Sports retailers on track for personal best following spike in demand

Sports retailers have pushed through the coronavirus pain and hit their second wind.

Sports retailers have pushed through the coronavirus pain and hit their second wind. Photo: The New Daily

Australia’s fields and courts may be closed, but new spending data has reaffirmed our status as a sporting nation.

New figures from ANZ show Australians are starting to loosen their purse strings, with discretionary spending starting to lift again after falling at the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

Electronics and DIY materials have proved popular as consumers make home improvements and upgrade home offices.

But the real standout has been exercise and home gym equipment.

For Dave Barnes, managing director of gym equipment retailer Gym and Fitness, Australia’s enthusiasm for exercise has translated to a huge spike in sales.

“We and the whole industry kind of just broke with the unprecedented demand,” he said.

“We ended up taking our whole website offline just simply because we couldn’t manage the orders and there were problems starting to creep in like over-selling.”

Mr Barnes was subsequently forced to “turn the whole business on its head”.

He rebuilt the online store, moved a warehouse to a 24-hour work cycle, and put on new staff to handle customer orders.

It has been a period of dramatic change for the business – one that Mr Barnes says could affect sports retailers once the pandemic subsides.

Even after gyms are permitted to reopen, he said, many Australians may choose not to return now they have set up a home gym.

“We’re banking on there being a longer-term change in people’s training habits,” he said.

“There’s been an amazing influx of people setting up home gyms, but also of personal trainers who can’t train at their normal gym and have set up at home in their garages.”

Witness the fitness 

Mr Barnes’s story is not unique.

ANZ data shows most sports retailers are experiencing a ‘second wave’ of demand.

ANZ Research economist Adelaide Timbrell told The New Daily sales of home gym equipment spiked after commercial gyms were closed by government.

The initial surge petered out before the end of March, but Ms Timbrell said the decline in sales was caused more by a lack of supply than a lack of demand.

“Home exercise equipment is a niche market – most people generally join gyms instead, so supply chain issues were exacerbated by COVID-19 a lot more than other more mainstream products,” she said.

That’s why I think we’ve had a second wave.

“The reason [for the earlier declines] was not that people stopped caring about their home exercise equipment and went back to normal spending levels, it was that things were getting sold out.”

Now businesses like Gym and Fitness have replenished their stock, consumers are once again rushing out to pick up supplies.

Changing spending habits

The good times won’t last forever, though.

“After lockdown we’re not expecting to see a sustained rise in spending,” Ms Timbrell said.

“Specialist sports and fitness equipment is the kind of thing that you buy once, and because it’s a niche product, people are buying for the first time, [so] we’re unlikely to see another big peak.

We don’t replace our old kettlebell with a new one; we just buy it once.’’

Mr Barnes also acknowledged that sports retailers might struggle with oversupply down the track.

He said some businesses that ordered extra supplies to meet the spike in demand might not receive them until normal trade resumes, leaving them with plenty of stock and not enough customers.

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