Sales of sports and fitness products outpaced the national gross domestic product last year, which is seen as a big win for the category.
In its 2021 Manufacturers’ Sales by Category Report, released Thursday, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association said despite the pandemic, sales of apparel, footwear and equipment rose 0.6 percent in 2020 while U.S. GDP fell 2.3 percent.
Not surprisingly, consumer fitness boomed last year, posting an increase of 40.5 percent and driving the overall number up. Among the most popular purchases were free weights, up 104.2 percent; exercise benches, up 78 percent; home gyms, up 73.7 percent, and exercise bicycles, up 67.1 percent.
Sports apparel was a mixed bag, however. Branded activewear sales fell 5 percent to $15 billion from $15.8 billion in 2019. Swimwear was the biggest loser, dropping 32.4 percent, followed by caps/hats, which were down 12.9 percent, and socks, which fell 11.9 percent. However, there were some bright spots. Outerwear sales posted the biggest gains — 14.9 percent over the prior year — followed closely by fleece/sweats, which rose 14.8 percent, no doubt driven by the work-from-home era of wearing them as much for work as for leisure. Strength was also seen in base layers, which increased 11.4 percent; pants, which climbed 6.2 percent and sports bras, which rose 5.4 percent.
With the cancellation of most team sports, sales in that category were also negatively impacted. Overall, team uniforms dropped 22.5 percent and total licensed merchandise sales fell 4.9 percent. But when it came to equipment, basketball managed to hold its own, growing 11.6 percent, thanks in part to a 20.3 percent gain in backboard sales. Other categories where strength was reported included golf, which was up 19 percent; fishing, up 14.9 percent, and camping, up 10.9 percent.
The athletic footwear category also had a bit of a down year, with a 4 percent decrease overall. Running shoe sales were down 11 percent, as were tennis shoes, and skate/surf footwear was down 10 percent. But shoes for outdoor/adventure categories jumped 15.1 percent, followed by fitness/workout, up 14.8 percent, and golf, up 8.4 percent, as consumers embraced those activities last year.
The SFIA Manufacturers’ Sales by Category Report measures U.S. wholesale revenues across five major categories, 34 subcategories, with nearly 150 various breakdowns.