2020 was a turbulent year for retail across the UK, particularly for those relying on brick-and-mortar stores. Lockdown restrictions, furloughed employees and redundancies meant that consumers either didn’t have the same levels of disposable income or couldn’t shop instore for a large part of the year. Sales volumes decreased year-on-year across most retail sectors, and those businesses without an online sales channel to fall back on really struggled.

The sports retail sector felt a similar impact to the wider retail industry. With the closing of gyms and restrictions on social mixing and team sports, people were limited to the types of exercise they could enjoy. For online retailers specialising in running, walking or home gym equipment, the multiple lockdowns must have been a blessing in disguise. However, high street retailers and wider sport equipment providers would certainly have felt the impact. 

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Photo by Anosch Diggelmann

Sports retail in conjunction with professional sports teams would also have felt a sizeable impact from the pandemic last year. With a lack of professional sports fixtures for much of the year and the absence of fans coming through the gates, club shops around the country would have barely opened.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the sports retail sector and the UK economy as a whole – thanks to the continued vaccination rollout. The government’s roadmap out of lockdown reached its first milestone this week (starting 29th March), with the rule of 6 reintroduced outdoors in England and with restrictions also easing in other nations.

This milestone is a significant one for the sports sector as a whole, because organised outdoor sport can once again resume in England, much to the delight of passionate sports players and fans. This easing of restrictions means that sports like golf, tennis and cricket can now resume – just in time for the start of British summertime. Good news for those selling cricket bats, tennis rackets and the like.

It is expected that sports retailers that may have felt the full impact of last year’s timeline, will be able to rebound with the confidence of further easings in the coming months. Online sales will still dominate until non-essential retail can open, no earlier than April 12th. But high street sports retailers will almost certainly have the hopes of a full summer of amateur sport to benefit from in 2021.

Professional sports clubs could also see the return of fans over the summer months, signalling a boost to club shops around the country. The summer of 2021 should see a strong rebound for sports retail, especially if gyms and indoor physical activities can return in the not so distant future too.

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