Gresvig, the leading player in the Norwegian sporting goods market trading under the G-Sport and Intersport banners, will launch a new format of superstores next year, called G-Max, in major urban areas. The move is evidently a reaction to the strong expansion of XXL, which ranked as the fastest-growing major retailer in Norway last year, with growth of 65 percent to 1.55 billion Norwegian kroner (€190.7m-$233.1m). Known for its huge superstores, which resemble those of Décathlon, XXL grew by a further 30 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

Earlier this year, Gresvig decided to abolish the Super-G banner, a slightly larger derivative of its G-Sport franchise that had been adopted for half a dozen stores to compete with the much larger superstore format of XXL.

It also decided to drop the 105-year-old Sportshuset banner, for a chain of relatively large sporting goods stores in Oslo and the eastern part of Norway that Gresvig took over a couple of years ago. Four of them have become G-Sport stores and the others have been renamed Intersport. A former manager of Sportshuset, Dag Johansen, has been named retail director of Gresvig.

Sportshuset’s sales declined last year by 9.3 percent to 259 million NOK (€31.9m-$39.0m), reportedly because some of the stores were closed for part of the time due to extensive renovation work. According to Sportsbransjen, the umbrella organization of Norwegian sporting goods suppliers and retailers, G-Sport and Intersport saw their sales increase by 1.4 and 3.6 percent, respectively, to a total of 3.87 billion NOK (€476.2m-$582.0m).

Based on Sportsbransjen’s definition of the market, which is slightly narrower than ours, G-Sport, Intersport and Sportshuset had a combined share of 38.2 percent. Sport 1 was the second-largest chain with a market share of 17 percent, and it grew by 29 percent thanks to the acquisition of Anton Sport. XXL was No. 3 with a share of 14.5 percent. Also Stadion grew faster than the market, up by 13 percent, and reached a share of 6.2 percent.

The Norwegian sporting goods market has been growing faster than other consumption sectors in the last four years, although average prices have been falling. It rose by 11 percent last year to 10.8 billion NOK (€1,329.0m-$1,624.3m), according to Sportsbransjen. The growth was partly driven by excellent snow conditions and sports-oriented fashion trends. Textiles represent about 40 percent of sales in Norwegian specialty stores.

Comparatively, the Swedish sporting goods market grew by an estimated 9.6 percent in 2009 and the Danish one fell by 0.8 percent. The trend in Denmark continued in the first quarter of this year, with a decline of 0.9 percent.

For Norway, Sportsbransjen spotted a clear trend toward larger stores in better locations last year. In fact, the number of stores run by the nine major retailers, including the buying groups, rose by 40 units in 2008 but dropped by 28 units in 2009, ending up with a total of 761 doors. Managed by the major retail chains themselves, e-commerce continued to develop instead, now representing an annual turnover of more than 400 million NOK (€49.2m-$60.2m).

Sportsbransjen has predicted a 6 percent increase in the market this year, after discussions with the major players. However, the first quarter of this year brought an amazing 14.8 percent jump in retail sales of sporting goods, due in large part to the weather. Norwegian retailers sold a record number of 380,000 pairs of cross-country skis and 120,000 pairs of alpine skis between last October and April. This compares with about 330,000 pairs of cross-country skis and 110,000 pairs of alpine skis sold during the 2008-09 season.