Now Hiring: Score A Job In The Sports Apparel Industry

Sports Apparel IndustryThere's nothing more American than baseball. The sport has been around since before the Civil War, and has always served as a mirror on national life. The fast and loose lifestyle of the roaring 1920s were well evoked by the Black Sox scandal, which saw baseball players taking a dive at the plate. And baseball's contribution to last century's rise of the multibillion dollar sports industry has been as good a display as any of America's standing as the preeminent global superpower after World War II. Is there any corner of the world that isn't populated by teens wearing Yankee hats?

The ability of the sports industry as a whole to largely weather the recession has been seen as proof of its permanent role in national life, and now comes word that luxury sports lines are expanding in this rough and tumble economic environment and even adding jobs.

"We could probably use another 20 people in the next 3 to 4 months," says Rob Storey, the owner of the Nokona baseball equipment company, in an interview with Fox News.

Of course, such a minor growth may provide little hints on larger trends in either baseball, sports or the general economy, but it's worth pointing out that Nokona gloves are of the higher end and represent luxury lines. And it's always a healthy sign for an economy when any luxury markets are on an upswing.

Indeed, Nokona gloves can cost around $300 each, while products from more mainstream labels like Wilson regularly come in at half that price. Nokona gloves represent a fraction of some 4.5 million gloves sold each year in the country.

Joining Wilson at the top of the heap in the industry is the Rawlings company, which also announced this year plans for corporate expansion. The strategy centers on a bid to provide "high-end performance" apparel, according to the news website, St. Louis Today. The new products include mesh-based items that enhance breathability and further Rawlings' presence in the show clothing market, as opposed to "base-layer" clothing worn as a foundation garment against the skin.

There's little reason to wonder why Rawlings, which just moved beyond selling only helmets two decades ago, is looking to refocus its business model -- active-wear sales rose 4 percent nationally in 2010, to $59.4 billion, according to NPD Group, a New York-based consumer market research firm

"The fanatic consumer is a very devoted, loyal customer," said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst of the NPD group, in an interview with St. Louis Today.

But, as the Nation reported in July, hopes to boost struggling metropolitan economies with the construction of new stadiums have proven illusory. In studying 30 cities that have added stadiums since 1984, Lake Forest College economist Robert Baade concluded there was no measurable impact on 27 of them.

The findings flew in the face of the perception of sports as the ultimate economic savior.

"If you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest it in a new ballpark," said University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson.

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