Q3 Highlighted by Double-Digit Growth in Youth Tennis Equipment Distribution

The tennis industry will be heading into the holiday shopping season on the heels of a strong third quarter compared to 2011. For the first time this year, TIA Wholesale Shipment Census Reports indicate positive growth in all categories measured. In addition, the dollar value of units shipped in each of these categories grew in Q3 2012 compared to Q3 2011.

As the industry continues to focus a portion of its efforts on growing youth tennis, Q3 comparables in the youth tennis equipment categories show double-digit growth over the same period last year. While Q3 2012 indicates a positive sign in growth for the tennis industry, it remains a challenge for wholesale shipments to reach pre-recessionary peaks seen in 2008, as retailers are operating with leaner inventories and consumers are still somewhat cautiously optimistic about the economy.

"As the industry continues to align our efforts across the board on a variety of initiatives and programs, we're starting to see some positive results in terms of equipment distribution, particularly in the youth category, that is being placed into the retail channel," says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer.

Wholesale shipment units of red, orange, and green tennis balls have seen three consecutive quarters of double-digit growth this year, up 38% in Q3 of 2012 versus Q3 2011 and up over 41% year-to-date versus 2011. The dollar value of wholesale red, orange, and green tennis balls has also seen double digit-growth in each quarter over 2011, up 37% in Q3 and up 41% year-to-date. Wholesale unit and dollar shipments of youth tennis racquets grew 12% in the third quarter compared to 2011 and year-to-date values are up 5.4% in units shipped and 9.3% in dollars shipped.

"With U.S. GDP growing at 2 percent in the third quarter of this year, we're happy to see that impact carry over into positive Q3 growth for the tennis industry," adds de Boer. Ball units shipped in Q3 were up 3% over the same period in 2011 and the dollar value of balls shipped were up 7%, representing a slightly higher average price point overall for tennis balls distributed into the market. Year-to-date values for tennis balls show positive growth as well, up 4% in units and 7% in dollars.

"Tennis ball shipments have performed well this year, comparable to 2011," says de Boer, "and we're seeing anecdotal evidence from other key indicators that this increase in balls will have a positive correlation to 2012 participation results expected to be released in Q4 of this year."

Tennis racquets rebounded in Q3 from a Q2 where weather, the economy, and a variety of other factors appeared to have constricted spending among consumers. Wholesale distribution of racquets are up 1.3% in Q3 and dollars shipped are up marginally at 0.2%, as the average price per racquet fell slightly compared to 2011. Although growth in racquets was modest compared to other categories, a strong 2012 first quarter translates into a 5.1% growth in total dollars shipped year-to-date.

"Tennis racquets tend to be a more scrutinized discretionary purchase for consumers than other tennis equipment, such as tennis balls and strings," de Boer adds. "It's not atypical to see smaller growth in the racquet category when we're seeing larger growth in other categories."

Tennis strings, which have gotten off to a shaky start in the first half of this year, rebounded in the third quarter with 8.9% growth in units shipped versus 2011 and 12% growth in dollars shipped. Year-to-date units are still down slightly, however, at 1%, whereas the strong third quarter brought year-to-date dollar values up 1.5% compared to 2011.

Although Q3 of 2012 yielded positive results, the fourth quarter is typically the "slowest" quarter for the tennis industry in terms of units and dollars placed into the market as retailers prepare for new product line launches for the next year and participation throughout the country tends to decrease due to cooler temperatures.

De Boer adds, "With the National Retail Federation projecting 4.1% growth in consumer spending this holiday shopping season, the industry is eager to see if that positively impacts fourth-quarter growth and year-end results for tennis equipment."

These results are a part of the TIA's quarterly census reports on tennis racquets, balls, and strings. For questions regarding TIA research, contact the TIA at research@tennisindustry.org or 866.686.3036.