Chances are you’ve heard of padel and pickleball. Combining aspects of tennis, squash and badminton, they are some of the hottest new racket-sport mashups taking the world by storm, and sales for their equipment and apparel are booming. Sports retailer Decathlon has reported strong demand for padel rackets, balls and accessories, and recently, it has seen a huge increase in interest for the less established pickleball, which has led it to develop its own paddles. Decathlon’s commercial d
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cial director Ross Farrington told the Guardian that the padel trend “came from nowhere” in 2019, and looks set to become the UK’s next big participation sport. In Spain, Sweden and Portugal, there are now more people playing padel than tennis, he added.
Meanwhile, in Singapore, Decathlon only recently started selling padel products at the beginning of 2023, according to marketing leader Kieran O’Shea.
“Decathlon Singapore saw an increase in padel courts in Singapore, Turf City, Jurong and Marina Square. These are some of the first public courts in Singapore, which have opened since late 2021,” O’Shea told Inside Retail.
The company has also started to sell pickleball products on its website, through its marketplace strategy, so the products are hosted on its site, but sold and distributed by the supplier.
“Decathlon has two rackets which are created and designed by two technical partners, who are two professional padel players, Maxi Sanchez and Lucia Sainz,” he elaborated.
According to O’Shea, Decathlon has observed a 850 per cent increase in padel products since launching them in the UK in 2019. There are now around 270 pickleball venues in the UK as well.
Things are picking up
According to Matt Levey, the CEO of UK-based Game4Padel, 2023 has been a busy one for the company in Australia.
“Game4Padel (G4P) launched into Australia and its Melbourne club hosted the first ever Australian Padel Open concurrently with the Australian Open. The tournament was played at both the G4P Melbourne Club and at the Australian Open grounds,” he told Inside Retail.
According to Levey, With over $20,000 in prize money and world ranking points, the tournament was highly competitive with both local and international players.
“Padel is often referred to as the world’s fastest growing sport. The participation numbers in Europe and the UK have supported that claim. Now via our Melbourne club we are seeing exactly the same trend,” he stated.
Levey went on to say that participation is growing at a rapid rate every month, and there has been consistent growth in the coaching and tournament numbers too.
“Our customers love the sociability of the game and the ease that it can be learned while also enjoying a good cardio workout,” he explained.
In the UK, Game4Padel currently has 36 venues secured in the pipeline and earlier this year, it announced an investment of $3.5 million to launch the brand and venues in Australia commencing with the Melbourne site.
Levey has observed that a wide range of people enjoy playing padel. He said a common refrain is that the game is “easy to learn but hard to master,” so people of all ages can challenge themselves to master the skills with coaching or tournament play.
“We have players as young as nine and older than 70 years at our club. The sport of padel is easy to access, most clubs have racquet and ball hire which enables you to turn up and immediately start playing without investing in equipment,” he said.
He stressed that the major challenge at present in Australia is that demand is outstripping supply. He feels that more clubs need to open. The company’s courts are booked over 90 per cent of the time, so the focus is on opening new venues to cater for the growing demand.
“There needs to be a healthy mix of both government and private enterprise driving the sport. In Australia, we are fortunate to have Tennis Australia being the governing body of padel and doing a great job in driving awareness and engagement for the sport,” he concluded.