In a recent analysis of recently released U.S. Census of Retail data, the National Sporting Goods Association found that sales at sporting goods stores increased 25% over a five-year period from 1997 to 2002. The group, which includes full-line sporting goods stores and specialty sports shops, saw sales rise to $25.02 billion in 2002 versus $20.04 billion in 1997. NSGA said the U.S. population only grew 5.6% over that same period and the number of stores represented in the group actually declined 9.1% over the period.

The number of full-line stores fell 8.1% to 6,852 versus 7,458 in 1997. The number of specialty sports shops fell 9.6% to 15,341 versus 16,966 in 1997.

“Undoubtedly, the rapid rise in exercise equipment sales in those five years was a major contributor to this growth,” said NSGA’s VP of Information & Research Tom Doyle. “The continuing concern of the American public about their personal fitness will continue to be a driving force in equipment sales for the next several years.”

NSGA said the full-line store segment grew fastest, not surprising given the proliferation of big-box stores over that period, surging 39% to $12.98 billion in 2002 versus $9.31 billion in 1997. Sales in specialty sports shops rose 12% to $12.05 billion versus $10.73 billion in 1997. In the previous Census of Retail, sales had grown more rapidly in specialty sports shops than in full line stores, 42% versus 35%.

Again, not surprising, NSGA’s analysis showed that the average sales per store at full-line stores in 2002 were more than double those in specialty sports shops. Full-line stores posted average sales of $1,894,000 per door, while specialty shops averaged $785,000 in sales that year. The rate of growth at full-line stores over the five-year period was also more than double the specialty shops, with full-line posting a 52% increase in sales and specialty sports shops increasing 24% over that period.
The Census of Retail does not count specialty athletic footwear stores in the sporting goods store category.

>>> No big surprises here, just a validation that the big got bigger. The effects of consolidation will need to be measured for the next five years…