In March and April 2020, the pandemic’s impact on golf and team sports equipment was severe, as golf courses were temporarily closed, and schools canceled or postponed their sports seasons. Cities and towns took down tennis nets and basketball hoops in parks. Golf and team sports equipment sales declined nearly 25% in March and by more than 40% in April.
But, as governments learned more about the virus and its transmission, they began to open recreation facilities and the business began to bounce back quickly – except for scholastic sports, which are still in limbo in many states.
Over the summer, sales in some categories recovered nicely, helping full year sales for golf and team sports equipment to grow in the mid-teens based on dollars and low single-digits in unit sales, resulting in a low teens increase in average selling price. It is likely that the average selling price improvement was at least partially a result of more full-price selling.
There is one common theme across sports equipment sales under COVID-19: the strongest categories have been those that allow participants to stay active and fit yet remain socially distant. Golf and racquet sports clearly fall into that bucket.
Golf is the largest sport equipment category, and its sales grew by nearly 40% in 2020. Golf balls and full golf sets were the largest dollar share gainers, suggesting new entrants to the sport. We also saw robust growth in drivers, iron sets, gloves, wedges, putters, and bags. All the major golf brands had strong performances as well, with Callaway leading the pack.
Equipment sales for racquet sports increased by more than a third in 2020, as tennis thrived and the pickleball juggernaut continued.
Basketball hoop systems and balls improved by nearly 25%. I think this represented “home school recess” as parents sought an activity to get their kids moving while remaining socially distant. Late in the year basketball equipment sales growth slowed, with no scholastic season to support it.
One other interesting factoid. Punching bag sales soared under the pandemic. I’m sure there were occasions during the pandemic when many of us wished we had a punching bag.
Training aids was another positive for the market in 2020. From hockey nets to putting mats, virtually every sports training aid grew as athletes tried to keep their game sharp, even if they could not play.
On the other hand, scholastic sports including baseball/softball, soccer, football, and lacrosse were challenged as many states cancelled or modified their seasons. Hopefully, schools will reopen and return to more normalcy soon, and we can have a spring sports season. If so, sales will be robust.
I believe the social changes we’ve seen under COVID-19 will endure for the longer term; consumers will want to get fit and stay socially distant to some degree, both of which bodes well for many of these sports equipment categories.