'Anyone for tennis equipment and apparel?' Korea asks
The tennis equipment and apparel market is rapidly expanding as tennis takes off among the younger generation.
The market in Korea reached approximately 250 billion won ($190 million) last year, with around 500,000 people playing. Recently, a hashtag referring to tennis beginners was shared about 270,000 times across social media.
Lotte Department Store opened a pop-up tennis store at the Lotte World Mall in Jamsil, southern Seoul, to cater to rising demand from June 25 to July 3.
Some 200,000 visitors came, an unusually high figure, according to the company.
Tennis rackets by U.S. sports brand Wilson quickly sold out. Customers were interested in tennis-related goods from other global sports brands including Nike, Adidas and a local tennis brand called Tennis Boy Club.
Fashion brands are launching more tennis apparel.
Sports brand Fila is known for sponsoring Swedish tennis player Bjorn Borg, who won the Wimbledon singles trophy five times from 1970 to the 1980s.
The brand launches a White Line collection every year, which is inspired by Borg's iconic striped polo shirt. It shipped triple the amount of its Spring/Summer (S/S) collection to stores compared to last year in response to the rising popularity of tennis. Over 80 percent of those shipments had been sold by early April.
Women’s brands are also getting into tennis. Kolon FnC’s Lucky Marche launched a tennis apparel collection called Lucky Le Match in March. Sales have been brisk.
Athe Vanessabruno, a women’s apparel brand based in France, launched its Tennis Capsule Line in Korea this year. Some of the products had to be reordered due to their popularity.
According to online local shopping site W Concept, tennis skirts and sports socks from tennis apparel brands were big sellers. Clove, a tennis apparel brand, has seen 774 percent sales growth in the first half of the year compared to last year.
To expand into tennis apparel, domestic fashion company F&F acquired Italy’s tennis clothing brand Sergio Tacchini, according to a company disclosure on July 12. The Korean company bought the company for $63 million. F&F has a diverse portfolio of brands including MLB and Elle Sports.
The tennis equipment market is expanding as well. According to SSG.com on Wednesday, sales of sports equipment and apparel increased by 232 percent in June compared to a year earlier. Dresses and skirts, as well as accessories such as hair bands and wrist braces, were popular.
“Because demand for tennis rackets surged, we are in short supply,” said Kim In-ho, a brand manager at Amer Sports Korea.
“The tennis market had been slowly expanding, but that turned to rapid growth during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With the so-called MZ generation’s high consumption patterns, people playing tennis increased by 20 percent, and related markets have grown by around 40 percent.”
Lee Ju-young, an office worker living in Yongsan District, central Seoul, started playing tennis around seven years ago. According to Lee, many of her friends also want to start. She is a member of the tennis club at a business management graduate school, and 80 percent of the members are complete beginners.
“Korean tennis players like Chung Hyeon’s great performances in global competitions have led me to try playing tennis," said Lee.
The pandemic contributed to the rising popularity. Tennis could be played on indoor courts with a small number of people while outdoor activities were limited due to Covid restrictions.
Tennis is also a lot cheaper than golf.
“I only had to pay 60,000 won to 70,000 won for a day class for two people and all I had to bring were shoes,” said Choi Hyeon-jin, an office worker living in Dongdaemun District, eastern Seoul.
“I became interested in tennis after seeing so many tennis-related posts on social media.
“Tennis is a more active sport compared to golf, so I think it will be better for my fitness,” said Choi.
An increase in indoor tennis courts has also helped.
“In the past, there were people who weren’t able to learn to play because there weren’t enough courts,” said Cho Min-jeong, CEO of Tennis Foret, an indoor tennis court in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul.
“Starting last year, around 400 to 500 indoor courts were built, leading to a quick expansion of the market.”
Indoor screen tennis places are also increasing in the country, taking their inspiration from screen golf.
“One-day classes on the weekend and even weekdays are fully booked,” said Cho.
“Women in their 30s come to play the most, and mostly young couples and young moms come with their children.”
BY YOO JI-YOEN, CHO JUNG-WOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]