Consumers reluctant to spend on equipment, report finds

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association recently released its second quarterly Pulse report. The first Pulse report, published in Q4 2011, showed the industry remained optimistic as consumers held onto cash.

Fitness and sporting goods retailers no longer need to wait a full year before receiving reports on the health of their industries.

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association recently released its second quarterly Pulse report. The first was published in the fourth quarter 2011.

Neil Schwartz, director of business development at Sports Marketing Surveys (which heads up SGMA research), said SGMA wanted to provide insight on the “pulse” of the industry throughout the year.

“It really helps you understand how consumers are feeling with respect to their future purchase intentions and how it relates to our sports, sporting goods and fitness businesses,” Schwartz said.

SGMA has been conducting research for this report since 2011, Schwartz said, and it’s intended to be a forecast, rather than a look back on what’s been going on in the industry.

Schwartz said, “Our goal was to develop a forward-looking measurement tool that our industry could use as a way to gauge what could happen going forward.”

First quarter results

Schwartz said the first quarter findings of the Pulse Report, which is derived from results from the Sports and Fitness Confidence Index survey, show that consumers still aren’t particularly inclined to plunk down their hard-earned cash to replace equipment like golf clubs or fitness machines.

“They’re going to hold off a little bit and wait for better signs that things will look up in terms of the economy as it relates to their own personal lives,” Schwartz said.

Despite this reluctance on the part of consumers, Schwartz said, many industry professionals are holding out hope.

“The industry folks that we talked to are much more optimistic than the general consumer,” Schwartz said.

The report results

Though consumers are reluctant to spend their cash right now, the report shows that compared to the fourth quarter 2011, consumer confidence is up slightly to 40.1 points, versus 38.5 points a year ago. While industry leaders surveyed had positive expectations overall, the industry confidence index was down slightly from 97.1 points to 96.2 points.

The report indicates that the uptick in consumer confidence is notable, and some surveyed said they plan to spend a bit more on sporting goods and fitness equipment during the next six months.

In terms of participation, as in the past, consumers are planning to partake in more activities than they actually end up doing, but still, 79.4 percent of participants surveyed indicated they planned to do a sports or fitness activity within the next six months, up 4.6 points from the fourth quarter 2011. Currently, 51.7 percent of respondents are currently participating in activities, up 2.9 points from the fourth quarter 2011.

People surveyed who are participating in sports and fitness activities at higher levels than last year include females, 25-34-year-olds and Hispanics; but lower participation was noted by consumers over the age of 65.

In terms of spending, 9.8 percent of consumers surveyed said they are spending more on sports and fitness gear, versus 25.5 percent who said they were spending less. One bright spot is that consumers said they had positive feelings toward purchasing clothing and footwear rather than equipment, and footwear purchases have increased 12.9 percent. Of those surveyed, 20.3 percent said they planned to spend money on fitness equipment, down nearly half a point since last quarter.

For more information on this report, which can be purchased for a fee, visit

Schwartz said the next report should be coming out in June. In addition to the quarterly report data, Schwartz said the release will also include a quarter-over-quarter comparison.

–Ana Trujillo