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Running Shoes, Aerobics, Boomers Key Drivers To Reverse Fitness Category Decline

May 13, 2010: Although sales of sports and fitness-related equipment in the U.S. fell slightly in 2009 for the second consecutive year, a new report claims there are several reasons to be optimistic about the industry's outlook for 2010. 

Sales of sporting goods equipment, fitness equipment, sports apparel, athletic footwear and licensed merchandise in the U.S. totaled $71.8 billion in 2009, a 4.3% decrease from the $75 billion total in 2008, which in turn was down about that much from 2007. However, sales in 2010 are expected to increase between 2%-4.5% driven by athletic footwear and consumer fitness equipment, according to the 2010 State of the Industry Report from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Assn.

The Silver Spring, Md.-based SGMA is a leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry. 

“For the most part, the drop in sales for the sports products industry in 2009 was a reflection of the challenges which have affected the U.S. economy during the last 12-18 months,” Tom Cove, SGMA president, said in a statement.  “As the U.S. economy shows improvement, consumers will be more inclined to increase their spending on fitness equipment, sports gear, athletic apparel and athletic footwear. "

The running shoe is the category leader for athletic footwear while the treadmill is the most popular piece of fitness equipment, according to SGMA. A recent report from marketing and research firm NPD Group, Port Washington, NY, indicated that sales of running shoes to casual participants is slowing down while sales to hard-core runners is on the upswing.

However, other factors will also drive sales in 2010.

In 2009, 25% of consumers described as "core sports participants" said they spent less on sports products and gear than they spent in 2008.  However, 23% of core sports participants said that in 2010 they plan to increase their sports spending, nearly 20% said they plan to spend more on travel in order to compete in sports and play more sports and just over 13% plan to rejoin a health club.

"Generally speaking, sports participation in the U.S. remains strong and steady," said Cove. "We are seeing activities which promote family recreation and are less expensive to play attracting a significant number of participants.”

One demographic group will be key to the upswing in category spending, according to SGMA. The fitness industry is looking for growth to come from baby boomers, a generation that includes 77 million people, more of whom are pushing 60 and beyond and are looking to health club memberships and home fitness equipment to stay in shape.

"Among the activities on the rise: aerobics, tennis, jogging and bike riding." — SGMA

Among the activities on the rise, high impact aerobics were up 8.1% in 2009 versus 2008, low impact aerobics were up 6.3% and step aerobics were up 4.5%. Meanwhile, nearly 44 million Americans are now jogging to stay fit , which is up 6.7% from 2008; and just over 40 million Americans are keeping in shape by riding bikes, up 5.3% since 2008. According to SGMA, "The inexpensive nature of those two activities, the ease of access to both sports, and the lack of any club membership helps fuel interest in both activities."

The 2010 State of the Industry Report also shows that participation in tennis has risen by 43% since 2000 while participation surge in "cardio tennis" has grown by more than 40% since 2008. Also gaining in popularity among activities that can be done alone are kayaking and day hiking, while team sports such as ice hockey and lacrosse continue to grow attract more participants.

SGMA said that one of the most interesting findings of its 2010 report is the relationship between a physically active lifestyle and exposure to physical education classes while attending school. According to SGMA research, adults who are 21 or older are more than three times likely to be "super active" if they had PE in school and that adults who are 21 or older who did not take PE in school are three times more likely to be inactive.

The entire 48 page report can be obtained at www.SGMA.com.

Report: Sales Of Running Shoes To Casual Participants Down, To Hard Core Runners Up

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