The Swedish sporting goods market fell by 2.9 percent in terms of offline and online retail sales in 2020, but it made a strong recovery in the first quarter of 2021 with a growth of 15.0 percent, according to the Sportindex, a new quarterly report compiled by the Swedish sporting goods industry association, Svenskt Sportforum, in collaboration with a Swedish market research company, HUI Research, that has been studying the broader retail market in the country.

Compiled for the first time, the report is based on figures provided by some major chains – Stadium (along with its Stadium Outlet and Sneakers Point stores), Intersport (including Löplabbet), XXL and Team Sportia – which are estimated to represent half of the Swedish sporting goods retail sector. 

On a comparable store basis, the retailers’ sales grew by 0.4 percent in 2020 and by 21.4 percent in the first quarter of this year. Sales at physical stores declined on a comparable basis by 4.9 percent last year, including a strong drop of 15.0 percent during the fourth quarter, but Swedish consumers made greater use of the digital channel, where the retailers’ sales went up by 43.7 percent.

With a rise of 59.5 percent, the share of the internet was even higher in the first quarter of this year, compensating for a more limited increase of 15.2 percent at brick-and-mortar stores. On a rolling 12-month basis, the market grew by 6.0 percent through March 2021, rising by only 0.1 percent in the physical stores and by 51.2 percent in terms of online sales.

Sales over the internet represented 18 percent of the retailers’ turnover in the first quarter of this year, up from 10 percent in 2019 and 15 percent in 2020. Their share of the market was the highest in the sports apparel sector, followed by footwear and by equipment. The actual share of e-commerce in the total sporting goods market was probably higher when taking into account also Swedish pure players like Sportamore or international e-tailers such as Amazon or Zalando.

Overall, the sporting goods market performed better in Sweden than in the rest of Europe. In contrast with most of other European countries, there have been hardly any governmental restrictions on the opening of non-essential retail stores in Sweden because of the coronavirus pandemic, but retail traffic was lower than usual, leading some retailers to close their stores temporarily.

The weather was apparently a stronger factor. In contrast with a warm spell last year, all the Scandinavian countries benefitted from cold weather and abundant snow at the beginning of 2021, leading to a sales increase of 35.2 percent in January 2021, with a growth of 43.3 percent on a comparable store basis and with online sales jumping by 109.7 percent.

The report concluded that the sports trade was affected in the first quarter “positively by relatively low comparative figures (for the same period of a year ago), favorable weather conditions, more customers in the physical stores and strong e-commerce growth.”

Without providing any specific figures for the size of the sporting goods market, the report said that clothing had a share of 44 percent in the total turnover, footwear 26 percent and equipment 31 percent. Inviting more retailers to join in their surveys, the researchers hope that the Sportindex will provide more insights into the performance of specific sports categories such as snow sports, cycling and outdoor in the equipment sector.

The Sportindex for the second quarter of 2021 will be published around the end of July or the beginning of August. It will be available, which comes with monthly data, is available at hui.se/reports/sportindex and svensktsportforum.se.