The fall sports season has kicked off—significantly impacted by COVID-19. That will also affect sports retail for the rest of the year.

According to Matt Powell, the VP and senior industry advisor, sports at NPD Group, “this recession is not going away any time soon.” Powell also thinks, based on research from CivicScience, that many consumers aren’t quite ready to head back to the malls, boosting online sales.

When it comes to sports retail, Powell expects about 40% of sales of athletic footwear will be online (up from 30% pre-pandemic). But NPD’s Retail Tracking Service shows sales of athletic footwear have declined more than 20% in the back-to-school sales season.

Powell also expects a “messy holiday season,” due to social distancing rules and consumers’ reluctance to shop at malls noted above.

In general, Powell believes “performance running, and sport lifestyle products will be bright spots and outperform the market,” but he thinks “the overall trend will be negative.”

He expects sales of activewear to also be “challenged in the second half, [with] basics” doing well. Consumers will focus their purchases on “practical and useful everyday wear.”

On a more positive note, Powell says the sports equipment categories that have been doing well will continue on that path, and “we can expect solid increases from cycling, home fitness, golf, and select team sports equipment.” However, he expects some issues with inventory shortages.

Expect a “mixed bag” on outdoor products, Powell adds, “with the primary focus being on activities that are backyard-friendly.” He thinks if consumers remain hesitant about traveling, the snow sports business will be hurt.

Powell does believe, however, that “with thoughtful and careful planning, many brands and retailers can identify uncharted opportunities and endure in our new society.”

Cycling stock photo by TORWAISTUDIO/Shutterstock