Norway has the highest per capita consumption for sporting goods in Europe, and it grew strongly last year – in spite or because of the coronavirus epidemic – in contrast with an overall sales decline estimated at around 10 percent in the five major European countries. One main reason was probably the fact that Norwegians were not permitted to travel much outside the country, and thus decided to spend more money in Norway.

According to Virke’s relatively authoritative retail statistics, sporting goods stores were among the best performers in the retail trade in 2010, with sales rising by 10.1 percent. Electronics, furniture, home improvement items, flowers and spirits did better, however.

The quarterly reports of Sportsbransjen, the Norwegian sporting goods industry association, show that the seven major sporting goods retail chains raised their combined turnover by 7.05 percent to 14.32 billion Norwegian kroner (€1.39bn-$1.67bn) last year. They were estimated to represent more than 60 percent of the total sporting goods market in 2019, and according to Trond Evald Hansen, who runs the association, they were able to develop their digital operations well in reaction to increasing competition from e-tailers and the direct-to-consumer activities of the brands.

A chart compiled by Sportsbransjen shows major changes in market shares. XXL remained the leader with a market share of 34 percent among the chains, after growing by 19.08 percent. The bankrupt Gresvig group saw its market share decline to 21 percent as it decided to shelve the G-Sport banner to concentrate on Intersport. As a result, its sales fell by nearly 23 percent. The fastest-growing player, Sport1, grew by 28.6 percent. Its recent merger with Intersport has created a group with a market share of about 47 percent, excluding the other retailers that control around 40 percent of the sporting goods market.

 20192020       Change Market Share
XXL  4,095,697   4,877,219  19.08% 34.0 %
Sport1  2,938,327   3,778,727  28.60% 26.3 %
Intersport (Gresvig, 2019)  3,909,931   3,011,369  -22.98% 21.0 %
Stadion  1,190,100   1,347,800  13.25% 9.4 %
Coop  767,089   800,800  4.39% 5.6 %
MX-Sport (estimate by NSBF)  250,000   250,000  0.00% 1.7 %
Sport Norge  265,401   296,951  11.89% 2.0 %
 Sum   13,416,545   14,362,866  7.05% 100.00%
Source: Sportsbransjen

Still according to Sportsbransjen, most of the market’s growth took place during the second and third quarters, with year-on-year increases of 17.8 percent and 15.5 percent, respectively. The year started out badly, with a decline of 10.6 percent, because of coronavirus and unseasonably mild winter weather for the second year in a row. The market grew by only 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter of the year.

After the pandemic struck around Easter, the government prevented Norwegians from visiting gyms and their cabins in the countryside. This led them to increase their purchases of hammocks and sleeping bags, to enjoy the outdoors in surrounding areas, and of all kinds of equipment for home training. Fishing, running and cycling boomed. All outdoor activities enjoyed strong growth from the spring. Indoor sports activities and team sports suffered, according to Hansen, but not much.

Persistent rainy weather set in from October. All the gyms were closed in November in Oslo, and they have been on and off since then elsewhere. Rainwear, warm-weather clothing and skis sold well toward the end of the year.

Alpine ski facilities have remained open, but at reduced capacities, and snow conditions have been favorable lately. Physical stores were closed recently in the bigger cities and in some shopping malls. An extensive lockdown was ordered in Oslo for this week and next. In general, however, experts indicate that the situation should normalize in the second half of this year, after the vaccines have taken effect.

Photo: Simon Williams, Unsplash