Whether you're a semi-professional, a dedicated enthusiast, or you're just starting out at your particular sport, buying the right equipment can often prove something of a challenge. First of all, there's the question of figuring out exactly what you need from an often bewildering range of options. If you're a beginner at golf, for instance, you might think that all clubs are basically the same until you set out to actually buy your first one! Secondly, once you know what you're looking for, you have to find it. Most superstores have a sporting goods department, but there are also advantages to finding a specialist store and seeing what they have on offer. Lastly, of course, there's the increasingly popular option of online shopping, where almost every piece of sporting equipment you ever dreamed of seems to be openly available, 24 hours a day.
Buying in a superstore
Whether you're looking for athletics equipment, baseball bats and mitts, basketball hoops, football helmets, or uniforms for your local little league team, chances are you can find all the basic equipment you need in the sports department of your local "big box" store. This is certainly the easiest option if your needs aren't too specialized, and it may be the cheapest way of going about things. The buying power of chain supermarkets and their ability to get volume discounts from wholesalers often means that they can offer low prices that the more specialist stores just can't compete with.
However, before you rush off down to the mall, there are a few other points to consider. If you go to a big department store, the choice will generally be pretty limited, and you'll essentially be looking at a "one-size-fits-all" option. Also, the old adage that you get what you pay for holds true; affordable items from a family supermarket generally won't be made to the same level of quality and durability as the pro-standard equipment sold by a specialist dealer.
Buying from a specialist
A specialist sports store will offer you a wide variety of ranges and models from top brands, including items that you probably won't see elsewhere. These will probably be slightly more expensive than the items in your local superstore, but the quality will probably be better. The equipment you buy here will do the job to a high standard and will last much longer than the equivalent from a big box store.
Another big plus to buying from a specialist is that you'll be able to get expert advice from knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff who'll take the time to find out exactly what you're looking for and will be able to help you choose the pieces that are right for you. This way, you'll leave with exactly what you need for your purpose and playing level, rather than compromising with a generic model.
The downside, of course, is that it can be hard to find a specialist store for your particular sport in your neighborhood. If you don't live in a major city, this could mean a long drive, which will push your costs up as well as entailing time and hassle. Then there's always the chance that when you get there, the item you want is out of stock. With all "bricks-and-mortar" buying, there's also the added headache of finding a parking spot, aggressive crowds, stress, finding somewhere to eat while shopping, and so on.
The best way to avoid all of this is to shop online for sports equipment. The internet is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and can be accessed from the safety and comfort of your own home. You can see everything that's available on the screen, and you can search for specific items, with no pressure from a salesperson breathing down your neck and pushing you to make a quick decision. When shopping online, you can take your time and, most importantly, compare prices from a variety of sites.
Buying from a website is often cheaper than buying from a superstore as internet outlets have lower overheads - no storefront to maintain, less staff to pay, and so on. True, the lack of staff means you can't ask for advice, but there's no shortage of buying guides on the internet for equipment in every conceivable sport. The other downsides are that you can't try out equipment before buying, and you need to plan ahead as delivery may take several days.
Finally, remember that wherever you buy it, the quality of your sports equipment can be a key factor to performance and also safety. From the danger of a sprained wrist due to an unsuitable squash racket to the life-threatening consequences of relying on cheap climbing ropes and crampons, it's important that you get quality equipment that's right for you.
The best way to buy sporting equipment