How will the sports business fare in our present economy? A few words from, with comments by Larry Eder


As the world's oldest democracy changes goverments, and the 44th President of the United States has taken office, our economic woes continue. However, I choose, as do most Americans, to be an optimist. During difficult times, a good walk or run not only keeps the blood flowing, it also opens the creative thoughts.

William Blake, the great English mystic and poet, walked fifteen miles, from the center of London, on Sundays, and hitched his way home on the back of a hay wagon. In more recent times, President Harry S. Truman did a two mile walk most mornings, and then used a unique form of hydration, requiring an ounce from a bottle with the initials J.D, with Senator Sam Rayburn, to start the day. Truman lived to be 92. (Yes, for proper hydration, we do recommend water and sports drinks, it must be noted that Mr. Truman did this unique form of hydration before Gatorade was invented).

Most recent surveys tell us that the American people, while very concerned, a) know that the new president can not change things overnight and b) realize that there are difficult days still ahead. What surprises me is that no company has tried a marketing message, noting the challenges of modern life and the benefits of a good walk or run...

In this difficult time, I still believe that the running industry is one of the real glimmers of hope in the economy. Not product intensive, running and walking are inexpensive ways to reduce stress and stay healthy. Health clubs, such as Anytime Fitness and Zap Fitness, where the consumer can train 24/7, in a new facility, by themselves or with other club members, is also catching on...

You have noted that this blogger continues to reminds the sports biz that a) runners and walkers will keep running, b) shoe sales should probably see an increase, with some of the accessory sales going down and c) smart companies, who focus their media campaigns on grass roots and supporting the specialty channel, will find, as most innovative companies do in down economies, that they actually gain marketshare!

The fact is running, and institutional related sports will see the effects of the economic slowdown, but in the areas of sponsorship, promotions and marketing. Activity will probably increase, footwear sales will continue to grow, as runners and walkers see the $125 that the spend on shoes as being a part of their life, like breathing. More runners and walkers will substitute Sam Club and Costco for Whole Foods, but they are not turning to Walmart for their running shoes.

In that light, please read the excerpt below, sent to us by alert reader and ASBA writer Mary Helen Sprecher. Mary Helen writes the track construction columns for American Track & Field, lives on the East Coast and writes the police reports for a weekly newspaper. Her alert eyes caught a piece in Forbes magazine about usage of health clubs in trying economic times:

The section that relates to gyms is as follows. (There's also a more expanded
version on the web).

Keeping Fit Don't let consumers' continued thirst for technology have you thinking everyone will be anchored to the couch through the remainder of the recession, however long it lasts. Gyms,considered by some to be an affordable luxury, aren't completely in the red, as people seem to want to stay healthy in both good and bad times.

In fact, market researchers at St. Louis, Missouri-based firm Stifel Nicolaus say overall gym memberships will increase by 4% in 2009. And a nationwide survey conducted by Princeton, N.J.-based Opinion Research Corporation, and sponsored by gym chain Anytime Fitness, found that over 60% of the 1,090 (gym-going) participants planned on keeping their current membership plan, while another 23% planned on downgrading to a less expensive option.

Special thanks to alert reader Mary Helen Sprecher.

(The above two paragraphs are courtesy of our friends at, all rights reserved for Forbes! )

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