop keeps demo rackets in stock rather than an endless supply of rackets. “If someone likes a racket, then we’ll order it for them,” notes Welsh.
DeLuna says special orders are a big part of the merchandising strategies at Oak Hills as well.
“If we don’t have it, we will do our best to get it for you,” he explains. “Special orders are important to our shop sales and to our customer loyalty. If we can get something for our customers, then there’s a good chance they’ll come back and see us.”
In addition, DeLuna says, “We can customize your racket any way you like it.”
The Port Royal tennis pro shop staff also refers customers to other Hilton Head shops.
“The clubs on the island work really well together,” says Bianco. “If w don’t have a particular line, then we’ll send our customers to another shop. It’s a close-knit group. All of us have a few things that are the same, but we generally know what each other carries.”
Because the shop has a limited selection of tennis shoes, she continues, “We’ll send our customers to sporting goods stores, and they’ll give our customers a discount.”
Port Royal, which is owned by Heritage Golf Group, has corporate protocols for its operations. Nevertheless, Bianco speaks for everyone about the ultimate goal.
“I want every customer that leaves our store to be happy,” she says.
Outside the Lines
Many club and resort tennis pro shops venture outside the lines by stocking items other than tennis merchandise.
The tennis shop at Port Royal Racquet Club in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, carries jewelry such as watches that clip onto tennis bags, yoga and after-tennis apparel, and a line of sparkly hats from a Florida company. “We’ve had people call and order 72 hats at a time,” says Tanda Bianco, the Club Manager and Tennis Professional.
The tennis pro shop at Quail Creek Country Club in Naples, Fla., carries items such as tennis-related jewelry and note cards, and it has branched out into other types of clothing as well. “We started carrying fitness clothing this fall, and that’s done well for us,” reports Vivian Welsh, the Buyer for the shop.
At Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, Texas, customers can find gift items ranging from women’s handbags and sarongs to tumblers sporting university or professional team logos. Pieces by Jon Hart Design, a San Antonio-based company, are popular as well. The line includes backpacks, luggage, hanging and duffle bags, totes, travel accessories and coolers.
“People come in for gift ideas, so we just like to give them more choices,” reveals Joe DeLuna, the Director of Tennis. “Anything that you can personalize seems to sell well.”