Opening a shop, good idea?

Discussion in 'Stringing Techniques / Stringing Machines' started by cluckcluck, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. cluckcluck

    cluckcluck Hall of Fame

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    I've been kicking around the idea of opening a specialty tennis shop in my area. Unfortunately there's nothing around me except for the big box stores who, in my opinion, don't know squat about tennis.

    I would offer a complete line of services, stringing, customization, etc.
    Carry no more than 4 of each model racquet, some balls, and shoes.

    Have any of you opened a shop? What's your experience been?
     
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  2. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    I haven't opened a tennis shop nor do I know anyone who has. In fact in my current city with a metropolitan population of over 600,000 people I don't know of a stand-alone tennis specialty shop in the area. Many of the clubs here have small pro-shops though and the local public tennis facility which is the largest in the world has a pretty good-sized pro shop. There are of course the big-box stores like Academy Sports and numerous generic sporting goods stores like Hibbetts but not a single separate tennis goods store.

    I do have a good friend who opened a running specialty store and was successful at it though he worked his tail off to make it that way. By successful I mean he didn't go bankrupt like so many startup small businesses do but I have no idea how much he actually pulled in. His wife was an MD so they weren't exactly hurting for income.

    Do you have any experience in managing a retail operation?
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2012
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  3. cluckcluck

    cluckcluck Hall of Fame

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    A while back, I helped run my dad's furniture business, so I'm no stranger to the initial and ongoing costs of running a business (though this would be a one man operation).

    Lucky for me, there are no tennis clubs that are relatively close to me (+/- 20 miles).
     
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  4. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    Good luck. Hard for shops attached to clubs to survive much less a stand alone shop. It's become too hard to compete with the online retailers. If there are no clubs within 20 miles of you, what do you think the size of your potential market is?
     
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  5. cluckcluck

    cluckcluck Hall of Fame

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    There's actually quite a few public courts, I would say about 20 courts in my area. They're almost always filled with people waiting. Not to mention the 4 high schools that have strong girls and boys teams.
     
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  6. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    I helped manage the pro shop back at a club in my teaching days. In my experience it's hard to sell any equipment at full price. You just hope to clear out your inventory before the racket and shoe manufacturers release the next version and you really only make money on service. How do you plan to manage inventory consdiering different grip sizes? Only carry 4 3/8 rackets and special order other sizes or would you only carry 4 1/4 and then build up to size with heat shrink sleeves? What about shoes - so many shoe sizes.
     
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  7. nyc

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    I don't know where you live and how densely populated your area is, but in general, online retailers are massively taking over and specialty B&M shops can no longer survive. Shops are merely a showroom for online retailers like Amazon.

    Additionally, I suspect that no more than 15-20% of the Tennis playing population frequently updates gear and apparel, and restrings racquets.

    That seems to be a really small sliver of potential customers.

    Not to poo-poo your idea, but there seems to be easier ways to make money if you want to run a shop. Like cupcakes.
     
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  8. cluckcluck

    cluckcluck Hall of Fame

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    Mmmmmmm cupcakes.

    It's not like I'm going to run out and open a shop right away, I was just curious to know if it were a good idea. You're right in the sense that online is the overtaking traditional business. Even on online shop is hard to start I would assume, especially with the likes of TW ;)
     
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  9. nyc

    nyc Hall of Fame

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    Potential customer = everyone with a mouth

    :)
     
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  10. The Meat

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    The only racquet shop that I found in Bradenton which you would expect to have a huge tennis base because of Bolleteri Academy, is just outside the academy. You need to be near a very tennis oriented community(large camps, a lot of courts, etc.) to stay afloat.
     
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  11. Chotobaka

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    Carrying a limited inventory will put you at a level that does not have favorable margins. It takes a considerable investment with each manufacturer to have decent margins (it is on a graduated scale based on purchases). Brick & mortar tennis shops are a very tough business these days.
     
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  12. Wikky

    Wikky Rookie

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    I've worked in 3 different tennis retail settings, never considered opening my own though. I can tell you its no cake walk, I'd say its a bare minimum 60-70 hour a week job even with additional staff.
     
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  13. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    location is key. where are you?
     
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  14. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    agree. 60hrs easy esp in the beginning
     
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  15. SoBad

    SoBad Legend

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    Given your prior hands-on experience and knowledge of the local market, you are in the best position to decide, but on the face it sounds like a viable undertaking. True, many standalone tennis shops have gone out of business in recent years because of online competition, but many of those were very poorly managed by greedy people.
     
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  16. kimguroo

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    Opening a tennis shop might be very challenge nowadays because the competition is very tough against online stores and big chain companies.
    If you buy small quantities from manufacturers or whole sellers, they will give you much higher prices. Even though you sell rackets for MSRP, your margins might not be high. Samething goes to every items such as apparels and shoes.
    Stringing might be also challenged by local stringers too.
    Monthly rent and operating cost will put you into more pressures every month.
     
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  17. asusundevils1971

    asusundevils1971 Rookie

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    Open A Store!!!

    The first thing is to do a business plan. You will need to know your customer base and who is the competition in your area. How much does the customer base spend on tennis equipment per month/year, also how much money does your customers make in a year. You will need the manufacturers to sell you the equipment at wholesale and also letters/email stating that they will sell you the equipment at that price. There might be other places that won't sell you equipment because they have contracts that will not let them sell you the equipment in the same area. Also the manufacturer on what you want to carry might make you order a lot of stock to get the discount on materials. That is just the tip of the iceberg... I did a business plan for my small business management class in college and it was 30 pages. There is a reason most start ups fail within the first three years in business. All the best if you go through with the business idea.




     
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  18. AlfaAce

    AlfaAce Rookie

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    ^^^Did you catch that nugget? Maybe to get started you might consider "servicing" all those prospective customers with... stringing. You can do this from your home (read: no overhead), advertise at all the local courts, high schools and colleges (offer discounts to students and educate them about the importance of fresh strings and new string technology - maybe even a "coffee card" where you "string 9 racquets get your 10th free" type deal).

    If you do this (or any business for that matter), just remember one thing... "The customer is KING."... without them you don't get paid. Bend over backwards to deliver quality/professional/prompt/delivered with a smile/fix it with a smile S-E-R-V-I-C-E. Remember, word-of-mouth is the BEST form of advertising.

    Customer service is a lost art :(.
     
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  19. AELTC

    AELTC New User

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    There's a successful tennis shop (they've been in business a long time; I don't how profitable they are) in Bloomfield NJ called Hapward's. The guy runs it out of his garage, though, so that probably helps expenses-wise.
     
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  20. lwto

    lwto Professional

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    Where do you live? Can tennis be supported 12 months of the year?
    Stringing will be the backbone of your or any tennis shop, need a good string machine with appropriate attachments.
    Get into the right programs with your distributors
    Sell high
    buy low.
     
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  21. Top Jimmy

    Top Jimmy Semi-Pro

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    I live in Minneapolis and we have 3 stand-alone tennis shops that i know of, along with all the club shops.

    The one in St Paul is fairly new, I have no idea how it will stay open. Tough location to park, not a huge selection of rackets. It is aiming for high end clothing and a more wealthy crowd i guess so maybe it survives on large margins.

    One in south Minneapolis, been open at least 20+ years. Limited inventory but he knows he gear. I think he must survive on string jobs if that is possible.

    One in western suburbs, the mack daddy of Minneapolis tennis shops. Not a large store but plenty of gear. Carries a fairly diverse racket inventory, but not many player frames. It's easily the busiest shop in the city. He usually has 2 stringers at all times string rackets non-stop. Then 2 girls helping out with everything else. Plus he hangs around too so he can assist customers.

    Three examples, might help you figure out what you want to do.

    Minneapolis/St Paul is something like 3.2 million people and it has a pretty healthy tennis community, lots of indoor courts and most public outdoor courts are full in the summer.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
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  22. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I've co opened a tennis shop and have opened a windsurfing shop, besides working at bicycle, ski, snowboard, surf, tennis and windsurfing shops all my life. That would be for the past 40 years.
    Clothing is the single biggest marked up item, so the most profitable.
    Racket's the least.
    Location, location, location. In view of a thoroughfare, plenty of parking, sunny side of the street, catchy front windows changed frequently, UPBEAT YOU, even if the "customer" is only chatty kathying and planning to buy online.
    HE talks to dozens of friends.
    OFFER mail order, to expand your area.
    Be good and honest about ordering product you don't have in stock, offer loaners in the meantime.
     
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  23. rafafan20

    rafafan20 Professional

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    I live in Pittsburgh and there are 2 tennis only stores in the city. Both seem to do quite well. I think both do a good business on clothes, stringing and shoes... not so well on racquets.
     
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  24. Top Jimmy

    Top Jimmy Semi-Pro

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    Yep, the main store in my city always has lots of rackets in the sale bin. Just too hard to sell all the different types and grips sizes.

    Great deals on Yonex Vcore's right now, $89-99 brand new.
     
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  25. Rjtennis

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    I would try contacting other shop owners in similar sized communities and see how they do. There are a couple stores in my area that make a fortune on just stringing rackets alone, but I live in a large metropolitan area. I'm sure people would be willing to speak with you and give advice.
     
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  26. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    thanks for the insight. i have a friend that moved there so when i visit i can bring my rackets!
     
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  27. Chotobaka

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    I am only half joking about this... but a tennis equivalent of a food truck would be interesting. Less overhead than a brick & mortar operation and you would be a moving billboard while roving from court to court. Do on-sight work and pick up/delivery at the same time. Use social media to connect with your customers and let everyone know where you are. Maybe offer grilled mac 'n cheese sandwiches too. :)
     
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  28. Lakers4Life

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    Actually that's how the owner of Racket Do ctor got started, 40 years ago.
     
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  29. chaddles

    chaddles Semi-Pro

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    Very tough business to run a highly profitable business, especially in this economy. You will never earn a huge amount from a small shop, but I love running my business because my partner also has a very well paid job so I can still run it as a hobby (a turnover of 250,000+ hobby).

    It's a lot of hard work and if you don't have a big all year tennis playing population, then it's going to be a struggle. Important to keep overheads such as rent as low as possible, yet still needs to be in an accessible location. Also make sure you know everything backwards and reward loyal customers.
     
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  30. Squidward

    Squidward Rookie

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    Best advice yet (IMO)!
     
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  31. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    Do you own a tennis shop? If so, I'd really appreciate hearing about your experiences and history.
     
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  32. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    i still say TW needs to open a branch on east coast!
     
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  33. LttlElvis

    LttlElvis Professional

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    I guess if you have to ask if opening a shop is a good idea, then it probably isn't. It's a 24/7 job owning and running a store. Racquets have very little profit margin, given the amount of inventory you have to keep. Strings and stringing are a service that is probably break even at best. Tennis balls are pretty much sold as loss leaders. I know a manager at Academy Sports and he said tennis balls at their stores are the only items sold at actual cost. They are just there to bring in customers, hoping they will buy something else.

    Clothing is were you make the profit. You have to have big inventory, and expect to keep on changing them for the next season's new styles.

    The big tennis shop in Houston was actually started in the guy's apartment, and slowly built up to a great store very similar to TW but not as large. It probably took them 20 years in the making.

    Best way to be profitable is to be big including selling online. I've actually considered investing in one, but I don't have the dedication for another 24/7 job.
     
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  34. Lakers4Life

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    Yeah E, keep you day job! ;)

    I say if you can fill a niche market and make decent money, go for it. If you got lots of comepetition, then you will have problems. I'm surprised a couple of member have not already jumped in this discussion, but from what they've told me they are doing pretty good, not great, but just pretty good. Like the saying goes, "Find a job you love and you'll never work another day in your life." As long as you make enough money to not care about anything else.
     
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  35. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    i think it gets tougher now. basically all your revenue is from re stringing. the margin for rackets are so low
     
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  36. axel89

    axel89 Banned

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    kimugroo does it Good luck
     
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  37. Woolybugger

    Woolybugger Rookie

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    I would say start small - advertise on craigslist every week with your services, inventory, etc. Run it out of your garage first. Put up flyers (if allowed) at the public courts and high schools. Drive around the courts every week handing out flyers and getting the word out. See how it goes for a couple of months before putting down $$ on space.
     
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  38. max

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    Lee, what excellent advice! I have no retail experience, but my notion is that the margin on clothing is large and an emphasis should go there. Think of all these major sporting goods chains. . . you go in there and it's a sea of football jerseys and running clothes.
     
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  39. struggle

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    Even the Pros at my own club order their own gear from TW.

    Just sayin'. You might do a stringing/customization biz, but beyond that, you can't compete.....except with the soccer moms looking for cute outfits (= large inventory of womens clothing, tuff deal).

    Dudes, except for the Nike Metro cats, buy their clothes at target and such.
     
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  40. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    wow the club doesnt help them out?
     
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  41. Chotobaka

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    Obviously, a man ahead of his time -- this could be a great business model for someone running a nights & weekends business.
     
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  42. rafafan20

    rafafan20 Professional

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    That is a really really good idea, minus the sandwiches :)
     
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