• WWD/ By Jean E. Palmieri

Ath-leisure Continued to Drive Sports and Fitness Sales in 2019

By Jean E. Palmieri on March 3, 2020

Overall sales hit $95.9 billion last year with non-performance apparel and footwear leading the way.

The popularity of ath-leisurewear continued to drive the growth in the sports and fitness industry in 2019.

According to the 2020 Manufacturers’ Sales by Category Report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, sales of apparel, footwear and equipment grew 3.9 percent in 2019 to a total of $95.9 billion. That is a significant increase from the 2.3 percent growth these categories posted in 2018, when sales hit $92.2 billion, and the 2.9 percent gain they achieved in 2017 that brought overall sales to $90.2 billion.

The largest gain for the year came in fitness apparel, which is apparel specifically marketed to fitness participants, or what has been termed ath-leisure. That category experienced a sales jump of 6.5 percent overall: a 7 percent increase in tops and a 6.1 percent rise in bottoms, the survey reported.

Sales of branded athletic apparel, or non-performance sportswear, were up 4.6 percent overall for the year to a total of $18 billion. That number was led by fleece/sweat athletic apparel, which rose 8.9 percent, and outerwear, which was up 5.5 percent. Sport bras increased 5.9 percent, shirts were up 5 percent, caps/hats rose 4.4 percent, swimwear increased 4 percent, and underwear was up 3.6 percent.

Performance apparel posted a 4.2 percent gain to $2 billion, with bottoms up 5.6 percent, tops up 4.7 percent and base layers up 2.8 percent.

In athletic footwear, overall sales were up 4.3 percent to $17.3 billion with sales of outdoor/adventure models up 9.1 percent, casual/fashion shoes up 6.6 percent, running shoes up 5.3 percent and basketball shoes up 4.8 percent.

The survey also showed growth in staple products for various sports. Volleyball led the way with a 5.6 percent increase, basketball was up 4.6 percent, and baseball/softball increased 3.9 percent. Protective gear for multiple team sports continued to be a big seller with sales up in the 5 percent range overall.

Consumer exercise equipment, now a $4 billion market, grew by 3.1 percent last year. Sales of exercise bikes were up 8.3 percent, rowing machines increased 7.3 percent, and home gyms rose 6 percent. Treadmills, which still represent more than a quarter of the consumer exercise market, were also up 3 percent.

The SFIA Manufacturers’ Sales by Category Report measures U.S. wholesale revenues across five major categories and 34 subcategories, with nearly 150 various breakdowns. It does not break down sales by brand.