Tennis Industry Executives Share Results, Challenges, Opportunities at ‘State of the Tennis Industry’

Tennis Industry Association meeting covered current trends and focused
on industry growth, setting stage for visionary ‘summit’ in March.

A few hours before the first tennis ball was struck at the 2013 US Open, the tennis industry came together at a “State of the Industry” meeting in Manhattan, hosted by the Tennis Industry Association (TIA). Attendees heard from key industry stakeholders covering various segments of the tennis business. The meeting sets the stage for a “Future of Tennis Summit” to be held in March.

"This State of the Industry meeting is an opportunity for us to share what we're collectively doing throughout the industry to grow the tennis economy, get more people playing tennis, and pave a path for future sustainability for the game," TIA President Greg Mason told the packed meeting room at the Grand Hyatt New York.

Mason said the State of the Tennis Industry meeting, along with other industry meetings planned the following day, would help “set the stage for key growth initiatives,” which include PlayTennis.com, the Tennis-Tune Up Campaign, Youth Tennis, and Cardio Tennis.  “We’ll discuss where we’re currently at with various initiatives, how we see them evolving and impacting tennis and the tennis economy, and challenges and opportunities this industry faces,” he said.

Gordon Smith, the executive director of the U.S. Tennis Association, gave an overview of USTA initiatives, including 10 and Under Tennis and the recent announcement of upgrades and a retractable roof at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the home of the US Open.

Following Smith, Keith Storey from Sports Marketing Surveys touched on key trends impacting the $5.57 billion tennis economy, including the 10% rise in the number of frequent players in 2012, to 5.3 million, and 16% growth in youth tennis players to 3.74 million. While frequent players account for 70% of total tennis expenditures, the industry faces the challenge of an aging frequent player base. Other challenges include declines in wholesale racquet shipments and declines in specialty tennis store sales of racquets and strings from January through June 2013.

An update on “tennis media” included presentations from Jeff Williams and Adam Milner of the Tennis Media Company (Tennis magazine, Tennis.com, Tennis 15-30), David Egdes and Ken Solomon from Tennis Channel, and Jason Bernstein from ESPN. The “professional tennis update” included Linda Clark from the ATP, Steve Tseng from the WTA, and Ilana Kloss from World TeamTennis.

The USTA’s Kurt Kamperman, chief executive of Community Tennis, updated attendees on key initiatives and challenges with youth tennis, leagues and tournaments.  Then Dave Miley of the International Tennis Federation talked about global initiatives to attract new players and increase the number of frequent players. Tom Cove of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) put tennis in perspective with other sports, and acknowledged the unique nature of the tennis industry to come together in a unified approach to face its challenges.

At the end of the meeting, the industry acknowledged the 2013 inductees into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame for their accomplishments and impact in the tennis industry: the late Howard R. Gill Jr., former publisher of Tennis magazine; the late Walter Montenegro, an industry innovator and racquet manufacturer; and Sheldon Westervelt, a founder of the American Sports Builders Association and tennis facility designer and builder. Plaques honoring the latest inductees are on display at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.

A meeting of the TIA Board of Directors looked at four challenges facing the industry: 1) How to increase the number of frequent players and attract new players to the game; 2) adapting to changing consumer buying habits; 3) improving the visibility, viability and awareness of tennis; and 4) a discussion on future goals for the industry.

The next day, manufacturers and retailers came together to review trends and other research about tennis retail, how to help drive sales of tennis equipment, and trends in youth tennis equipment, including an update on red, orange, and green ball sales and use.

In separate meetings, retailers discussed how to further develop and grow a TIA Retail Division and were updated on the TIA’s efforts to develop a “specialty retail certification course” to help tennis specialty retailers and their employees stay up to date on trends in retailing; while manufacturers reviewed efforts to further develop global tennis marketplace research and other data analysis tools.

 “The State of the Industry meeting set the stage for plans of industry growth and promoting other key strategic TIA platforms, including improving the overall communications and positioning of the sport among mainstream consumers and media,” said TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “This is only one of the TIA's overall efforts to grow the sport and serves as a preview to a larger ‘Future of Tennis Summit’ planned for March in California. Rallying our industry at these types of events continues to spur valuable ideas and insight that elevates tennis and the tennis industry.”