All eight of the major tennis markets in Europe (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and UK) recorded growth in racquet and string sales in the first half of 2021.
The tennis racquets market grew in both volume and value terms, although unit growth was higher than value growth, meaning a meaning a lower average price overall across the continent. This is consistent with other research that suggests that Covid-19 and its associated lockdowns have boosted tennis participation, particularly among beginners.
Total growth in Europe was 45.3% in volume and 40.7% in value compared to 2020, but this is not just a case of the pandemic interrupting Q2 sales in 2020. Even against 2019, 2021 sales rose over 10% in value and volume.
Southern Europe was the biggest contributor, with Spain and Italy approaching triple digit growth. Ball sales grew fast in these territories, but that was not the case elsewhere. The UK also enjoyed vigorous growth in racquet sales, recording a year on year rise of 76%. Against 2019, the UK is up by 26% in value.
Last year’s participation rise—tennis participation rose by 49% in the UK during lockdown—seems to be translating into a sustained appetite to hit the court.
However, ball sales provide a reason for caution. The volume of tennis balls sold in the UK rose by only 4% against 2020 and is down 11% against 2019. Although people are staying in the sport, they may be playing less often now that other competing leisure activities have reopened. The same pattern is visible in other European markets. France is in a similar position to the UK, with ball sales growing against 2020, but declining compared to 2019. Sales of balls in The Netherlands fell against both previous years.
Overall, Europe should take heart from the results, which show that concerns about supply chains have not—at least not yet—suppressed tennis sales.
The results mark a deviation compared to US trends. Earlier in August, SMS revealed that racquet sales were up by 40.5% in volume and over 100% up in terms of value in America. Average value is growing to the West of the Atlantic and shrinking on the East.
Adam Hile, Senior Research Analyst at SMS USA, commented on the findings. “The headline growth in racquet sales across Europe is significant news. We know that many of our clients and partners were concerned about supply chains, and they have worked incredibly hard to keep delivering racquets, balls and strings to their suppliers. So far, supply chains aren’t stopping growth, although it’s possible that these figures might otherwise have been even better. There is a chance they may still play a bigger role in the second half of the year. Price points are also going to be fascinating to monitor, to see whether the burst of new players in Europe translates into people upgrading to more expensive racquets over time.”
The Tennis Industry Association, originally founded in 1974 as the American Tennis Federation, has been serving the “business of tennis” for over 40 years! Today, TIA is the only trade organization representing all facets of the tennis industry, providing research, collaboration and advocacy to advance the economic vitality of the sport.
SMS also operates the tennis retail audit in the United States, which tracks sell-through of these shipped racquets to end consumers. SMS provides qualitative and quantitative research in over 100 sports.