Sports Market Flattened by Recession

July 24, 2009

Worldwide sales of sports equipment, apparel, and footwear sales remained flat at $284 billion USD (? 219 billion) in 2008, down from a 4% increase the previous year, the direct result of the recession’s continuing toll on developed countries, according to a report from The NPD Group, Inc.

The fourth annual study on the global sports market, “Global Sports Estimate 2009,” revealed an overall decline of 1% in all of the Americas (North, Central, South) that was driven primarily by a 2% decline in the US during 2008. Sales in Europe lagged as well,? declining 1%. However, the overall picture was stabilized somewhat, by contributions from Asia, up 4%, and the Middle-East/Africa, up 7% last year.


In the emerging countries, the ‘wealth effect’ appeared to have contributed to the growth, and in some countries, combined with other factors to trigger double-digit growth, NPD said.? For example, “China’s growth skyrocketed 15% in 2008 and for the second consecutive year, noted Renaud Vaschalde, global sports industry analyst for NPD. “This was due to a growing middle class and one that has more disposable income, as well as the fact that the Olympic Games were hosted in China that year.”

In contast, most of the developed countries posted negative results. “Clearly in Japan, the US, and Western Europe, the sports market underperformed relative to the economy,” Vaschalde said.

Growth Spurred by Convenience, Family-Friendliness, Fun

Despite flat results overall, NPD said that sales of sport-use apparel and footwear products are on the rise because the market has grown for running, walking/hiking, swimming, cycling, training/fitness/work-out, and soccer/football. These, NPD said, are convenient, easy to pursue, family friendly, and help people look and feel good. Additionally, the reappearance of snow helped the snow-sport industry during both the 20007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons. It posted growth worldwide in 2008.

On the other hand, several sports showed mixed results. Golf, basketball, and tennis lost some ground in 2008, while hunting and fishing were also negatively impacted by diminishing wildlife resources and a decreasing number of places in which to fish and hunt, NPD said.

Obstacles to Expansion

Cultural preferences and difficulty expanding the women’s sports market are among the major obstacles to expansion noted in the report:

  • Cultural popularity and country-specificity of sports are preventing more widespread adoption. For example, soccer is popular in Europe, but has not taken strong hold in the US, while American football, baseball and basketball are popular in the US, but have not gained global popularity.
  • Efforts to grow the women’s sports market are being constrained by an increasing number of women working outside the home, coupled with childcare responsibilities and housework, which limit women’s time for sports activity.

Additional trends in the global sports market:

  • The global recession is affecting sales in China, where some retailers point to their stock of unsold Olympic merchandise as part of their challenge.
  • Key retailers in southern Europe are getting into the private label business, but NPD expects further consolidation in Europe.
  • In the direct-to-consumer channel, shoppers are primarily looking for price, which will lead to lower margins in the future. However, consumers are more inclined to want to try on their sports apparel or footwear before they make a purchase, so the in-store experience will remain important to retail sales.

About the study: The estimates of the global sports market’s size are based on The NPD Group, Inc.’s consumer panel tracking data, statistical projections, and the companys? sports industry expertise. The NPD Group measures the athletic footwear and sports apparel markets in 10 countries, representing 70% of the global sports sales. For the remaining 30%, NPD estimates are based on assumptions related to GDP development. The Exchange rate calculation used in the analysis was 1?=$1.3

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