Sporting Goods Companies Learn To Thrive In New Normal; Consumers Value Sustainability

The 2021 year-on-year growth rate in the sporting goods industry is more than twice the average of the past five years. Despite the numbers, some sporting goods companies are having trouble adjusting to the “new normal” while others have found their niche and begun to thrive in the pandemic world, according to research from The World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) and McKinsey.

At the pandemic’s beginning in 2020, key players were able to shift their focus to e-commerce, gaining a competitive edge. According to McKinsey’s findings, more than 80% of consumers reported using online channels to search for and purchase online sports equipment. Companies such as Nike, Adidas, and Asics were unprepared for the shift, reporting limited growth, but some players beat the market. Lulu Lemon and ANTA sports posted margins and sales growth above 15% -- higher than any time before the pandemic. Between 70-85% of surveyed consumers said that they expect to continue using online fitness and wellness tools.

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By 2021, other companies were able to find their online niche. Even after lockdowns were lifted and stores reopened, 45% of sales were made using online channels, the research showed.

Beyond coping with the pandemic’s effect on business, the industry faces a public that is increasingly concerned about sustainability. Attendees of the recent climate change conference, COP26, pleaded with corporations to begin decarbonizing their factories, echoing the views of activists and consumers alike. Two-thirds of respondents told McKinsey that sustainability is a crucial feature when deciding on sporting apparel. The more companies devote themselves to sustainability, the higher the bar for the entire industry.

Though many consumers are returning to the office or beginning to socialize outside of a Zoom screen, working out at home and shopping online for gear appears to be here to stay.