The racquet sports equipment market is nearly six-times larger than it was just three years ago, dominated by pickleball fever
[CHICAGO] – July 27, 2023 – The popularity of racquet sports both as activities and as fashion is making a mark on apparel, footwear, and equipment sales. In the U.S., sales revenue for tennis apparel increased by 15% in the 12 months ending June 2023, versus the prior year, and is up 38% versus three years ago, according to Circana, formerly IRI and The NPD Group. Following in these footsteps, tennis shoe sales grew by 21% versus the prior year and increased 37% compared to three years ago.
“The growth of the tennis soft goods market is no doubt a result of heighted appeal for both tennis and pickleball, but there are other powers at play,” said Kristen Classi-Zummo, apparel industry analyst at Circana. “A balance of sporty and chic, tennis apparel has carved a place in consumers’ post-pandemic wardrobe evolution as they swap their sweats for something more stylish without sacrificing on comfort. The versatility of athletic dresses, skirts, and other tennis-inspired apparel is having just as much of an impact on sales as the sport itself.”
The market for athletic skirts and dresses grew a combined 24% in the past 12 months, compared to the prior year, and sales have more than doubled since 2019. Sales for tennis-inspired sneakers, which have the performance-based heritage of a tennis shoe but intended for everyday wear, increased by 9% in the past 12 months, compared to the previous year.
“While it’s clear that the increased participation in racquet sports is propelling the sales of the performance footwear worn for these sports, the related — and perhaps even more interesting — trend is the growth of tennis footwear as a fashion statement,” said Beth Goldstein, footwear industry analyst at Circana. “Through the rising popularity of tennis-inspired footwear, we can see the impact that the interest in tennis as an activity is having on fashion — by reaching a much broader audience than those who are actually playing the sport.”
“Racquet sports are trending right now,” said Julia Day, executive director of business development at Circana. “From pickleball’s popularity to the recent excitement of Wimbledon and the upcoming U.S. Open, these are moments that create an enthusiasm that transcends the sports themselves.”
Pickleball rules the court
Through the lens of Circana’s Checkout, its receipt-based tracking service, which recently expanded to include data for the U.S. outdoor and sports equipment markets, the growth in racquet sports equipment sales is primarily being led by more buyers in the market – 20% more compared to one year ago – and buyers spending more. Year over year sales for racquet sports equipment increased by 27% to $684 million in the past 12 months, led by the continued surge in pickleball sales. Capturing $50.8 million in retail sales just three years ago, pickleball paddle and ball sales is now a $304.2 million business. These sales results align with the latest participation findings reported by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA): pickleball maintained its position as the fastest-growing sport in 2022. Furthermore, for the first time since 2015, every racquet sport increased its total participation number compared to 2021.
“I may not have a crystal ball, but I can confidently say that pickleball is here to stay,” said Day. “Pickleball is fun, easy to learn, highly social, and has a low barrier to entry. We are seeing market share shifts, as pickleball racquets are gaining share at the expense of tennis racquets. To become the dominant player, retailers and manufacturers need to equip themselves with actual sales and shopper data to understand market dynamics and quantify opportunities.”