SFIA: Fitness, Golf And Camping Categories Seize Pandemic Boom


According to SFIA’s 2022 Manufacturers Sales by Category Report, consumer exercise equipment categories saw the biggest revenue gains over the last two years during the pandemic. Golf led the gains among sports equipment categories, followed in the Top 5 by camping, snow sports, tennis, and basketball.

Both athletic apparel and athletic footwear categories experienced strong recoveries in 2021 after posting declines in 2020 tied to the shutdowns and heightened restrictions seen in the early stages of the pandemic. Team sports equipment also saw a bounce-back year in 2021.

SFIA’s report tracks U.S. wholesale revenues of sports and fitness goods in over 30 categories and compares revenues from previous years.

The total market for sports equipment, exercise equipment, athletic footwear, sports apparel, and licensed merchandise saw a 15.8 percent increase in revenue from 2020 and a 16.4 percent increase since 2019 pre-pandemic numbers, with a majority of the tracked categories experiencing growth of over 10 percent in those two years. As a result of these record-breaking numbers, the sporting goods industry is valued at over $111 billion.

“These numbers are extraordinary. The largest jump SFIA has seen in tracking this data,” said Tom Cove, president and CEO, SFIA. “Even with the numerous supply chain issues and myriad challenges manufacturers have experienced because of the pandemic, these sales figures clearly show the sports and fitness industry is thriving.”

Categories such as golf and camping have benefited throughout the pandemic because the activities they support are primarily done outside and apt for social distancing. Many continued to show strong gains in 2021 as consumers who discovered activities during lockdowns continued with them as the economy reopened.

Consumer fitness equipment categories, in particular, benefited in 2020 as gyms and fitness boutiques were closed or heavily restricted amid social distancing calls. Fitness equipment growth slowed in 2021 as gyms reopened, but most consumer fitness equipment saw healthy gains last year.

Team sports equipment sales and sales in large athletic apparel and footwear categories recovered in 2021 as the sports leagues resumed play and the overall restrictions eased.

 “When Americans were restricted from schools, facilities and group gatherings, they still wanted to be physically active, and they purchased our products for this purpose,” added Cove. “As pandemic restrictions lessened, Americans continued to buy active lifestyle products showing how central the sports and fitness industry is to Americans’ well-being. With team sports participation approaching pre-pandemic levels, we are optimistic the positive market indicators will sustain.” 

Sports Equipment Sales Expand 17 Percent Since 2019 
Total sports equipment sales grew 9.8 percent year-over-year in 2021 to $30.8 billion and have been up 16.8 percent since 2019.

Golf equipment sales were up 32.0 percent year-over-year to $3.69 billion and have grown 57.1 percent since 2019. On a two-year basis, sales were up 56.2 percent in golf balls and 54.3 percent in clubs.

Camping equipment sales reached $3.76 billion in 2021, up 20.5 percent year-over-year and 33.6 percent since 2019. The gains on a two-year basis were reasonably similar across categories. Ranked by sales size rank, sales from 2019 to 2021 grew 35.0 percent in backpacks, 33.8 percent in coolers/chests, 26.5 percent in jugs/containers, 30.3 percent in furniture, 35.7 percent in sleeping bags/air beds, 27.8 percent in stoves/fuels, and 32.6 percent in tents/shelters.

Snowsports, also benefiting from the appeal of the outdoors, increasing 11.7 percent year-over-year and 27.2 percent on a two-year basis to $683.6 million. On a two-year basis, snow skiing/alpine sales grew 21.6 percent and snowboards by 17.3 percent.

Tennis, benefiting from similar reasons as golf, generating $288.2 million in sales in 2021, up 27.9 percent year-over-year and 27.0 percent over the pre-pandemic 2019 level. The gains were driven by racquets, up 46.9 percent on a two-year basis, as tennis balls sales grew only 5.0 percent.

Firearms and fishing also benefited from social distancing, although growth slowed in the past year. Firearms demand in 2020 also received a boost from civil unrest that summer and the presidential election. Firearms revenues reached $4.32 billion in 2021, down 7.1 percent year-over-year but were up 4.9 percent on a two-year basis. The gains over 2019 were led by ammunition, up 16.2 percent on a two-year basis. 

Fishing sales amounted to $3.25 billion last year, up 2.5 percent year-over-year and 17.8 percent on a two-year basis.

Most team sports equipment sales saw strong recoveries in 2021, with some surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Among the findings for team sports equipment categories for 2021:

  • Baseball/Softball: $686.2 million, up 27.6 percent on a year-over-year basis and down 0.2 percent on a two-year basis;
  • Football: $621.9 million; up 15.7 percent on a year-over-year basis and 4 percent on a two-year basis.
  • Basketball: $573.9 million, up 13.5 percent on a year-over-year basis and 26.6 percent on a two-year basis;
  • Soccer: $424.9 million, up 6.9 percent on a year-over-year basis and off 2.0 percent on a two-year basis;
  • Lacrosse: $94.2 million, up 5.1 percent on a year-over-year basis and down 7.4 percent on a two-year basis; and
  • Volleyball: $88.0 million, up 9.9 percent on a year-over-year basis and ahead 4.4 percent on a two-year basis.

Basketball stood out with gains in 2020 as consumers set up backboards in driveways which proved to be one of the few ways to participate in team sports with many leagues shuttered during the pandemic. In football and soccer, balls saw more robust growth than protective equipment on a two-year basis. In the baseball/softball category, the 0.2 percent decline on a two-year basis was driven by a drop in bat sales by 15.3 percent due to the shift from USSSA to USA Baseball bat standards.

Total Exercise Equipment Sales Surge 42 Percent Since 2019
Total exercise equipment sales, including consumer and institutional, jumped 42.2 percent from pre-pandemic levels to $7.89 billion in 2021, with four consumer equipment categories – home gyms, exercise cycles, free weights, and exercise benches – having an over 100 percent growth since 2019. Fitness product sales showed the most volatility among different products within the category, with consumer fitness products showing significant gains in the initial stages of the pandemic.

Consumer exercise equipment sales reached $6.42 billion, up 14.8 percent on a year-over-year basis and 61.4 percent on a two-year basis. The most significant gains on a two-year basis came in free weights, up 140.4 percent, followed by exercise cycles, 112.5 percent, exercise benches, 103.1 percent, home gyms, 110.7 percent, treadmills, 63.8 percent, and rowing machines, 60.8 percent. Institutional exercise equipment sales showed some recovery in 2021, up 12.4 percent year-over-year to $1.46 billion but were still down 6.5 percent from pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

Athletic Apparel Boosted By Fleece/Sweats
After seeing a slight decline in 2020 amid the stay-at-home economy, athletic apparel grew 26.8 percent in 2021 to $25.6 billion. On a two-year stack basis, athletic apparel sales were up 25.1 percent.

Fleece/sweats remained the standout apparel category, up 59.6 percent on a year-over-year basis and 83.2 percent on a two-year basis, as many called sweatpants the pandemic’s wardrobe. 

On a two-year basis, substantial gains in athletic apparel categories were also seen in outerwear, climbing 40.3 percent. Sports bras were up 30.5 percent, base layers 39.1 percent, bottoms up 38.7 percent, and caps/hats were up 20.0 percent.

Branded activewear sales had a slight recovery, expanding 1.4 percent to $15.3 billion and trailing 2019 levels by 3.7 percent. Branded activewear includes department store-geared sports brands and non-sport-specific labels, while the athletic apparel category is more reserved for sports-specific apparel.

Team uniforms sales reached $1.39 billion in 2021, up 33.6 percent year-over-year and ahead 3.6 percent on a two-year basis. The gains were led by basketball and baseball, with football the only sport to show a decline in uniform sales on a two-year basis.

Total licensed merchandise, another category initially hurt by the suspension of college and professional sports during the height of the pandemic, reached $10.78 billion, up 24.6 percent year-over-year and 18.5 percent on a two-year basis.

Athletic Footwear Elevated By Running, Walking, Fitness
Athletic footwear, also recovering from a near mid-single-digit decline in 2020, totaled $19.9 billion in sales in 2021, up 20.3 percent to 2020 and 15.5 percent to 2019. The gains were led by fitness/workout, up 42.5 percent year-over-year and 63.5 percent to 2019. Walking was up 27.8 percent in 2020 and 33.1 percent in 2019. Running footwear sales surged 32.6 percent after a drop in 2020 and are now ahead 18.0 percent versus 2019.

In other larger categories in athletic footwear on a two-year basis, sales grew 11.3 percent in classic/originals, 16.6 percent in casual/fashion and 7.0 percent in kids. Team sports footwear categories remained down to pre-pandemic levels except for basketball, up 6.3 percent and soccer, which was flat. On a two-year basis, outdoor/adventure footwear sales were up 24.1 percent and sport sandals/slides were ahead 17.9 percent.

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