As stars like Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams compete in Paris at the French Open, FN is looking at the state of the tennis business.
To get an insider’s perspective, we caught up with Spencer Boller, the footwear buyer for Tennis Warehouse, one of the leading specialty retailers catering to this sports category.
Here, he talks about the hottest brands and why today’s sneakers are shedding weight.
1. How would you describe the state of the tennis business?
“In general, tennis participation by the numbers is up. However, last I read, it’s up in the casual or once-in-a-while player, whereas the core player, who makes up roughly 90 percent of the purchases, has been a little stagnant. That’s something we hope can grow as we move forward. The other thing is, we’d like to see the juniors become more relevant in participation and be able to grow the interest in the game.”
2. What does the market need in order to expand?
“We need to get the juniors — but also everyone — more interested in the game. Social media has been a huge thing over the past several years in getting those who are interested in the game more engaged. For the average consumer, who might play tennis here or there, it gets them acquainted with the players and allows them to see some of the personalities. So then, hopefully, they’ll gravitate toward [the sport] and give it a go. Because once they get onto the court, they’ll realize this is a good sport, anybody can play, and it doesn’t take a lot to get out there.”
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3. Which footwear brands are your strongest performers?
“From a brand standpoint, Adidas, Nike and Asics lead the pack, in no particular order. They have the strongest presence in the market, for sure. And then you have some up-and-comers. New Balance has made a strong showing over the last year or two.”
4. Are there any trends dominating the market?
“Over the past six years, the trend in footwear in general is to a lightweight speed shoe that screams performance. In the U.S., we’re mostly hard courts, and for the core player, who plays a lot, they tend to wear out a lot of shoes. So for a long time, you needed a shoe that was going to hold up, and we had these durability-guaranteed shoes — and we still do. But now the tennis consumer is gravitating toward something that’s going to help them get an advantage over their opponent. It’s about a fast, lightweight offering that offers support and performance, and gives them — maybe it’s more of a mental edge — but it makes them feel like they’re doing just a little bit extra.”
5. What are you excited about for fall ’18 or spring ’19?
“For fall, we just launched with Asics their Gel Solution Speed Flyte Foam, which has been anticipated for some time. We got a chance to test it — we have a play test team here — and it has tested very well. We’re very excited about that and the direction it’s going. Also, the Adidas UberSonic 3 is due to come out this autumn. We just started looking at spring ’19. I won’t mention any brands, but I’m excited for what I’m seeing. It caters to the lightweight trends, and I like where things are going in terms of both style and color.”
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