Third-quarter (Q3) U.S. sports equipment revenues indicate that while the environment for sports activities remains robust, the pandemic surge for equipment sales appears to have stabilized.
After a great run during the height of the pandemic, golf equipment sales have come back to earth. Revenues from July through September were down this year versus 2020, based on NPD Retail Tracking Service data. Like many sports equipment businesses that surged during the pandemic and then fell back, golf sales followed a similar pattern. According to the National Golf Foundation, golf rounds were down during the quarter, as well, and we see this trend in participation supported by golf ball sales, which were flat for the quarter versus last year. While golf equipment sales remain very elevated compared to 2019 levels, I do not expect to see much future growth when comped against 2020.
Likewise, racquet sports sales have come off their more recent highs. Racquet sports equipment revenues slowed to a growth rate in the high teens, propped up by pickleball, which grew by more than 70%. Again, sales remain elevated versus 2019, but we should expect declines for 2021 compared to 2020.
Basketball equipment was also one of the stars during the pandemic. Parents sought ways for their kids to stay active while social distancing, and basketball is an activity that kids can play by themselves. Basketball hoop systems are what I consider a “one and done” category: if parents bought a basketball hoop system during the pandemic, they won’t need another one for years to come. Hence the mid-single-digit increase in Q3 for basketball equipment overall, with hoop system sales down in the mid-single digits.
Last year many school districts cancelled or postponed their scholastic sports seasons. This year most school districts are playing sports, so the sports categories that support scholastic sports enjoyed tremendous growth in Q3 of this year versus 2020. For example, football equipment revenues increased by more than two thirds, soccer was up more than half, lacrosse grew by one-third, field hockey was up nearly 90%, and universal protective gear posted an 80% gain. We can expect scholastic sports equipment sales to remain positive, but I expect the gains to slow over time.