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Fabletics, Wilson Look to Cash In on Growing Tennis Interest

Fabletics and Wilson Sporting Goods Co. unveiled dueling tennis apparel collections Thursday.

The former collaborated with the event organizer Universal Tennis on a co-branded capsule collection of men’s and women’s apparel for “on and off the court.” The collection launched Thursday on Fabletics’ website and at its more than 75 retail stores.

The capsule includes polos, shorts, a skirt, a dress, tees, a quarter zip and joggers. “Built for performance,” Fabletics said, the collection features four-way stretch for lateral movement, moisture-wicking properties, pockets—including on the skirt and dress—and built-in bras.

The “strategic partnership” will also position Fabletics as the official outfitter of staff and officials for the global UTR Pro Tennis Tour. Launched last year, the PTT organizes matches for “aspiring pros.” By the end of 2022, Universal Tennis expects to have hosted more than 300 events in 20 countries across nearly 50 cities.

“Tennis is a perfect next step for Fabletics because there is so much opportunity to bring our expertise in design and development to the courts,” Kelli Dugan, chief design and merchandising officer, Fabletics, said in a statement. “This launch is just the beginning of what we have in store as we continue our fast expansion into new categories and deepen our relationships with athletes and sports organizations.”

Fabletics and Universal Tennis collaborated on co-branded capsule collection
Fabletics and Universal Tennis collaborated on co-branded capsule collection. Fabletics

Fabletics’ other athletic partnerships include an ongoing exclusive engagement with the competitive cheerleading organization Varsity Spirit and its recent sponsorship of the NCAA’s Jacksonville Classic.

“On our mission to transform tennis to make the sport more affordable, accessible and fun, the partnership is a perfect fit,” Universal Tennis president Kelly Forese said in a statement. “Our players and coaches will appreciate the high quality and flattering silhouettes both on and off the court.”

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Also Thursday, Wilson Sporting Goods Co. introduced what it described as a “performance-based,” “tennis-inspired” sportswear collection. The launch arrived almost a year after the athletic goods brand launched Wilson Sportswear, its lifestyle athletic apparel line.

“Over the last year we’ve listened to our consumers and know that they want even more functionality and innovation within sportswear, while not compromising on style to perform their best,” Gordon Devin, general manager and president of Wilson Sportswear, said in a statement. “We believe this collection does exactly that; celebrating our rich history in the sport of tennis and inspiring the athlete in us all.”

Wilson's tennis-inspired collection includes polos and shorts
Wilson’s tennis-inspired collection includes polos and shorts. Wilson Sporting Goods Co.

The new tennis collection features a blend of styles, including “technical pieces” designed to perform “at the highest level on and off the court,” Wilson said. Products include polos, shorts, pants, a skirt, a tee and a sports bra.

Wilson also created a special magazine to accompany the collection. Available in limited quantities as a gift with purchase at Wilson’s New York and Chicago locations, it includes imagery of the new sportswear collection and an op-ed from tennis legend and Wilson Advisory Staff member Billie Jean King. Wilson plans to inaugurate its second New York City store on May 26 with a location on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

In January, Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor, sports at The NPD Group, predicted that tennis equipment sales—after seeing great sales trends in the second half of 2020 and first half of 2021—would return to more historical low rates of growth this year, but remain elevated compared to pre-pandemic years. In the first quarter, tennis racquet and ball sales both declined, according to NPD data, even as the more niche sport of pickleball saw similar equipment sales grow 53 percent.

Wilson Sportswear's new tennis apparel collection for men and women

According to the latest data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, tennis participation in the U.S. grew 4.5 percent in 2021 compared to the prior year. On a two-year basis, participation increased 27.9 percent.