Tennis Styles Fuel Seasonal Marketing Strategies

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The US Open kicking off next week in New York will put tennis fashion back in the spotlight, but consumers are increasingly embracing the look of the sport year-round.

The so-called tennis staple fashion of skorts, polo shirts and visors picked up during the pandemic and continued with the return of preppy styles and the rise of people increasingly playing racquet sports. , including pickleball, retail experts said.

People are always looking for athleisure styles that can be dressed up or down and tennis-core fills that niche for consumers, said Jason Kim, senior vice president of marketing at apparel, footwear and accessories company Lacoste, which is owned by Maus Freres SA.

“Staying comfortable is always a huge thing because people want to dress up and they always want to feel good about leaving the house and going back into society,” Mr. Kim said.

The pickleball boom has helped boost the U.S. tennis apparel market, which is expected to grow 3.6% this year to $2.02 billion.


Photo:

Paul Kitagaki Jr./Zuma Press

The U.S. tennis apparel market generated $1.95 billion in sales in 2021, up from $1.19 billion the previous year and $1.86 billion in pre-pandemic 2019, according to the research firm. GlobalData PLC. The category will grow 3.6% this year to $2.02 billion, according to GlobalData estimates.

Tennis participation and equipment sales are also on the rise, with more than 22.6 million people in the United States playing the game in 2021, up 4.5% from 21.6 million in the United States. previous year, according to the Physical Activity Council trade group. Some clothing brands are creating tennis-inspired looks for the first time.

San Francisco-based fashion company Rothy’s Inc. and beverage brand Evian are rolling out a limited collection of tennis shoes and accessories created using 72,000 plastic bottles collected during the U.S. Open. last year. Products include a racquet bag incorporating plastic from 33 bottles, for example, and a visor made in part from four bottles.

The 2021 film “King Richard,” about Venus and Serena Williams’ father, featured retro tennis outfits in theaters.


Photo:

Pictures from Warner Bros.

The rise of pickleball, a hybrid of tennis, ping-pong and badminton, and the popularity of “King Richard”, a film about Venus and Serena Williams’ father, have pushed tennis-core into the mainstream, a said Tom Herbst, Rothy’s acting chief marketing officer.

Lacoste has also invested in upgrading some of its tennis styles, launching sportswear for women this year that can be worn to play tennis or hang out with friends, such as polo shirts, Kim said. .

The company continued its sponsorship of the Miami Open tennis tournament and will continue to host fitness events with sportswear retailer Bandier Holdings LLC.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc.

began experimenting with tennis influences in its Aerie apparel in 2020, introducing items such as a sweatshirt that read “Tacos & Tennis.” Aerie has since introduced tennis skirts, bras and crop tops to its assortment. Tennis styles now make up a “double-digit” share of its collection, up from less than 1% in 2020, said Abby Vernon, senior vice president of merchandising for Aerie Apparel, lingerie and OFFLINE by Aerie.

“It becomes a staple in our collection going forward,” Ms. Vernon said.

Aerie’s marketing around the tennis collection focuses less on on-court performance and more on everyday wear, which appears in consumer user-generated content, Ms. Vernon said.

“We love leveraging UGC to tell the story and show how it brings this assortment to life,” she added.

Sportswear brand Year of Ours Inc. also started small in tennis styles, launching a tennis skirt among a few items in 2020 before building a full collection this year. As part of its marketing efforts, Year of Ours held tennis clinics and training events this spring in Los Angeles to teach people how to play. Others are planned in the coming months in Las Vegas, Denver and Miami. The company hopes to run doubles tournaments and other large-scale events, potentially working with professional college athletes next year, said Year of Ours co-founder Eleanor Haycock.

Year of Ours plans to introduce next year’s tennis collection in February or March instead of summer, as the company started seeing the tennis apparel trend much earlier in the year, a- she declared.

“People… were so used to doing yoga or going to the gym and doing spins,” Ms Haycock said. “Now we have these other sports that we opened our eyes to.”

Write to Ann-Marie Alcantara at ann-marie.alcantara@wsj.com

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