Norway’s major sports retail chains recorded a particularly strong increase of 17.7 percent in the second quarter of 2020 as compared to the year-ago period, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the country’s well-informed sporting goods industry association, Sportsbransjen. Their online sales went up at higher rates.

Norway is already the market that has the highest per capita consumption for sporting goods in Europe. Its exceptional growth in the second quarter came after drops of 5.6 percent in 2019 and about 12 percent in the first quarter, the latter due to unseasonably warm weather conditions. The month of April was very bad, says Trond Evald Hansen, who heads up Sportsbransjen, particularly because many physical stores were closed and Norwegians were prevented from visiting their cabins in the mountains during the Easter holidays. Most of the stores were subsequently reopened, leading to gradual increases in store traffic in May and June. The months of July and August were even better, says Hansen, as the government placed restrictions on foreign travel.

As elsewhere in the Nordics, Norwegian customers chose to spend their money on “staycations” and to improve their wellbeing in recent months. In fact, some specialist outdoor retailers – especially those that sell their products online - performed even better than the chains, which account for around 70 percent of the total market, according to Sportsbransjen.

Hansen says that the demand for kayaks and other types of equipment for local excursions and camping exploded in March, leading to some product shortages. He also mentioned high growth levels in sports fashion, which caused an online specialist like Get Inspired to record sales increases of more than 60 percent. 

As previously reported, the leading sports retailer in Norway, XXL, enjoyed a sales increase of 38.6 percent in the second quarter in its home market, up by 34.7 percent on a comparable basis. Lower double-digit growth rates were reached by the company in Sweden and Finland. Strategies launched by its new management were given as a reason for the chain’s recovery along with increased demand for watersports, fitness and outdoor products, as well as bikes.

Sport 1, another major Norwegian that is proposing to merge with Gresvig, the local licensee of Intersport, has indicated that it posted a similar sales increase. It’s hard to say what happened at Gresvig, which is in a reorganization phase.

The Norwegian chain retailers performed relatively well, Hansen points out, although they are being challenged by discounters like Europris, new factory outlet concepts and the growing direct-to-consumer operations being established by the sports brands.

He says it is important for the sports industry that the Norwegian Competition Authority reaches a decision on the merger between Gresvig and Sport 1, which is now expected on Oct. 2. Many suppliers are wondering what to do with Gresvig and its franchisees, many of which have filed for insolvency.