Sportswear sales are expected to receive a much-needed boost over the next couple of months thanks to the World Cup, which kicked off today. At some outlets in the UK sales of items such as supporters' clothing have more than doubled, but are they likely to match the 24% surge seen during the last event in 2002?

If previous tournaments are anything to go by, this year's football World Cup is likely to provide a welcome boost for the struggling UK sportswear market over the next few months.

During the last event in 2002, the sportswear market in Great Britain grew by a massive 24% in the 12 weeks to 30 June as fans took to showing their support for the team through their clothing.

And TNS Worldpanel Fashion, which provided this data, believes many businesses are banking on a similar performance this year to inspire consumers back to the shops.
The sportswear market, which includes clothing, footwear and accessories, was valued at GBP1.82bn (US$3.35bn) in the 24 weeks to 2 April 2006, yet is struggling as sales fall 2% against the same period last year. This contrasts the fortunes of the wider clothing market which grew by 2%.

Prices have also been dropping as retailers (especially sports shops) discounted products more heavily, with TNS calculating a massive 40% of all spending in the last six months was on discounted products.

Children's sportswear saw the biggest price cuts with discounted sales up 26% against the previous year. And, worryingly for the big brands, sales of manufacturer branded items fell by GBP45m partly due to price cuts of 9%.

As Fiona Bell, director of TNS Fashion explains: "Over half of all branded items are now sold at discount and manufacturers will be hoping that England has a good start to the tournament to boost their sales."

Battle of the sexes
Men are driving the decline in the sports clothing market, which has fallen by 11% or GBP37.7m in the past year as people purchased fewer items despite falling prices.

In particular, sales struggled amongst younger men (aged under 35) as the fashion trend moved away from sportswear - sales of non-sports clothing were up 10%.

Amongst the sports shops, discount chain Sports World is slashing prices - in particular targeting JJB's customer base. In contrast, premium chains such as JD Sports are increasing their prices - 78% of JD Sports sales are at full price compared with just 54% for JJB and 32% for Sports World.

The average price of sportswear in Sports World is just GBP9.89 compared with GBP17.45 in JJB and GBP31.05 in JD Sports. 

But as Fiona Bell points out, such high levels of discounting has failed to stem falling sales.

"It will be interesting to see if the 24% growth experienced in 2002 is matched, or even surpassed," she adds.

Spending surge
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) says there is already evidence of a sales surge, with data from the Centre for Economics & Business Research Ltd forecasting that an extra GBP1.25bn will be spent in the UK as a result of the World Cup. But this of course covers everything from food and drink to fridges and flat screen TVs.
At some outlets, sales of items such as supporters' clothing have more than doubled, offering some respite to retailers battling tough trading conditions and the recent nasty weather.
"We hope that the World Cup will contribute further to the signs of growth we've seen over the past few weeks, which indicate that consumer confidence is beginning to pick up," says BRC director general Kevin Hawkins.

Cash on club kits
Spending patterns in the UK are of particular importance since British fans spend most on football merchandise according to a survey among European fans.

The study carried out by research company Sport+Markt AG showed fans in the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany have spent a staggering GBP4.7bn on club-related merchandise over the last year.

The UK market saw the highest average spending, with GBP126.6 forked out on team strips, scarves and T-shirts followed by France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Over 3,000 football fans aged 15-69, who said they were 'interested' or 'very interested' in football, were interviewed for the research.

It revealed about GBP1.8bn was spent in 2005 in the UK, followed by the French with an average of over GBP92, although the number of French fans who spent money on football merchandise was less than half than those in the UK.

The next biggest market was this year World Cup host's Germany whose fans spent GBP1.2bn in 2005.

Scarves and jerseys were the most popular buys in Europe with 35% or about 44m fans owning either of these goods. Next come T-shirts with over 40m fans admitting that they own one.

Young fans, aged between 15-34 years, are big buyers, with 37m owning football merchandise. But older fans aged 40-49 are the real spenders, coughing up GBP97.4 on club related goods.

Putting their pride aside, retailers will be hoping that their national teams stay in the tournament as long as possible. For research has also shown that fans' spending rises with every week a side remains in the tournament.

By Leonie Barrie.