‘Up and up’: UK padel and pickleball boom boosts sales | retail industry

Padel and pickleball are the mashups of racquet sports, combining elements of tennis, squash and badminton, but kit is a whole new ball game, with sales of specialist racquets, racquets and wiffle balls skyrocketing as Brits get closer to the court. next.

Sports retailer Decathlon is reporting huge demand for padel rackets, balls and accessories, as well as a parallel explosion of interest in the less established pickleball, spurring it to develop its own paddles. The rise of these ‘non-traditional’ sports is one of the main themes of its inaugural UK sport trends report.

Decathlon sells equipment for more than 70 sports, and Ross Farrington, its commercial director, says that padel “came out of nowhere” in 2019, with sales increasing since then by between 120% and 190% each year amid forecasts that could become the UK’s next big participation sport.

A woman holds a padel racket and a ball
A padel racket and a ball. Photography: MaxRiesgo/Getty Images/iStockphoto

“In Spain, Sweden and Portugal more people play padel than tennis,” he says. “In tennis it takes a long time to get to a level where you can have a good game, but with padel you can catch it quickly… and the walls mean there is less running after the ball.”

Padel – a hybrid of squash and tennis – uses a perforated fiberglass or graphite racket, rather than one with strings. Decathlon alone sold 2,500 last year and offers a choice of 100 racquets to please a growing fan base with different budgets. The cheapest is one of the brand itself, Kuikma, for £30, but at the end an Adidas racket can cost £300.

For serious padellers (and pickleballers), there’s a growing amount of clothing and dedicated trainers – and even designer options – that don’t look too much like your standard gym or tennis kit.

“We estimate that around 10,000 people play padel regularly, so it’s still a very small amount,” says Farrington. However, given the growth trajectory in other countries, it could be destined to become as popular as tennis, which is played by 4 million people in the UK, says Farrington.

Pickleball – a cross between tennis, badminton and table tennis – is less established in the UK, but is the fastest growing sport on the other side of the Atlantic, with nearly 5 million US players, including celebrities like Friends star Matthew Perry and Leonardo DiCaprio.

A man on an outdoor court holds a pickleball racket and ball
A pickleball racket and a ball. Photography: eyecrave/Getty Images/iStockphoto

It is played with rackets that look like large table tennis bats and a lightweight plastic ball on a court similar in size to badminton, but with a slightly lower net. The sport currently has around 7,000 players in the UK, but Pickleball England is aiming for 25,000 members by 2025.

Jane McGuire, owner of the UK Pickleball Shop, says sales of rackets, pickleballs and nets are “going up and up”. The store played a significant role in the development of the sport, she says, as it gave UK players access to high-quality equipment used in the US. On the website, a starter racket costs £15, but it’s also possible to spend £250.

“We also kept things running and growing during and after the lockdown by importing pickleballs and outdoor nets for players to use while all the recreation centers were closed and there was no indoor play,” she adds.

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