The holiday season this year will be complex in ways that differ from what we saw last year. As our company’s newly released 2021 U.S. Holiday Purchase Intentions Report indicates, consumers will be out and about more than last year but, at the same time, the pandemic lifestyle is not going anywhere. For the most part, this mixture will bode well for many of the sports soft- and hard-goods categories, although we can expect to meet some challenges along the way.

We will see two extremes of consumers shopping both early and late, and more than half plan to start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving Day. In the sports market, early sales will be driven by brand promotions and consumers’ concerns over supply chain issues. Black Friday and Cyber Monday will disappoint, as lean inventories will prevent aggressive promotions, which will lead to more sales late in the holiday season. With perceived stock outages, consumers will turn to gift cards as a way to gift something for the holidays. A bit further down the road, January sales will be problematic due to the changes in the Child Tax Credit distribution.

With all of these factors considered, I expect that athletic footwear revenue will grow in the mid-single digits this holiday season. Performance running, hiking, and walking shoes are the hottest categories right now and will outpace the overall market, while cold-weather boots, sports lifestyle, and performance basketball shoes will underperform. Throughout the pandemic, more people have been drawn to outdoor activities like running, walking, and hiking to stay fit and active and socially distanced – two legacies of the pandemic. I anticipate that brands riding the running boom including On, Hoka One One, Brooks, New Balance, and Puma will perform better than the market, as will Converse and Reebok, while Nike, Jordan, and Adidas will underperform.

Of the three wearer segments in athletic footwear, I anticipate that the women’s segment will perform the best. More brands are putting great emphasis on women’s products and she is responding. Women’s running shoes, in particular, has been a strong category.

On the athletic apparel side, I expect that activewear revenue will grow in the high single-digits during the holidays. Sweatshirts, sweatpants, knit shirts, licensed caps, socks, and undergarments will be among the top sellers. I anticipate we’ll see a decline in outerwear revenues again on account of milder weather. In addition, private-label brands, as well as Hanes, Champion, Puma, Reebok, and New Era, will outperform the market, while Nike and Adidas will underperform, especially on the women’s side of the business.

Across the sports-equipment categories, I expect a high single-digit increase. As I discussed in my recent blog, the environment for sports activities remains robust, but the pandemic surge for certain equipment sales appears to have stabilized. This is the case for golf and racquet sports, which I expect will underperform during the holidays, while football, lacrosse, soccer, and other scholastic sports will outperform.

All in all, I think it will be a good holiday season for sports retail — and a particularly strong one for the categories and brands that best capture today’s complex consumer during another unique holiday season.