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Volume 26 No. 179
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SBJ Unpacks: Sports Equipment Industry Hit Hard By COVID-19

Nothing is more elemental to the business of sports than equipment, without which games cannot be played. On the most recent episode of “SBJ Unpacks: Weathering COVID-19,” our Terry Lefton speaks to Sports & Fitness Industry Association President & CEO Tom Cove about the effects of the pandemic on sports equipment manufacturers and marketers.

On the sports equipment industry’s landscape overall:
Cove: It is extremely tough. There are pockets of real positives, but the basic idea is that the industry was pretty healthy and it just dropped off. Even in the times of previous recessions, 2008-2009 and others, it went slower. It didn’t go from 100 to zero. It’s been a very difficult time, particularly for seasonal sports. If you’re in the spring sports, baseball and lacrosse, it has been extremely tough. We’re hopeful for football. At the same time, there are positives. The fitness industry is doing pretty well.

On areas of growth within the industry:
Cove: Online is up significantly, and that’s been the trend anyway. In most cases, it still doesn’t come close to covering what we’ve lost in terms of physical. The trend is fortified and magnified. What’s moving is home health fitness, whether it’s jump ropes or as big a thing as treadmills, rowers and everything in between. One of my board members who does fitness equipment said, ‘If I have it, I can sell it.’ The unfortunate part of it is that the fitness season is during the winter, so the people were coming out of the fitness business and their inventories were low. If they’d been coming in, they would have a much bigger supply chain and they could fulfill it.

On the timeline for recovery, and why May and June are key months:
Cove: Spring sports are gone, lost. That’s pretty obvious at this point. Summer sports are unlikely to happen except in pockets, but the coming back to societal engagement is going to happen in June, July and August. The most important indicator is, are people going back to work? Are they figuring out ways to not be normal again? … The sense is, the end of May and the month of June are going to be critical for the rest of the year to determine whether by fall we can play sports, stores will open and people will buy stuff. We do know from our surveys that people really want to get back to sports.