Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis I have been asked about the impact of the pandemic on Europe’s sporting goods industry. Specifically, I’m asked about how the pandemic has changed consumer behaviors and which of these new behaviors will ‘stick’ when we move out of the crisis. The longer the pandemic persists, the clearer these changes are becoming. Our most recent consumer sentiment report from nationally representative December 2021 online surveys in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK, provides some interesting insights.
Overall, the market conditions continue to improve as consumers are becoming more optimistic about their personal financial situations. This is especially true for 18-34-year-olds who are not only more optimistic, but also willing to spend more. Travelling and entertainment are top priorities for this age group; these are two areas that many could not enjoy over the past two years due to all the restrictions. For sports footwear and apparel, these consumers indicate no big change in shopping. The sporting goods industry has always been closely connected to experiences, so it only makes sense to create links to areas like travelling and entertainment. The first thing that comes to mind are sporting events, as well as an increase in demand for lifestyle products as consumers go back to festivals and concerts. But also think of opportunities in big cities – this is where the air travel-hubs are, and this is where most of the bigger social events take place.
Sports participation, including how it has changed during the pandemic and what it could mean for the industry has also been a hot topic in the industry. Outside activities like hiking, walking, outdoor sports, and running are the most prominent activities consumers are participating in regularly (at least once per week). I‘d like to call out walking here because it’s a noteworthy trend we are seeing in the U.S. at the moment, but not yet top of mind in Europe. The industry in Europe could pursue opportunities in walking in different ways: I am seeing it as a lighter, less performance-oriented way of being active outside. It fits well with the overall health and fitness trend that emphasizes well-being and happiness.
We can also clearly say that the pandemic made the frequency of sport participation increase. This is especially true for hiking, walking, outdoor, yoga, as well as running and cycling, which all saw strong increases in frequency across multiple age groups. It appears consumers are participating in diverse activities more often. It’s up to us in the sporting goods industry to educate consumers on products that will help them stay in the game. This is particularly important for consumers who started a new sports activity during the pandemic. It’s imperative that we keep them engaged after the pandemic, focusing on education and incentives to keep these new participants engaged.