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Sneakernomics: The State of the U.S. Athletic Footwear Market

May 31, 2018
Matt Powell, Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor ;
Sports
@NPDMattPowell

The sports retail environment continues to be challenged in the U.S., as sales have essentially flatlined since the banner year of 2015.

Athletic footwear dollar sales from February through April 2018 grew in the low single-digits, with unit sales also up in the low singles and average selling price flat. Two factors drove the increase; first, February had a very easy comparison as February 2017 had the worst performance in all the years I’ve been doing research on the industry. Second, the 53rd week fiscal shift replaced a small week in 2017 with a larger one. My expectations remain muted for the rest of the year.

Women’s athletic footwear led the wearer segments, with sales up in the high single-digits. adidas, Brooks, and Vans had strong increases in the women’s market, while Nike and Under Armour both posted declines. I expect that women’s athletic footwear will continue to outpace men’s and kids (both these segments grew in the low singles).

The premium department store channel grew its sales in the mid-teens, while shoe chains improved in the high singles. Mid-tier department stores increased in the mid-singles while athletic specialty/sporting goods had a decline. All of the energy is happening in the department stores today as the athleisure trend remains in full force.

Sport lifestyle, the largest athletic footwear category, grew in the high single digits. Nike and adidas grew in the mid-teens while Brand Jordan and Converse posted declines. Skate improved by more than 40 percent, as Vans grew by half. Sport slides grew more than 20 percent. Again, the athleisure trend is driving these categories.

We are soon to begin the fourth year of soft sales for performance footwear. Performance basketball declined in the mid-singles, even as Nike basketball grew. Considering how much marketing dollars brands devoted to the performance category beginning this year, this result is disappointing. Performance running declined in the mid-singles as new initiatives from many brands did not move the needle, but Brooks continues to stand out as a top performer in running. Training and hiking footwear sales also declined, as the trend away from “performance as fashion” continued.

Nike brand sales grew in the low singles thanks to solid growth in the sport lifestyle category, though performance running struggled. Converse sales were down in the mid-teens. adidas had a mid-teens sales gain. Its trend has definitely cooled from the torrid pace of the last two years. Skechers athletic grew in the mid-singles. Under Armour and Asics both posted declines, while Brooks and Vans had strong increases. Non-core sneaker brands like Steve Madden, Ecco, Roxy, and UGG all had nice increases. Again, the athleisure trend is carrying these brands.

Looking at the top-selling items based on dollar sales, none of these shoes are true performance products, again illustrating the fashion shift away from performance. For the first time in many months, no adidas shoes made the top ten list, as adidas continues to diversify its portfolio. The top sellers were: Nike Tanjun, Jordan XI Low, Jordan 1  High OG, Nike Air Max 270, Nike Air Huarache, Converse All Star Low, Nike Revolution 4, Jordan IX Mid, Nike Air Force 1 Low, and Nike Flex Contact.

Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, February-April 2018



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