Batter Up: With Baseball A Hit, Sports And Fitness Products Industry Tops $92B
Sunday, May 5, 2019 at 01:52PM in Finances, Olympics, SFIA, SPorts and Fitness, finances, sports marketing

By Barry Janoff

May 3, 2019: People will do many things to stay healthy and keep in shape.

The translates to investing more than $92 billion in 2018 to do so.

The fitness market, including 25 different categories of equipment, reported positive growth nearly across the board.

The baseball/softball category experienced the greatest growth among team sports at 7.7%, driven by a huge year in baseball bat sales, reporting 18.9% growth, according to a new report from the Sports and Fitness Industry Assn., the trade association of leading industry sports and fitness brands, suppliers, retailers and partners.

SFIA said its 2019 SFIA Manufacturers’ Sales Report is broken down into four categories, “all of which experienced an increase in sales": Sports Equipment $25.1 billion (0.8%), Fitness Equipment $5.4 billion (3.6%), Apparel $36.6 billion (1.2%) and Footwear $16.6 billion (4.6%).

“Last year’s performance reflects a challenging market environment, where it’s more about the market share than it is about industry growth,” Tom Cove, SFIA president and CEO, said via the Silver Springs, Md.-based organization.

“As an industry, we must understand the critical importance of increased sports and fitness participation, as a long-term strategy to fortify the foundation of our industry.”

According to SFIA, “Fitness participation is the highest it's been in six years,” with 66% of the population involved in one or more of seven key activity categories, including fitness, outdoor sports, individual sports, team sports, water sports, racquet sports and winter sports.

That figure is up from 60.1% participation in 2013.

Regarding baseball, SFIA said there was an “increase in participation; baseball is thriving.”

The surge in bat sales was driven by a USA Baseball rule change in 2017, “which created a new standard for all youth bats starting on Jan. 1, 2018, requiring all players and leagues to purchase a new bat last year.”

Also likely a factor: Baseball and softball are returning to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games for the first time since the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Another potential factor for the rise in baseball equipment sales: The sport was voted No. 1 in fan loyalty in 2017 and 2018, passing the NFL for the first time in a decade, according to the Sports Loyalty Index survey conducted by research and media intelligence firm Brand Keys, NY.

Although baseball was replaced again by the NFL in the 2019 survey, the sport remains No. 2 among the major pro sports in the U.S.

Overall, athletic footwear experienced an increase of 4.6%, with sport sandals/slides (20.0%), casual/fashion (18.0%) and classic/originals (10.0%) ranking as the top three growth categories, according to the 2019 SFIA Manufacturers’ Sales Report.

“Fitness participation is the highest it's been in six years,” with 66% of the population involved in one or more of seven key activity categories."

“The top three categories are not performance wear, representing the strong influence of sports and fitness styles in today’s fashion world,” reported SFIA.

Apparel sales grew 1.2%, while licensed merchandise came in with at 5.8% growth, “indicating greater fandom and new opportunities for brands and apparel manufacturers.”

Golf clubs also experienced healthy growth at 8.9%.

Boutique fitness trends, responsible for introducing people in the U.S. to many nontraditional exercises, “are likely stimulating across the board increases in the fitness and martial arts equipment categories,” according to SFIA.


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