Revised and updated January 20, 2020.
The American public has had a long-standing love affair with professional sports, mostly around football, baseball, basketball, and ice hockey, though soccer has been making big gains in popularity in recent years. And many people enjoy playing these same sports throughout childhood and adulthood. Every sport has its particular equipment and apparel needs, and entrepreneurs can capitalize on this with one of these top 4 sports equipment and apparel franchises of 2020.
Each of the companies on this list occupies a unique niche: Play It Again Sports for buying and selling used sports equipment, Soccer Post for people who play soccer, Fleet Feet for running shoes and running apparel, and Destination Athlete for youth and high school athletes and teams.
If you add together sporting apparel, sports and fitness equipment, athletic footwear, and licensed products, you get a sports-related market that was worth more than $92 billion in 2018 (the most recent data available) – and this is a figure that continues to grow by at least $1 billion each year.
Here are the 4 best sports equipment and apparel franchises of 2020:
1. Play It Again Sports
Play It Again Sports solves a major problem with families whose children are involved in multiple sports – what to do with the equipment they outgrow each year. They can sell it (outright or on consignment for higher-end items) or get trade-in credit towards their next round of equipment at Play It Again Sports.
Each location specializes in buying and selling gently-used sports equipment for all kinds of sports, including baseball, soccer, ice hockey, field hockey, football, fitness equipment, weight lifting, snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding, golf, disc golf, water sports, wrestling, racquet sports, inline skating, and lacrosse. The mix of what’s available in any given location depends on what sports are played in that area.
This chain is part of the Winmark family of franchise brands (Once Upon A Child, Plato’s Closet, Music Go Round, and Style Encore), all of which resell used items. Founded by Martha Morris in Ohio in 1983 and franchising since 1988, the number of locations has leveled off in recent years after a steady decline from 2008-2014 and currently stands at 297 (nine more than the previous year’s total of 288), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
2. Fleet Feet
Fleet Feet has been around for a surprisingly long time given that running wasn’t all that popular back in the 1970s. The chain’s specialty niche is running shoes, and it prides itself on taking the time to make sure the foot measurements they take for customers are as accurate as possible. The company even does a gait analysis of customers as they run with the ultimate goals of ensuring they get the best shoe and the best fit possible.
In addition to running shoes, stores carry a variety of running apparel and gear, including socks, insoles, compression wear (socks and sleeves), energy foods and drinks, hydration gear (bottles, belts, packs), injury prevention (braces, supports, foam rollers, massagers), health/safety (lights, reflective gear, skincare products), electronic devices (Garmin running watches, fitness monitors, music players), sunglasses, hats and headwear, and winter accessories.
Founded by best friends Sally Edwards and Elizabeth Jansen in Sacramento, California in 1976 and franchising since 1978, the number of locations has grown in recent years to the current total of 179 (three more than the previous year), of which 29 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
3. Destination Athlete
Destination Athlete occupies the unique niche of services and products specifically for a community’s given mix of youth sports leagues and high school teams. But more than just equipment and uniforms, it has a whole program called Complete Athlete 360 for customized guidance and resources “from training to trophies” for teams, coaches, athletic department professionals, and administrators to really make the most of sports in their organization. This is a level of support that goes way above and beyond what many communities are used to, and it makes a huge difference in team success and safety.
Founded in 2008 and franchising since that same year, the number of locations has started moving up rapidly in the last few years and currently stands at 98 (up from 73 last year), of which two are company-owned and all are located in the US.
4. Soccer Post
Soccer Post calls itself “America’s Soccer Store” and claims to be the largest chain of retail soccer stores in the US. Brand names carried include Nike, Puma, Adidas, and New Balance.
Products offered include soccer shoes (soccer cleats, turf soccer shoes, indoor soccer shoes, lifestyle models, and sandals/shower shoes), branded soccer jerseys by country or by club, soccer apparel (shirts, socks, shorts, pants, jackets, hoodies, hats, scarves, goalkeeper apparel, compression gear), soccer equipment (soccer balls, shin guards, backpacks, bags, coach/referee gear, field equipment, protective gear, accessories, goals, ball pumps, pinnies, goal keeper gloves, field player gloves), and customizable team uniforms.
Founded in 1978 and franchising since 1991, the number of locations currently stands at 30 (three less than the previous year), of which four are company-owned and all are located in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.