Back-to-School 2018 is a little more than half over and the results thus far, as I anticipated, have been rather disappointing. Looking at weekly sales data from June 3 through July 28, 2018 compared to the same period a year ago, athletic footwear dollar sales in the U.S. were essentially flat.
The sport lifestyle category has slowed given some weakness in retro basketball, but sales nonetheless grew in the mid-single digits.
The performance shoe categories all continued to struggle. Performance running (even with all the new initiatives) was down in the mid-single digits. Performance basketball sales declined as did training and hiking footwear. There does not appear to be a turn for ‘performance as fashion’ in the near term.
Sport slides have been a popular seller and were up in the low teens. Skate shoes grew by nearly half, driven by robust demand for Vans. What I have expected to be a hot brand this back-to-school season, Vans overall sales grew by more than three quarters during these weeks. NPD’s Checkout, a receipt mining service, has uncovered some interesting findings around the brand. In the last 12 months, the size of Vans’ in-store customer base has held relatively steady versus last year, but their customers are making more purchases; the proportion of in-store Vans buyers who have purchased two or more pairs has increased by almost 20 percent versus a year ago.
Looking at other brand highlights, Nike brand grew in the low single digits, though it was not enough to offset Nike Inc. declines. Adidas’s mid-teens gains were well off its previous torrid pace, though the brand continues to take share in the U.S. Brooks improved by a third. Skechers athletic shoes posted a slight decline, while ASICS saw sales fall in the high teens. Timberland and Columbia grew in sales, while Merrell and Keen declined.
Fila and Puma both had nice increases for the period. “Small as the new big” is an important theme for Back-to-School 2018.
Given these results, I expect this back-to-school season to be as promotional as last year, if not more so, putting pressure on margins. I also expect e-commerce to outpace sales growth in physical stores, as online becomes more and more important to the total.
Looking ahead, I expect these modest results to continue for the balance of the year. Whatever energy we see in athletic footwear will come from the smaller brands.
Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, 8 weeks ending July 28, 2018