Sitting in the enormous, mall-based sports goods store, Thomas Fahrmer is trying on his second pair of tennis shoes. So far, he’s been uninterested in anything he’s seen. “I like to try them on before I buy them,” Farmer explains. “That is why I enjoy coming here. However, the internet simply provides a larger selection. I’m probably better off just clicking a couple of buttons and returning them if they don’t fit.”
The mall, which is set among the suburban scenery, is bustling with Christmas shoppers, but its customer base is a fraction of what it was just a few years ago, according to mall manager Melanie Hughes. “Obviously, COVID had a significant influence on our business, but our foot traffic was already declining prior to 2020,” Hughes says. “The internet marketplace has had an evident influence on our bottom line, and I do not expect that to change very soon.”
The transition from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce retail is particularly noticeable in the Sporting Goods market. In 2020, e-commerce sales of sporting items accounted for the majority of the $35.1 billion in total sales, a considerable rise from 2019. Racket sports can be credited for some of the increase. Tennis, pickleball, and platform/pop tennis have been three of the top six fastest-growing sports in the United States in recent years, and racquet sports have been one of the fastest-growing participation categories. The sport has grown significantly, and by extension, so have sales of its equipment and accessories. Tennis ball sales climbed by 9% in volume and 11% in total dollar value in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, with championship ball shipments up by 13%.
Subscription services, which have seen a significant uptick recently, are a developing element in the e-commerce trend. Beauty/personal care and food & beverage account for 54% of subscription services, with health & wellness, including sports, accounting for 16.3%. While sports-focused subscription services include monthly offers from the worlds of golf, football, fishing, and wrestling, a subscription service for the rising sport of tennis had yet to be launched. Start-up company Qranc saw this hole in demand and pounced on it.
A can of tennis balls will typically last between one and four weeks of recreational play, with competitive tennis balls lasting only one to three hours. While the e-commerce marketplace has given a level of convenience for tennis players when it comes to obtaining new balls, it is still necessary to remember to order them before the balls have gone bad. Qranc, which specializes in tennis and pickleball balls and equipment, hopes to stand out with its one-of-a-kind subscription service. Customers will be able to place a one-time order or subscribe to a set order that will be processed and mailed to them every 30 days, allowing tennis players to concentrate on their game rather than their personal tennis ball inventory.
Subscription services like Qranc’s will obviously only be effective for sporting goods accessories that a consumer will require to receive on a regular basis, but it is still a substantial piece of the e-commerce pie. The simplicity of e-commerce is simply too appealing for Thomas Fahrmer. “I hate to see mom-and-pop sports goods stores go out of business, but the internet is giving the big box companies that are closing them a run for their money,” Fahrmer adds. “I’ll go home and surf around the internet for sneakers. “But not before I grab an Orange Julius.”
Parker Marquis is the founder and CEO of Qranc, a sporting goods manufacturer that specializes in tennis and pickleball balls and equipment. Qranc, which is the first-ever direct-to-consumer tennis brand, is making it easier for players of all skill levels to get competition-quality equipment delivered directly to their doors.
For more information, visit qranc.com.