German sporting goods industry laments 2002 losses

On the eve of the opening of the ispo trade show in Germany, trade leaders revealed that not only did 2002 exceed their estimates for losses, but that 2003 will likely be a poor year for all varieties of independent sports dealers.

On the eve of the opening of the ispo trade show in Germany, trade leaders revealed that not only did 2002 exceed their estimates for losses, but that 2003 will likely be a poor year for all varieties of independent sports dealers.

“2002 didn't go so well,” said Werner Haizmann, president of the German trade association of sport retailers (VDS). Waizman presented his state of the industry talk prior to the opening of the ispo trade show in Germany, and used it as a call to retailers to attend the show, get excited about product, be positive about the future, and take that excitement back to stores with them.

The amount of the loss varied from segment to segment, with the average loss among specialty and independent dealers at about 5 percent over the previous year – higher than the original estimate of a loss of about 2.5 percent. Of course, experts point out that estimating the size of the industry and what belongs to sport and what doesn't is becoming increasingly more difficult as the lines between sport and lifestyle blur.

The entire market for sporting goods and related gear in Germany for 2002 was estimated to be between 6.7 and 7.5 billion Euros, depending on which study you read. The lower figure represents about 0.6 percent of total consumer spending.

The trade blames the losses on exactly what is heard in North America: an increasingly difficult market with too many discounters too close to each other, high rents and under-capitalization. Nevertheless, sports has it better than other industries, said Andreas Nick, author of one industry report, which says that consumers are choosing to patronize discounters for groceries and putting off large purchases like furniture, but still want their sporting goods, albeit on sale.

"For a highly civilized society, sport isn't something you give up," Nick's study said. "Modern humanity wants to test his performance limits and train its sensory, physical and emotional potential."

According to Haizmann, men's clothing sales were down 12 percent over the previous year, while women's apparel was actually up 10 percent (compared to a huge 2001 gain of 30 percent over 2000). Gear and accessories for year-round training endeavors broke even for 2002, compared to a gain in 2001 of 8 percent. Backpacking and hiking clothing gained 12 percent for 2002, while soft goods and accessories broke even (in contrast to a gain of 16 percent in 2001). Footwear also broke even, and winter sport hardware was down 3 percent.


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