Athletic Gear and Accessories: the Sports Industry

The sports industry is a multi-million dollar business that contributes to the world wide economy. This is especially relevant when it comes to merchandise.
Athletic Gear and Accessories: the Sports Industry

Last update: 24 February, 2020

Sales of athletic gear and accessories continue to exemplify the evolution of the sports industry. What are the actual numbers? How do sales differ from country to country?

Worldwide, the sports industry is a 700 million dollar business, that’s each year! However, when speaking about this industry, we are referring to a wide range of merchandise. Read on and we’ll talk a little more about the sales numbers of items for practicing sports.

The sports industry in the United States

As expected, the most robust sports industry is in the United States. In fact, in 2017 alone, the sales of sports items reached more than 60 thousand million dollars.

This number shows an increase of almost 3.5 percent as compared to the previous year. This is according to a study by SFIA (Sports and Fitness Industry Association). In spite of being one of the most mature and developed industries, its growth and diversification continue to increase. 

The majority of the growth occurs in the area of textiles and shoes. This sector grew by 3 percent in 2017. Sales climbed to over 51 million dollars.

Clothing and shoes

The garment industry for sports had the most noticeable increase in the sports industry in 2017. In fact, it grew by 12.3 percent, in comparison to 2016.

An athlete tying her sneakers, part of athletic gear

Nevertheless, fashionable sports clothing continued to be the area that was most profitable in the athletic gear sector. In 2017, sales reached 16,800 million dollars, an increase of 2.6 percent. 

Athletic footwear also grew by 2.6 percent in comparison to 2016. This generated a total of 13,000 million dollars for the industry during 2017.

Sales of sports equipment are also rising

When talking specifically about the sports industry business, the equipment has always represented a fraction of earnings from the total sports industry. 

Even in 2017, the registered sales made an extremely important gain of 6.1 percent in the United States. This was close to 7,500 million dollars in the local economy.

In this sector, the main sales were in the outdoor sports and golf areas. These items are incredibly popular in the United States. The most sought after items by the public were backpacks, camping gear, and golf clubs. 

However, we need to note that the sales of golfing equipment showed a drop of one percent in comparison to 2016. On the other hand, outdoor sporting goods gained 3.3 percent in sales the same year, generating 2,500 million dollars.

Adding in the above, the least profitable sports items were those associated with volleyball, lacrosse, and boxing. But even these brought in 100 million dollars.

Which disciplines grew the most in the sports industry?

The disciplines that grow the most in the sports industry vacillate slightly each year. This can depend on the success and the popularity of the athletes who promote it.

According to the research of the SFIA, the sports disciplines grew an average of 2.5 percent during 2017. Nevertheless, in comparison with the previous year, basketball and volleyball were the sports that have shown the most growth in equipment sales. This includes accessories, and items such as balls, nets, clothing, and shoes.

On the other hand, there’s a more tendency for growth in the sales of soccer, tennis and winter sports gear.

A basketball net, part of athletic gear important to the sports industry

Soccer and the sports industry

Excluding the United States, soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Although it’s known as football outside of the United States, soccer fans have a complex relationship with this sport. It doesn’t have such a huge historical popularity in the United States as it does in the rest of the Americas or in Europe.

However, the international soccer market is clearly one of the most economically successful in the sports industry. The sale of clothing, shoes and sports gear for soccer generates more than 200 million dollars in the entire world.

Nonetheless, since it’s not such a popular sport in the United States, the numbers aren’t very relevant. The amount has grown in the last seven years, mainly thanks to the success of women’s sport in the country. At the same time, sales in 2017 were stagnant in comparison to those in 2016. But they did bring in close to 420 million dollars to the economy.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.