The once famous Taiwanese brand of tennis racquets, whose European sales reached a peak about 10 years ago, is trying to widen the limited circle of its distributors and retail clients on the continent through the establishment of a European distribution center in the Netherlands.
The goal is to reach out to smaller customers with a broader range of products, introducing new products such as graphite field hockey sticks and golf clubs besides tennis, badminton and squash racquets and related accessories. Instead of investing in sponsorships and other expensive marketing programs, Pro Kennex is capitalizing on its Kinetic patent and targeting mainly senior players, offering interesting prices and margins for the retailers.
The new Pro Kennex Europe operation is a joint venture between the Taiwanese company and the shareholders of Inside Brands, which has been distributing the brand in the Benelux countries. It is headed up by Rob Mekelenkamp, who once ran Pro Kennex’ European operations. He has been working for the brand for 25 years.
The company already has distributors in Italy, France, the U.K., the Czech Republic and Slovakia. While re-evaluating these contracts, it is now looking for new distributors in Germany, Scandinavia, Poland and Eastern Europe as a priority.
Globally, the brand is far today from being a global player, but it is profitable and growing very fast, thanks especially to its new product lines. About half of the turnover is in China, Korea, Thailand, Japan, India and Indonesia, with a strong emphasis on badminton. The brand has also a presence in the U.S., mainly in racquetball and golf.
Pro Kennex is currently owned by a group of South African investors and other shareholders who took over some of its assets in a liquidation of the former Kunnan Enterprise in 2004. The minority shareholders include the Chinese manufacturer of Pro Kennex’ racquets and golf clubs, and the company’s chief executive, Jeff Yao, who has been with the brand since 1971.