Steady as she goes. That's one way to summarize the U.S. sports products industry, which is nearly $70 billion (at wholesale) in size. According to SGMA International's Recreation Market Report, manufacturers' sales of sporting goods equipment, sports apparel, athletic footwear, and recreational transport items in the U.S. totaled $68.6 billion in 2003 – a 0.5% increase over 2002.

Sports equipment sales remained steady – $17.5 billion in 2003 vs. $17.4 billion in 2002. The six largest categories of sports equipment are: Exercise equipment machines ($3.80 billion); Golf ($2.42 billion); Firearms/hunting ($1.90 billion); Camping ($1.72 billion); Team/institutional ($1.56 billion); and Fishing ($1.03 billion).

Sport categories registering significant sales gains were:
Paintball (up 5.4% to $390 million); Ice skates/hockey (up 4.9% to $215 million); Water ski equipment (up 4.9% to $128 million); Optical goods (up 4.3% to $600 million);
Footballs and sets (up 4.2% to $125 million); and
Billiards (up 4.1% to $255 million).

In the exercise equipment category, treadmill sales account for 26.4% of that category. Also, sales of elliptical machines increased by 16.7% – from $120 million in 2002 to $140 million in 2003. After treadmills, the next two largest fitness categories are home gyms ($305 million) and exercise cycles ($200 million). Consumer spending for exercise equipment accounts for 81.3% of the entire exercise equipment category.

In team sports, the three largest categories were: Baseball/softball ($473 million); Basketball ($377 million); and Soccer ($240 million).

Sales of baseball/softball protective gear rose 11.1% from $45 million in 2002 to $50 million in 2003, well above the growth rate of the entire baseball/softball category (1.1%).

Sports apparel sales fell 2.5% in 2003. Despite the slight drop, it is still the largest segment of the sports and recreation industry with sales of $22.8 billion. Activewear tops had the highest sales – $12.7 billion in 2003. Socks had the highest percentage gain – 10.7% (from $795 million in 2002 to $870 million in 2003). Other sports apparel items experiencing sales growth were sweatpants, shorts, underwear (male), sports bras, and outerwear.

Athletic footwear sales rose 4.2% in 2003. Total sales were $9.73 billion, compared with $9.34 billion in 2002. Three athletic footwear categories exceeded the billion dollar mark:

Running/jogging ($2.77 billion);
Basketball ($2.07 billion); and
Cross-training/fitness ($1.06 billion).
The growth categories in athletic footwear were low performance (up 19.6%); tennis (up 16.9%); aerobic (up 11.1%); basketball (up 6.2%); and running (up 2.0%).

Recreational transport sales had a slight growth of 2.1% – from $18.14 billion in 2002 to $18.53 billion in 2003. Sales of pleasure boats/motors, recreational vehicles, and personal watercraft were up by low, single-digit percentages.

The SGMA's Recreation Market Report is based on data from industry trade associations, a panel consisting of sporting goods companies' marketing experts, and SGMA market research studies. It is the only report of its kind with such extensive coverage of the industry's products and represents the most accurate picture of the sporting goods industry size and sales trends. It should be noted that all figures are based on manufacturers' shipments (including imports) in the U.S. market and expressed in wholesale, not retail, dollar values.