Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

September 2021


Despite Pandemic, Sports & Fitness Participation Grew, Says SFIA

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) has released its 2021 State of the Industry Report, an in-depth analysis of the trends and issues affecting the sports and fitness industry, including participation, economy and industry environment for 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unique challenges to the sports and fitness world. Even in the worst of recessions, the industry has never experienced anything like the unprecedented, immediate global shutdown of retail, operations, workplaces, travel, and sports and fitness facilities. Following the initial shock, the industry pivoted, and in turn, persevered, adapting to focus on ecommerce and responding to the demand for new products, such as home fitness and cycling products.

Despite the challenges COVID-19 presented, the overall number of sports and fitness participants in the United States still saw an increase, with a participation rate of 75.6%--the highest seen over the past six years, with inactivity dropping by 2.4%, with the trend leaning toward activities that were more favorable to participate in during the pandemic.

"The pandemic changed the way of life for so many Americans, and especially the way that we stay mentally and physically healthy—leading a lot of Americans to take up being physically active as a way to cope, adapting to the pandemic by participating in 'COVID-acceptable' activities," said Tom Cove, president and CEO, SFIA.

Since the start of the pandemic, the sports and fitness industry outperformed other sectors of the U.S. economy. Despite COVID restrictions, sporting goods sales overall were able to recover to a small, but positive, growth rate of 0.6%. While the sporting goods industry and GDP almost always trend in the same direction, in 2020, the industry grew while the overall economy saw a 3.5% hit. This hit to the GDP was greater than the impact of the stock market crash in 2009, when the sporting goods industry contracted by more than 4%. 2018 was the only year in the past decade besides 2020 where GDP grew faster than sporting goods.

Additionally, almost two-thirds of businesses expect sales to recover to at least pre-COVID predictions by the end of 2021, and 73% of businesses predict a strong future for the sports industry, substantially higher than in 2018 and 2019. While the top industry concerns are product sourcing and material cost/availability, businesses will continue to rely heavily on online sales in 2021.

'Even during such a unique time, the sports and fitness industry was able to adapt and persevere, with more capabilities to be physically active from our own homes and the use of digital tools to connect, partnered with the ability to participate in socially distanced outdoor activities," Cove said. "The increase we saw in participation has led to more industry optimism for the rest of 2021 and 2022—and the industry is primed to respond."


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