The February through April 2018 period (compared to the same three month timeframe in 2017) was a solid one for the U.S. team sports equipment industry. Sales grew in the mid-single digits, as the new baseball bat regulations drove baseball sales growth in the mid-teens. Composite bats improved by nearly half and pulled all the other categories up with it. These gains will be difficult to offset next year.
In composite bats, Rawlings more than doubled sales. Louisville Slugger grew in the high teens while DeMarini had a decline. Market share leader Easton grew by more than half.
Golf equipment also performed well, likely driven by the peak in Baby Boomer retirements, with sales up in the low teens. Golf club sales grew in the low teens, indicating new entrants, while ball sales only grew in the high singles, likely dampened by the decline in golf rounds played in April.
April posted the coldest temperatures in two decades, which put a damper on spring sports (with the exception of baseball). Soccer equipment sales were flat, while lacrosse had a mid-single digit decline. Field hockey had a surprising mid-teens increase. Tennis declined in the low singles.
Basketball equipment sales declined in the low teens, in line with weak basketball shoe sales.
Combat and wrestling-related sales grew in the low teens.
Protective gear, a standout category in 2017, slowed to a low single-digit increase.
Looking at team sports equipment brands, Callaway grew by a third, taking share from those who have exited the golf business. TaylorMade grew in the high singles, and Titleist in the high teens.
Rawlings grew by nearly a third and Easton by nearly half.
Spalding and Wilson both posted declines.
My expectation is that golf sales will flatten out as we move through the year, and baseball will hold up until the new bats are replaced, while the rest of team sports equipment market will be challenged.