Europe’s sports segments continued boom in 2010, but 2011 off to slow start

From skis and boots to outdoor and fitness, sports segments across the board in Europe seem to have had a banner year in 2010, although 2011 isn’t off to such a hot start. SNEWS read the German reports, listened to the experts, and has the info on what’s hot and what’s not.
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New sales records for retailers associated with the two major European-based buying groups found that the tailwind that began in late 2009 continued for most sports segments in 2010.

“It was a super sport year for everybody in the sports markets,” said Klaus Jost, CEO of buying group Intersport, at its annual press conference for the German media at the ispo trade show in Germany.

Those glowing 2010 reports annouced in February were able to kick off and energize the ispo show where they were announced. But they were followed more recently by news that 2011 didn’t start with such power: January sales took a huge downturn due to unusually warm weather after Europe had been socked in by snow and cold at the end of 2010.

Sport 2000 CEO Andreas Rudolf told media in a post-show statement that without a doubt the warm weather that started off the year put a damper on retail revenues.

Nevertheless, the joy of the results from the full year 2010 meant management mostly remained upbeat. You never know how the year will shake out, Jost added when he revealed early double-digit drops in January. Still, he said, it’s not so good to start out with a negative.

“At this point, we’re saying that 2011 will be even,” Jost noted conservatively.

All smiles for 2010

Overall, though, the German sports market in 2010 grew by 7 percent over a year earlier, hitting sales growth for 11 of 12 months, Jost said. The group noted a plus of 11.4 percent with revenues of Euro 2.91 billion (USD $4 billion)*. In December alone, he said, its retailers rang up Euro 400 million (USD $551 million) in sales.

Sport 2000 managers too noted sales increases for its retailers of 7.4 percent for the year. According Werner Haizmann, president of the German retail association (VDS), German market’s sales grew by 3.5 percent with overall sales hitting Euro 7.3 billion (USD $10 billion), he said.

“All product categories were stronger than in the previous year,” Rudolf of Sport 2000 said at the ispo conference. “Sport specialty had a very positive year.”

Although both groups spoke of gains across all product categories, the biggest talk was of the new Rocker ski technology and ski accessories cleaning off shelves as the snow hit hard in late autumn and into early winter.

“Everybody talked about nothing but ski, particularly ski boots," Rudolf said.

On the other hand, Intersport’s Jost spoke of outdoor, as well as of the increased awareness of health and fitness that helped boost revenues.

“Outdoor is the megatrend,” Jost said.

By the numbers, Intersport found that wintersports grew by 25 percent in 2010, outdoor by 18 percent, while running and fitness remained popular areas and stayed stabile.

“Everybody wants to stay fit and healthy,” he said, while pointing out five-year growth in the multi-sport/wellness category of 30 percent. Still, the running/fitness category only managed a five-year growth of 1 percent, harmed he said, not only by a huge drop in Nordic walking but also by lower sales of large fitness equipment.

“Large equipment isn’t doing as well because you don’t have to replace it very often,” Jost said.

But outdoor remains king, showing growth in the last five years of 96 percent, followed by wintersports of 28 percent.

Rudolf had similar perceptions to share for his Sport 2000 group, although no five-year trends to share. Outdoor is on top of the heap, but shoes in particular, he said. And not just performance footwear but stylish streetwear, he said.

The Sport 2000 group showed year-over-year gains of 26 percent in Alpine ski boots, 22 percent in Alpine skis, 18 percent in snowboard, 17 percent in outdoor, and 12 percent in fitness/workout.

Top suppliers

Each year the two sports buying groups put out their own lists of top suppliers and, once again, there were changes of note.

Per Sport 2000, Jack Wolfskin jumped over Puma to gain third place after adidas and Nike. In Intersport’s rankings, Wolfskin actually leap-frogged over Nike to find its home in second place only behind adidas.

Rudolf said Wolfskin can thank extremely professional methods, good products, as well as being a “marketing machine” for its gains, he said.

Others on the list that caught our eye:

  • Reebok went from 21st to 15th on Intersport’s list, prompting Jost to say that “Reebok is back,” thanks to its wellness positioning.
  • Amer group, with ski brands Salomon, Atomic and Wilson, outdoor’s Suunto and fitness’ Precor, jumped from 15th to 4th on the Intersport list; however, the company sunk on Sport 2000’s list from 14th to 20th.
  • Kettler sunk on the Intersport list from 16th to 20th.
  • Although way down in 60th place, Icebreaker still earned a call-out by Jost for its huge leap from 89th a year earlier, 126th the year before that, and 244th the year before that. And it’s “just merino,” he said.

Forecast still good

At least in the German market, a study just out from a German economic research think tank said that German consumers have left the economic crisis behind them and are ready to spend. The group said that by the end of 2010, Germans seemed to be saying, “Crisis? What crisis?” Nearly a third said they could afford what they wanted with 3 percent even saying they felt no financial inhibitions. In fall 2009, only a quarter of respondents said they had money to buy what they needed and wanted, with 2 percent saying they didn’t have to hold back at all.

Although January’s early sales figures by the sports group show so-so revenues, Rudolf noted that he still expects Rocker ski technology to be on the upswing and a push for sales.

Upbeat sports sales also Europe-wide

According to Haizmann, also president of the association for European retail (Fedas), European sales in sport specialty overall grew in 2010 by 3 percent to Euro 38.75 billion (USD $53.4 billion). German market’s sales grew by 3.5 percent with overall sales hitting Euro 7.3 billion (USD $10 billion), he said.

“With this, the trend of the last five years continues,” Haizmann said in a German statement prior to the ispo show, noting outdoor, running and fitness as highpoints.

--Therese Iknoian

*all USD figures for Euros are only estimates based on current conversion rates and are for information only

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