Athletic footwear* third quarter sales in the U.S. grew in the low single digits. Most of the growth can be traced to an increased amount of limited edition shoes released compared to the same period last year, as opposed to organic growth. My expectation is that Q4 sales for the athletic footwear market will be dampened, as brands will be unable to offset last year’s releases.

The men’s and kids’ markets grew in the mid-singles, while women’s athletic footwear sales were flat, as both Nike and Adidas posted declines in this segment.

Sales through the athletic specialty/sporting goods channel grew in the mid-singles; premium department stores had a high single-digit gain; mid-tier department stores saw a decline in the mid-singles; and shoe chains experienced a low single-digit decline.

In terms of the products leading growth, sport lifestyle shoes—which now account for more than half of all athletic shoes sold—grew in the high singles, with much of the growth coming from limited releases. Skate shoes grew in the low teens.

Performance footwear struggled again, with running, basketball, and training shoes all experiencing negative sales results. Hiking/trekking shoes had a slight decline. Cold/all weather boot sales declined just over 20%, but if the blustery winter weather predictions hold true, Q4 should be strong for this category.

Looking at the brand highlights, Nike brand sales grew in the low singles, while Brand Jordan was up in the mid-teens on account of additional retro releases. Converse declined in the mid-teens.

Additional Yeezy releases helped Adidas to grow in the mid-singles.  Vans sales were up more than 20%. Puma, Fila and Champion all had strong increases as well.

New Balance and Under Armour footwear declined in the mid-singles. ASICS had a small increase, while Brooks improved in the high singles.

The top selling athletic footwear shoe styles for Q3 in dollar rank order are as follows: Nike Air Max 270, Nike Tanjun, Vans Ward, Nike Air Force 1 Low, JORDAN XII, Adidas NMD R1, JORDAN IV Retro, Nike Downshifter 9, and Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2.

Turning to activewear, the market saw a slight sales increase in Q3. I expect a decline in Q4, as the lack of a new look or must-have item will dampen sales for the last quarter of the year.

Men’s activewear grew in the low singles, while women’s had a slight decline and kids was down in the low singles.

Activewear sales within premium and mid-tier department stores grew a combined 1% for Q3, while athletic specialty/sporting goods sales were flat.

In terms of categories, bras and socks declined in the low single-digits, while outerwear tops were down in the low teens. Knit shirts grew in the low singles, while sweatshirts improved in the mid-singles. Pants declined in the mid-singles.

Looking at brand highlights, the aggregate of private brands grew in the mid-singles for the period. Nike brand sales were essentially flat, while Adidas grew in the mid-singles, and Under Armour declined in the low singles. Champion grew by about 50% in Q3. Hanes activewear sales increased, while Fruit of the Loom activewear experienced a decline.

I predict that the athletic footwear and activewear markets will both experience soft performance in Q4, but smaller brands will continue to be among the top growth opportunities, and important to watch this holiday season.

Source: The NPD Group/
Retail Tracking Service/ July-September 2019 vs. 2018
*Defined as U.S. sales
of performance, sport leisure, outdoor, and work/occupational/safety footwear
categories combined.
footwear data is collected from the athletic specialty/sporting goods, premium,
mid-tier, and shoe chain channels.
data is collected from the athletic specialty/sporting goods, premium,
mid-tier, and mass channels.