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Sneakernomics: Holiday 2018 Predictions for Sports Retail

Nov 7, 2018
Matt Powell, Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor ;
Sports ; @NPDMattPowell

Sneakernomics: Holiday 2018 Predictions for Sports Retail

This holiday season will see some challenges for the overall U.S. sports retail environment. But, there are still some bright spots that I anticipate will be areas of growth for the market this season.   

Starting with the not-so-great news, athletic footwear sales in the U.S. were down for August and September compared to these same months last year. At the moment, I see no catalyst to drive overall sales back into the positive column for holiday. Performance footwear continues to struggle, now into its fourth year, and I do not expect this to change during the holiday period. Brands continue to push performance shoes on consumers who have clearly said they are not interested. The sport leisure category was soft in September, on account of a sales decline for sport lifestyle footwear; gains in the running inspired and casual athletic segments could not quite offset the decline in basketball inspired products.

Adidas sales went negative for September and I anticipate this will remain so for the balance of the year. Nike, Brand Jordan, and Converse sales were down for the month as well. Without growth from these major brands, the athletic footwear market cannot grow.

The top-selling shoe for the last two years, Nike Tanjun, also posted a decline for September. At this point, I do not believe there is a replacement for this shoe and the industry is lacking a hot item that can lift it. This void will put pressure on the entire market.

On the other hand, there are some bright spots for the athletic footwear industry, one of which has been the success of smaller brands. Vans, Puma, Reebok, Fila, and Brooks are all outperforming the market. Small is the new big, and I expect these brands will be popular and perform well this holiday. Another bright spot is the women’s business. As the industry has vastly underserved women, the women’s footwear market remains our greatest failure, but it is also our greatest opportunity.  

In terms of activewear, or athletic apparel, sales were up slightly for Q3 and flat for August and September. I expect we will see a similar outcome for the holiday period.

Cold weather products sold well in Q3 as the inventories are very clean and fresh. However, the long range weather forecast is for a period of warm and dry weather, which will hold back any real gains for the category during Q4.

Just as in athletic footwear, smaller brands are succeeding in the activewear market. These are the ones we should look out for this season. 

I expect the sports marketplace across both footwear and apparel to remain very promotional for Holiday 2018, as it has been for most of 2018 and last holiday season. If brands and retailers want to win with consumers this holiday, they must be careful to not sacrifice quality. Now more than ever, the sports industry needs a hot item.

Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service


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