Preparing for sport | India is blooming

As the shadow of the pandemic slowly fades, people are coming out in droves to indulge in outdoor activities. This bodes well for the sports equipment market which had shrunk in recent years, Anju Munshi reports

One of the lessons learned from the devastating effect of the pandemic is that physical fitness boosts immunity and that staying healthy is absolutely essential. Now that the worst is over and people are coming out, “revenge shopping” during the holiday season is all over the news. Among the items of this “free feeling” atmosphere are casual dresses suitable for outdoor and indoor sports and accessories.

People’s return to the outdoor space, the resumption of their outdoor activities, whether long walks, cycling or football and cricket, requires adequate clothing hitherto unnecessary under Covid lock down days of restriction. Therefore, there is a big rush to buy sportswear like shoes, t-shirts, etc. so much so that even the number of hawkers and roadside traders swells to meet the demand for sports equipment, swimwear, trainers, tennis and squash rackets. , to name a few.

The small shops that have survived in the alleys next to the famous New Market, or around the Esplanade area in central Kolkata, give their outlets an elegant and attractive look, to invite good footfall.

“Sales are good and the color is back on the market. Not only are they changing the look of their outlets, but they are also improving their stock, with ‘Made in Thailand’ being the top scorer,” says Chandni Barua, whose two school-going sons love to play hockey and cricket. “I stockpiled a few pairs for fear the stocks would run out.”

“As an industry, I feel like the demand is so overwhelming that the supply chain is behind schedule. As with tennis balls, there is a wait time of several months. A few years ago, a shoe meant a shoe, but today different pairs of shoes are marked for different activities.Running shoes are not used as sports shoes and vice versa, says Adeep Kapoor, Managing Partner of GK Sports, Kolkata, pleased with buoyant sales after an extended lull.

Footwear outlets, from the familiar Bata to Decathlon, are busy piling up to meet the ever-increasing demand for sports equipment.

Iqbal Ahmed of Smart Shoes, a small outlet near New Market couldn’t have been more timely. “As the holidays approach, which also rhymes with holidays, people buy shoes suitable for treks. Some even want typical beach slippers for seaside vacations.”

There are shoes for trekking, hiking, mountaineering where footwear becomes even more important. “These hiking or hiking trails are tough and the feet need good grip,” says Ajith Sivakumar, a regular hiker and trekker. He informs that there are low, mid and high shoes for occasional high intensity climbs.

Yoga mats, jump ropes, dumbbells, tennis and squash rackets are all flying off the shelves, a good indicator of people’s new awareness of health benefits.

Home gyms are also a new trend, says Adeep. “Despite being regular gym users, people opt for another home gym by buying the bare minimum – simple things like dumbbells, resistance bands and tubing, exercise balls, gym and other small equipment. It speaks to an unspoken anxiety – “What if the lockdown comes back?”

The cycling community multiplied and this time a new generation emerged, an enthusiastic group of middle-aged men and women, who spent most of their lives in the domesticity of homes and kitchens or their respective workplaces, waking up to the merits of exercise.

“We are a large group of men and women who peddle early in the morning with great zeal. Cycling gear is extremely expensive. From buying cycles to our helmet, gloves and the right kind of shoes, especially if you want to buy branded products. So we need cheaper substitutes that are easy to use but very durable,” says Shefali Dastidar, a mother of two and a bank worker herself. His day starts at 4:30 a.m. and then follows a fast cycle track of about thirty kilometers. She returns at seven o’clock and then prepares herself and her children for the day.

Clubs now hold outdoor tournaments to ensure proper use of club facilities; schools also encourage inter-school field activities. all this has given a boost to the sports equipment market.

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