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Outdoor sports equipment sales are booming thanks to Covid-19

Hikers practice social distancing as they stand on a trail above the Hudson River in Hook Mountain State Park
Reuters/Mike Segar
Americans looking to stay active in the pandemic are turning to the great outdoors.
  • Marc Bain
By Marc Bain

Fashion reporter

Americans looking to stay active during the pandemic while keeping a safe distance from one another have been turning to the great outdoors. They’re doing everything from hitting golf courses to visiting national parks in record numbers.

It’s been great for the sporting-goods sellers supplying them with new golf clubs, kayaks, hiking boots, and more.

At Dick’s Sporting Goods, sales jumped 23% in the recent quarter versus the same period last year, the company reported today. Not only that, the company noted that sales at brick-and-mortar stores open at least a year saw their best performance since Dick’s went public nearly two decades ago. CEO Ed Stack said on a call with investors and analysts that shoppers are looking to exercise and embrace healthier lifestyles while also remaining safe. “Being outdoors has been talked about as one of the safest places to be,” he said. “They’re running, they’re kayaking, they’re doing all of those things.”

In October, sales of kayaks across the large US retailers tracked by research firm NPD Group were 251% higher than last year. Sales of golf club sets were up 125%, driven by both existing golfers and new ones, it said.

The rush outside has been noticeable in cities such as Bozeman, Montana, where the New York Times reports crowds are choking the rivers and hiking trails. The National Golf Foundation, which collects research on golf participation and sales, estimates 32% more rounds of golf were played nationwide in the US last month than in 2019, and that retail sales of equipment through July, August, and September surpassed $1 billion, among the highest quarterly totals on record. Even shoppers staying indoors are looking to remain active, leading to occasional shortages of products like dumbbells and exercise bikes as demand outstrips supply.

It’s an opportunity for companies such as Academy Sports + Outdoors, which despite the pandemic filed to go public in September. In its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, it pointed out the pandemic has changed consumer behavior, leading to a “substantial” increase in its online sales. “We expect that this will continue throughout the duration of the pandemic and will result in a long-term increase to our customer base,” it said.

Stack of Dick’s also told analysts on the call he expected the new behavior would stick around, and with it the need for sporting goods and outdoor gear. “That lifestyle, if you will, is not going to change anytime soon,” he said.

As a seller of sporting goods, he’s perhaps inclined to have a rosy view. But indications are that many one-time gym goers might not renew their memberships after the pandemic. They’re assembling home gyms, or just getting outside to run, bike, hike, and paddle.

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