Going Batty: Sales of Baseball Bats Soar

BY Courtney Huckabay
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Baseball/​softball bat sales in the U.S. were down in the 12 months ending October 2017, but experienced a turnaround in the last two months of 2017 to coincide with the updated USA Baseball Bat guidelines, according to retail sales data from global information company The NPD Group.

Looking at the eight weeks since new USABat approved products began reaching store shelves in September, dollar sales for the category have grown by 11 percent, with the growth being driven by a 24 percent increase in average selling price.

USA Baseball, the national governing body for the sport in the U.S., announced in 2015 the adoption of a new method for measuring bat performance in the testing of youth bats, to establish a wood-​like standard, giving manufacturers two years to develop and go to market with bats that abide by the new regulations. The new standard went into effect on January 1, 2018.

The new AudienceSCAN study found 6.1% of U.S. adults will buy sporting goods/​equipment for team sports this year.

The new guidelines will certainly provide a boost to the baseball equipment market, but aside from being a sales generator, this is a strategic opportunity for manufacturers to breathe new life into the category,” said Matt Powell, vice president and sports industry analyst, The NPD Group. “What some manufacturers have done is taken this as an opportunity to refresh their product lineup by utilizing the latest technology and engineering methods. With over two million youth players now in the market for a new bat, this is a chance for brands to hold onto their fan base and/​or win over new consumers.”

Sporting goods retailers wishing to increase baseball bat sales could consider sponsoring local athletes and promoting it. The latest AudienceSCAN survey reported 17.2% of Sporting Goods Shoppers usually try to support companies that sponsor their favorite sports teams or athletes.

On a weekly basis, dollar sales from September through October in the last two years were the highest during the first week of September. Sales growth in 2017 over the previous year was driven by the fourth week of September and third week of October. In terms of brands, Easton, Louisville Slugger, and Rawlings are the top players in the baseball/​softball bat space, and also have the most models listed on the newly approved bat list.

Talk about the new approved bats on radio spots. The most recent AudienceSCAN study showed Sporting Goods Shoppers are 83% more likely than average shoppers to take action after hearing radio (over-​the-​air, online, mobile or tablet) commercials.

Despite the fact that both bat and overall baseball/​softball equipment sales have declined during the full 12-​month period over the past two years, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association reported an increase in participation for youth baseball and softball in 2016, and found these sports to have more participants than any team sport in the U.S. “This growth in participation is reason for both the baseball community and equipment manufacturers to be optimistic, but what they must focus heavily on is retention. Brands and manufacturers can play a key role in this through their marketing, by creatively targeting and leveraging the core values of younger consumers to keep them in the game,” said Powell.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.