x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sportswear sales sprint away in Middle East

Sales of sportswear continue to grow in the Middle East and Africa, despite a flat market in the rest of the world, according to the market research company NPD Group.

Sports wear sales in the Middle East and Africa grew by 7 per cent last year compared with 2007 and sales in Asia increased 4 per cent.
Sports wear sales in the Middle East and Africa grew by 7 per cent last year compared with 2007 and sales in Asia increased 4 per cent.

Sales of sportswear continue to grow in the Middle East and Africa, despite a flat market in the rest of the world, according to the market research company NPD Group. At Sun and Sand Sports, the largest sports retailer in the region, sales are up by more than 10 per cent in the first six months of this year compared with the first half last year, said Vishal Bhatia, the chain's marketing manager, with same-store sales up by at least 5 per cent.

Shoppers may be trading down or cutting back on purchases, but they are still buying sporting items to use on their holidays, he said. "At the end of the day, you still need sports apparel to a certain extent." Worldwide sales of sporting goods, footwear and clothing were flat last year, at US$284 billion (Dh1.04 trillion), NPD said. But sales in the Middle East and Africa grew by 7 per cent last year compared with 2007 and sales in Asia increased 4 per cent. Sales shrank by 1 per cent in the Americas, and in Europe sales were static, NPD said.

Dietmar Brandl, an analyst at NPD for the global sports market, said he expected a similar pattern of sales growth this year. "The growth is really coming from emerging markets right now," he said. This was because of rising levels of wealth in emerging countries such as the UAE, but also because the sporting goods market in places such as the Middle East was still maturing. "The whole sports market is not as developed as in the western countries," he said. "And, as long as there is potential to grow for big sports brands, they will try to invest in these markets more and more."

Mr Bhatia said the hefty discounts offered during the annual Dubai Summer Surprises, which began on June 11, had helped boost sales as thrifty customers held off on purchases in anticipation. "People have been waiting for these deals more so than before." Sun and Sand Sports has continued to expand in the GCC, Mr Bhatia said, opening five stores in the UAE and six in Saudi Arabia. The group also plans to launch a new store concept in September. Mr Bhatia would not reveal details about the new venture, but he said one location was planned to open in Jumeirah and a second outlet would open at Mirdif City Centre in Dubai when the mall was complete next year.

However, Eduard Massier, the director of marketing and business development for Adidas, said sales at his company's 25 stores in the UAE were flat overall in the first half of this year compared with last year. The UAE, and particularly Dubai, was the hardest hit market in the Middle East, he said, with sales in Dubai down 10 to 12 per cent. Sales in Abu Dhabi, by contrast, were up by about 4 to 5 per cent.

Despite flat sales, Adidas was continuing with its expansion in the UAE, Mr Massier said. The company expects to open seven stores this year, including three outlets in Al Ain, and is planning two outlets in Mirdif City Centre. Mr Massier predicted that sales in the Middle East and North Africa would grow by 10 per cent this year. aligaya@thenational.ae