Fortunately for European sporting goods retailers, the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic appears so far to have been more manageable, leading some governments to relax a ban on sales of non-essential products in physical stores after only about one month of enforcement – a lot less than during the first wave, which led many retailers to go online for the first time. However, retailers who depend heavily on sales of winter sports equipment may face a lockdown of the related snow sports facilities in the mountains.

The French government has allowed non-essential stores to reopen this coming Saturday, one week earlier than planned, to allow them to sell products for the Christmas shopping season, possibly at full price before a delayed start of their annual Black Friday promotions. In a kind gesture of solidarity, Amazon France had previously agreed to delay its own Black Friday promotions for one week. In Italy and Spain, however, some sporting goods retailers launched their Black Friday events a few days ago.

Furthermore, to help space out shoppers’ visits, French stores may stay open until 9 PM, and may even be allowed to do business on Sundays. As in Germany, the number of customers permitted will depend on the size of the store. The retail lockdown will also be lifted in England on Dec. 2, although many people started their Christmas shopping in October, and many will prefer to shop online to avoid contagion.

In Scandinavia generally, the sporting goods market grew very strongly during the second and third quarters, partly because locals could not travel abroad as before. For the same reasons, they are now expected to spend more for Christmas.

The French sporting goods industry association, Union Sport & Cycle, had joined many others in calling for an earlier reopening of sporting goods shops, noting that sales of sporting goods had declined by 87 percent during the first lockdown in April as compared to sales in April 2019.

Judging from the figures provided by NPD for the third quarter, the sales outlook for this year is not as bad in our sector as in others, such as the market for other types of clothing and footwear, thanks in part to the internet and consumers’ growing desire to stay fit while maintaining their social distancing, particularly through running, cycling, golf and outdoor sports in general.

Aside from categories like team sports, which are certain to register a big drop this year, winter sports could be negatively affected by Covid-19, even if there is enough snow for their practice. The French government had initially indicated that it would make a decision on the operations of ski resorts between Dec. 5 and 8, probably in concert with the governments of other countries, but President Emmanuel Macron has indicated that alpine skiing will be prohibited until at least mid-January to prevent contagion in cable cars and other facilities. There will certainly be fewer tourists in the resorts, because restaurants and bars will also remain closed until mid-January at least.

Certain ski resorts in Italy were recently closed for the same reasons. They are generally open now in Switzerland, but for how long? In Austria, the government has shown a willingness to help sporting goods retailers weather a possible downturn by doubling subsidies for those that likely to suffer a major sales decline for one reason or another.

Photo: Martin Sanchez via Unsplash

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