After what was a solid first half of 2018 for the U.S. team sports equipment market, sales slowed in the third quarter. This does not portend well for holiday season sales.
Baseball was one of the hottest stories to open the year, as new youth baseball bat regulations forced families to buy new bats for their children. Sales of composite bats grew by more than half in the first six months. In the third quarter, however, that demand fell off and baseball sales went flat. We can expect to give back those first half gains next year.
Golf was another strong story in the first half; however, sales for Q3 were essentially flat. This was fueled by a decline in golf club sales, and flat performance for golf balls. The excitement over new releases has worn off. Callaway and Titleist sales grew nicely for Q3, but most of the other brands did not.
Soccer equipment sales rose during the World Cup, but fell off again immediately after it ended. This has been a very typical pattern during World Cup years. Soccer sales grew in the mid-single digits for Q3. Again, the industry will return those gains next year.
Sales of basketballs and backboards slowed even further in Q3 than in the first half, with sales down in the low teens. Basketball participation continues to decline as do sales of performance basketball shoes.
Participation was also likely a factor in the weak football numbers; Q3 sales were down in the mid-single digits for football equipment.
Universal protective gear experienced low single-digit growth for the quarter. I believe retailers are missing a great opportunity to leverage parents’ concerns over injuries. Protective gear should be part of every sports equipment purchase.
In terms of how major brands fared in Q3, Wilson equipment sales declined in the low singles. Spalding sales were down in the mid-teens on account of the weak basketball results. Nike equipment declined in the mid-teens and Under Armour in the high teens, while Adidas grew by more than 20 percent. Adidas showed particular strength in soccer, due to the World Cup. Rawlings and Franklin both grew by about 10 percent, and Shock Doctor improved in the low singles.
These mixed results signal a challenged fourth quarter. Brands and retailers must be creative to capture some wins for Holiday 2018.