Translated by
Nicola Mira
Apr 10, 2017
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Global sports market is retail-led, brands follow

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Apr 10, 2017

Corporate finance advisory firm Capitalmind has published a ranking of the 50 top sport groups worldwide, showing that specialised distributors are leading the pack. Intersport, Decathlon and Foot Locker dominate the sporting goods distribution market, up 5% in 2015 and worth $388 billion worldwide.

French retailer Decathlon is second in the ranking of the 50 top sport groups worldwide - Decathlon

Though it is no surprise that specialist retailers take all the podium spots, the rise of leading brands is still remarkable. According to the survey in fact, ten years ago they were not even on the radar. Now, Nike sits in fifth place overall, with a 25% revenue rise in 2015 in local currency, just ahead of Adidas, which grew 10%.

The trend is confirmed by the rise of Puma, VF Corp, Lululemon, Under Armour, Skechers, which leaped 10 places up to 30th, and Asics, a new entry at 50th. However, retailers and brands are faced with different challenges. The first are striving to develop their own labels, while the latter work hard to expand their distribution network.

Though the players are going down different routes, the combined effect will probably be a worldwide market growth, and more besides. The forecast is for a 4% to 5% annual growth until 2020, also thanks to the contribution of emerging markets and new sporting activities.

Capitalmind underlined the positive performance of the women's sport segment, and the growing appeal of sporting goods for the Chinese middle class. In the last few years, brands have constantly focused on female consumers, offering more fashion-oriented products suitable for directional disciplines like yoga, zumba and fitness training. A clear example of this is Canadian yoga apparel brand Lululemon, which gained four positions in the table to climb into 19th place.

Country-wise, China seems to have an increasingly voracious appetite for sporting goods. The sport industry currently represents only 0.7% of the nation's GDP, but the Chinese government has set itself the target of multiplying the figure by a factor of 6 by 2020, making China an attractive destination for both brands and retailers. French retailer Decathlon already operates 220 stores there, and plans a further 500 openings in the next three years. Adidas plans to operate 12,000 stores in China by 2020, 3,000 more than they currently do.

E-tailing too is a significant growth driver in the sport market. Even though the top 50 names account for nearly one third of the market, the rules of the game are changing. Brazilian e-tailer Netshoes is the first pure player to enter the ranking, in 35th place. In sport as in all other consumer goods industries, e-commerce plays a significant part, allowing retailers and brands to develop an omni-channel marketing approach.

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