Unconventional springtime weather that’s more akin to the late fall season is having a dampening effect on U.S. team sports equipment sales. With the recent expansion of The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, we now have a more complete picture of the nature of team sports in the U.S. This blog will focus on spring sports including baseball, softball, racquet sports, lacrosse, and volleyball. In some states soccer is played in the spring, but the bulk of sales come in the fall, so soccer is not included here. I will talk about soccer and basketball as fall sports in a later blog.
Baseball/softball is the largest spring sport in terms of U.S. merchandise sales, at about $1 billion. Sales for full-year 2016 declined in the low single digits. The largest category is baseball/softball bats, with sales being flat for the year. Gloves and mitts, the second largest category, experienced a low single-digit decline. Batting gloves dropped in the mid-singles, while balls saw low single-digit growth. Trends have not yet improved in 2017; year to date through April, baseball/softball equipment sales were down in the high single digits. The cold and wet spring has been a factor in keeping kids off the field. Also, as a result of new bat regulations going into effect next spring, retailers and brands are destocking ahead of the change. Most major brands in baseball/softball are in decline for the year so far, with Franklin as an exception.
Similarly, racquet sport sales for 2016 declined in the mid-single digits. Racquet sales were down in the mid-single digits, and continue to be down, in the low single digits, thus far in 2017.
Lacrosse equipment sales grew in 2016, as the sport continues to spread across the country. More and more schools are adding lacrosse to their sports programs. But year-to-date sales are down in the mid-single digits, again being impacted by the wet weather.
Volleyball sales also grew in 2016, and are up nearly 10 percent for 2017 to date. Since this sport is often played indoors, the weather has had little influence.
The spring sports business remains at the mercy of weather, and a lack of growth in terms of sports participation is not helping the situation. Though we cannot control the weather, it is important for industry players to garner greater interest and involvement in sports participation, for the health of our youth, and of our industry.
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service