By  on February 3, 2005

ORLANDO, Fla. — The sporting goods industry is slowly getting back in shape after a sluggish decade because of the growth of fitness apparel and the desire of millions of Americans to shed weight.

After years of stagnation, 2004 showed improvement for athletic firms. Manufacturers’ shipments of sporting goods — including equipment, apparel and footwear — grew 4 percent to about $52.1 billion in wholesale dollars, the largest gain since 1997, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. Apparel, which gained 5.4. percent, outpaced the industry as a whole, with performancewear and innovative fabrics driving sales.

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