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State of the US tennis industry

Like all the traditional tennis-playing countries, the United States has faced a fight to increase the numbers of people taking up the sport. However the latest figures show some very encouraging trends, with tennis one of the few sports in the US to show growth in the number of participants.

Greg Mason, President of The Tennis Industry Association of the US, talked in positive terms at the organisation’s  annual forum on the eve of the US Open. Outlining some of the key market dynamics for 2013, he noted that although the industry faced some immediate challenges, initiatives like Playtennis.com, which aims to connect players and get them to court more often, gave reason to be optimistic about the future health of the sport.

Playtennis.com was designed “as a one-stop portal for consumers who want to get into the game or play more tennis.” Jolyn de Boer, Executive Director of the TIA (US), said: “The site has valuable information and searches to find places to play, partners, coaches, programmes, retailers and more.”

Overall tennis participation in the US has gone up by four per cent to 17.7 million players. Youth participation is up five per cent for players aged between six and 12 years and up 14 per cent amongst 13-17-year-olds.

Other popular traditional sports like baseball, basketball and soccer have seen a decline in youth participation rates as children grow older, but tennis is one of the few sports to show a linear increase in participation among 6-17-year-olds. The total participation rate of youngsters aged 17 and over is 10 per cent, which is greater than or similar to other popular sports such as baseball, soccer, tackle football and volleyball.

The total US tennis economy is estimated to be worth $5.5 billion. This figure is stable year on year. Frequent players (defined as those who play tennis more than 21 times a year) account for at least 70 per cent of the total expenditure in the sport. Their numbers have increased five per cent to 5.48 million in the past year.

The opportunity to convert an estimated 15 million people who are interested in playing tennis and a further 13 million who have not played in the last year is a key objective of the industry going forward. Other challenges include the changing retail landscape, which includes shrinking shelf space at large retailers.

The aging frequent player base is also identified as one of the biggest challenges facing the industry. Forty-seven per cent of all frequent players are over the age of 35 and the average age of coaches and other industry personnel continues to increase.  As a result, efforts to attract younger players into the game will continue as well as exploring ways to capitalise on requirement for more Americans to participate in physical activity.  Cardio Tennis grew by seven per cent to 1.5 million players.

“The growth in cardio tennis over the last nine years speaks to the desire for more people to use tennis as a way to improve their health and fitness,” said Mason. There are 80 million “inactive” Americans. Do Boer said: “Cardio Tennis brings to court both avid tennis players as well as non-tennis players who are looking to simply get a great work-out.”

The wholesale distribution of Red, Orange and Green tennis balls continued to be a bright spot for the industry. Wholesale unit and dollar shipments saw growth in 2013 of 17 per cent and 12.5 per cent respectively.

The US Industry at a Glance 2013

Total Tennis Economy                        $5.5 Billion

Total Participation                         17.7 million
Youth Tennis Participation
(Ages 6 – 12)                                       2.05 million
Frequent Tennis Players
(21+ times a year)                              5.48 million

Manufacturer Year-End Wholesale
Shipment Units
Tennis Rackets                                   3.1 million
Tennis Balls                                        128 million
Red, Orange, Green Balls                 5.32 million
Tennis Strings                                    3.5 million

Statistics from the Physical Activity Council (PAC)

The facts are reproduced with the kind permission of the TIA (US)