Given all the headwinds in team sports and golf, the industry fared better than expected in the first half of 2019. Sales of team sports and golf equipment grew in the low single digits for the first six months of the year. These results stand out given the cold, wet and extreme weather, the difficult baseball/softball comparisons, offsetting last year’s Men’s World Cup, and the systemic issues in golf.
Baseball/softball faced a tough comparison to last year’s boom which resulted from new Little League bat regulations. Consequently, baseball/softball sales were flat for the first half of 2019, with non-wood bats down in the mid-single digits, which was actually much better than expected. Baseball/softball glove and ball sales grew in the low single digits, while baseball/softball protective gear improved in the mid-single digits. We are seeing some positive participation trends in baseball, which are likely helping to bolster these numbers.
Basketball sales improved after recent difficulties with sales up in the low single digits. Hoop/systems improved in the high single digits even as ball sales declined.
Football equipment saw sales decline slightly, as football participation continues to slow. An increase in sales among football protective gear was offset by weakness in football sales.
As always happens after a Men’s World Cup year, soccer sales declined. Soccer ball sales were particularly hard hit, down in the low teens for the first half of 2019.
As lacrosse continues to spread geographically, sales keep growing, up in the mid-single digits for the first six months of the year. Lacrosse sticks improved in the high single digits, while lacrosse ball sales grew in the low teens.
Racquet sports sales were flat for the first six months of the year, with pickleball the only bright spot. Perennial winner - combat and wrestling equipment - grew in the high single digits. Universal protective gear sales were soft as sales of sport-specific protective gear were on the incline.
Golf sales grew in the mid-single digits for the first half, lifted by sales among full golf sets, balls and training aids. It is likely that the surge in retirees – as Boomers continue to age – is driving this trend. It remains to be seen how long this surge will last and whether these new sport entrants will stick with the game.
Fitness equipment did not fare well in the first half of 2019. A movement toward more social fitness activities – with consumers gravitating to group fitness classes – impacted the sales of fitness equipment. In line with this trend, sales of cardiovascular machines were soft in the first half of the year, especially among elliptical trainers. Rowing machines grew in the mid-single digits, while stationary bikes were flat, although they were helped a bit by spin bikes. Treadmill sales declined in the mid-single digits.
Free weight equipment was flat for the first half, with kettlebells and medicine balls a bright spot. This is likely due to an increase in home fitness activity to supplement club activity.
Yoga and pilates equipment products declined in the low teens. Other than yoga mats – which don’t tend to wear out – this decline is probably due to the fact that not much more equipment is needed for at-home use.
After stronger-than-expected first half results, I remain cautious in my outlook for the second half of the year. Macro trends are not moving in favor of sports equipment.