The 64 largest sporting goods specialty retail chains in the world raised their sales by 10 percent in local currencies as well as in dollars in 2017, according to an annual survey by Sporting Goods Intelligence, in spite of the strong growth of the generalist internet operators in this and other sectors and the growing trend by many sports brands to connect directly with consumers. Their sales had only risen by about 5 percent in 2016 because of the digital disruption of the market and the demise of big U.S. players like The Sports Authority, Gander Mountain and the former Vestis Retail Group.

For the survivors, last year's 10 percent increase was a formidable achievement, partly obtained through acquisitions, the opening of new stores and the expansion of their own online sales, considering that the global sporting goods market continued to grow by only 5 percent last year, according to NPD.

Market value (2017, billion $)

Growth rate (%)

U.S.

140,6

2,0

China

47.9

16,0

Japan

20,8

0,0

Germany

20,4

1,0

France

15,7

4,0

U.K.

14,0

-1,0

South Korea

13,7

0,0

Source: NPD

The global market reached an estimated level of $443 billion in terms of consumption, with increases of 6 percent in footwear and bicycles, 5 percent in apparel and 3 percent in equipment. The growth of the market was driven by China, where the consumption of sporting goods rose by 16 percent to $47.9 billion, consolidating the country's position as the second-largest market in the world after the U.S.

With combined sales of $101.5 billion before sales taxes, the 64 majors in our global retail chart on page 3 represented about one-fourth of the total world market. While the retailers affiliated with Intersport International Corp. together generated a similar turnover as Decathlon, the world's largest integrated sporting goods retailer, we continue to exclude the buying groups from our chart, partly because some of the retailers on our list are affiliated with them.

We also exclude big players in the market like Walmart because sporting goods are not their primary business. Our figures come from public records, input from the management, trade associations, magazines and various experts in the field. In some cases, we develop estimates based on changes in the store count. All the data that we collect for the financial year closest to Dec. 31 are expressed in local currencies and then translated into U.S. dollars based on the average exchange rates calculated by the OECD for each year. All percentage changes are in local currencies.

Thanks to its strong global expansion, Decathlon grew last year by 11 percent to a new record of €11.3 billion, but with an increase of 4 percent on a comparable store basis. Dick's Sporting Goods, which continues to operate only in the U.S., maintained its second spot, with a sales increase of 8 percent. The former No. 3 player, Foot Locker, had flat sales, as it has been reducing its global store fleet, and it was overtaken last year by another U.S. company, Bass Pro Shops, whose sales jumped by 71 percent in the wake of its acquisition of Cabela's.

JD Sports Fashion of the U.K. recorded an impressive sales increase of 33 percent, thanks to acquisitions and the opening of new stores worldwide, overtaking Sports Direct International and moving from the 9th to the 6th spot on our chart. It also came ahead of Belle International of China, whose sales grew in line with the local market. JD will make another big stride forward on the 2018 chart following its acquisition of The Finish Line in the U.S. and its Iberian combination with Sport Zone earlier this year.

Overall, European retailers grew by 11 percent in local currencies and by 12 percent in dollars in 2017, building up to a level of $30.4 billion, thanks in particular to JD's strategic moves and the formation of a new German powerhouse, Signa Sport, which took the place of Karstadt Sports on the chart. The growth of XXL slowed down to 11 percent from 20 percent in 2016, despite its strong geographic diversification.

Coming out of the doldrums of the previous year, the American region managed a 9 percent increase to $56.9 billion, led by Fanatics, whose sales rose by more than 40 percent to an estimated $2 billion. Asian retailers also grew by 9 percent, with a 7 percent increase in dollars to $14.2 billion, led by Belle and Pou Sheng in China, which more than offset the slow growth of the major Japanese players. Big Chinese sports brands like Anta, Xtep and 361° also recorded double-digit increases at their own stores.

As our colleagues at SGI America point out, the major sports brands have been growing much faster all over the world through their intensified direct-to-consumer efforts, online and offline. Nike's enormous DTC business would put it second on our list after Decathlon with revenues that increased by 15 percent to $10.4 billion. Adidas' direct sales went up by 17 percent to €5.8 billion. Both of these companies are planning to raise DTC revenues considerably over the next years, without reaching the much higher levels attained by the major luxury goods brands.

Challenging the established multi-brand retailers, DTC revenues rose at double-digit rates last year also at other industry majors such as VF Corp., Under Armour, Skechers and Puma. Evidently, if the major integrated sporting goods retailers managed to grow by 10 percent last year under the circumstances, this was due in part to the disappearance from the market of many more traditional sports retailers that have not invested enough on the internet and on the shopping experience.