The first quarter of 2013 proved challenging for the tennis industry in terms of wholesale distribution from manufacturers and retail sell-through for specialty tennis retailers. These two trends are measured on a quarterly basis by the Tennis Industry Association’s Census Reports and Specialty Store Retail Audits.
Overall factors potentially impacting the declines seen in year-over-year comparisons include weakened consumer confidence, weather trends across the country, and early wholesale deliveries of racquet products from manufacturers in late 2012, which traditionally would have been delivered in early 2013.
Early Deliveries from Manufacturers
In Q4 of 2012, several tennis industry manufacturers rolled out new product lines to their retail channels, which traditionally have been delivered in Q1 of the year. As TIA data shows, this had a positive impact on Q4 2012 results, but an adverse impact on Q1 2013 results.
Tennis is predominately an outdoor sport, therefore, weather trends, especially those that deviate from the norm, can have an impact on not only play, but also the equipment market as well. February and March, which also experienced the largest year over year declines in terms of racquet sales at tennis specialty stores, saw weather patterns that deviated a fair amount from normal conditions.
According to the charts below from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, large portions of the country that would be participating in tennis during the first quarter of the year saw colder than average temperatures, sometimes by as much as 10 degrees. In addition, several parts of the Southeast and Midwest, as shown in the second chart, experienced up to 300% of their normal precipitation levels.
Weakend Q1 for Specialty Tennis Retailers
Overall for the quarter, unit sales of racquets at specialty tennis retailers were down 14% and dollar sales were down 9%. The average price of racquets sold did inch upward by 5% over the same time frame compared to last year. In the month of January unit sales were down 6%, however dollar sales were up 1% on an 7% higher average price point. The remaining two months of the quarter, February and March, proved challenging for the specialty retail segment as it saw double digit declines in racquet unit sales during both months, 18% and 16%, respectively.
Weakend Q1 for Wholesale Market
Comparing Q1 2013 to Q1 2012 in the wholesale tennis equipment unit shipment market, string and racquet units were both down, 1.8% and 14.8% respectively. Overall ball unit shipments were relatively flat as those unit shipments inched upward 0.1% over Q1 2012. Red, Orange, and Green ball tennis shipments continue to grow, although the growth is beginning to slow as the market becomes saturated, with a 3.2% increase in units shipped in Q1 2013 over 2012.