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The sting in the business

Jane Portnell set up Scorpion Sports Gifts in 2004 and for the next eight years ran it, in her own words, as a hobby business. However, this is now all in the past as in 2013 Jane, who is also an LTA Development Coach, has seen business increase this year by over 50%.

Most of Scorpion’s customers are based in the UK, with a few from Australia and the USA. Among the current best-selling products are a range of multi-coloured wristbands featuring six different logos, like Tennis Ace and Tennis Star. Tennis specific stickers and bugs are also among the top sellers.

Jane’s choice of products for the range was initially driven by a desire to create innovative tennis gifts, but the recession at that time made this a very difficult business proposition. So Jane focused on her need as a tennis coach to have incentives to offer to kids as prizes.

This strategy has implications for keeping kids engaged with tennis, as Jane explains, “In an era when all sports are competing with game technology, giving prizes and rewards to our budding little tennis players is just one extra way of keeping them coming to lessons and remaining in the game”.

Many of the products in her range are now manufactured exclusively for Scorpion and sold in bulk to tennis coaches looking for their own incentives to give to players. “The feedback I get from coaches is that it’s great what I’m doing but they are continually looking like everyone else to lower their costs, get better deals and to look for cheaper (in money not quality) products” said Jane, “I shall oblige as I expand!”

Business growth has been aided by internet sales and social media.  A new website, launched in 2011, combined trade and consumer sales. The Coaches and Clubs Corner makes finding incentives really easy. Jane has sold gifts at British Davis Cup ties, but she credits digital media sales as being the main reason for the recent rise in sales. Being dependent on Davis Cup home ties was not optimal for the business.

Sales are not restricted to the UK tennis season. As Jane points out, “the summer is always busiest, as that is when coaches run their busiest programmes” and accepts that interest in this year’s Wimbledon might have bolstered sales, but she continues, “Christmas is also a time of greater sales for both the gift market and coaching market.”

In an age where global businesses tend to dominate the retail landscape Scorpion Sports Gifts is not only a shining example of an independently-owned British business that has had a successful year but one that is also contributing to keeping youngsters interested in the game.

You can find Scorpion Sports Gifts at www.scorpionsportsgifts.com

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