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Apr 26, 2019

Sneakernomics: Athletic Footwear and Activewear’s Q1 Performance

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There were a series of headwinds that dampened U.S. athletic footwear and activewear sales in the first quarter of 2019. In January, the 53rd week in last year’s retail calendar which was accounted for in January 2018 significantly impacted the comparisons; in February, the later and lower IRS refunds dampened results; and the later Easter affected March performance.

Athletic footwear sales for the quarter were down in the mid-single digits. Adjusted for the 53rd week, sales grew in the low singles, in line with my expectations. Unit sales were down in the mid-singles and average selling price grew in the low singles.

Mid-tier department store sales declined in the mid-teens, while premium department stores and shoe chains were down in the mid-singles. The athletic specialty/sporting goods channel declined in the low singles.

Women's and kids’ footwear posted a mid-single digit decline, while men’s sales were down in the low singles.

The woes for basketball continued in Q1 with sales down by more than 20 percent. This quarter included the NBA All-Star Game and the NCAA tournaments, and while these events are constants in the year-over-year comparison, it is striking to see this level of decline during this high profile period. 

The struggles for the rest of the performance footwear categories continued. Running shoes declined in the mid-singles, training shoes in the high teens, and hiking shoes in the low singles. Brands and retailers that are focused on performance will find this to be a challenging time.

Sport lifestyle footwear was flat for the quarter and skate grew only in the mid-teens, which are both well off previous trend.

Looking at sport-specific footwear, baseball shoes were essentially flat and golf shoes declined in the mid-singles.

In terms of brand performance, many fared worse compared to their 2018 trend, including Adidas and Under Armour down double-digits and Skechers down in the low singles. On the bright side, a number of brands posted gains, including Brooks, Fila, Puma, and Vans.

Nike brand sales declined in the low singles, as did Brand Jordan. Converse sales were down in the high teens. For Q1, Nike Inc. footwear sales declined in the low singles. Nevertheless, the majority of top-selling athletic shoes for Q1 (in dollar rank order) were within Nike, Inc.: Jordan VI, Nike Air Max 270, Nike Tanjun, Jordan 6 Rings, Jordan IX Mid, Nike Air Force 1 Low, Vans Ward, Adidas NMD R1, Chuck Taylor Ox Low, and Nike Air Huarche.

In terms of activewear, Q1 sales were down in the high single-digits. Adjusted for the 53rd week, sales declined in the low single-digits, in line with my expectations.

Mid-tier department store sales declined in the low teens, while premium department stores were down in the high singles. Athletic specialty/sporting goods stores experienced a mid-single digit decline.

Women’s activewear posted a high single-digit decline, while men’s and kids’ were down in the mid-singles.

Every major category had negative sales for the quarter. Sweatshirts fared the best, down in the low single-digits. Active bottoms, outerwear tops, and socks all dropped in the high singles. Knit shirts and bras were down in the mid-teens.

Nike brand was down in the low single-digits while Under Armour activewear dropped double-digits. Fruit of the Loom declined in the mid-singles for the quarter while Hanes dropped in the mid-teens. Columbia and The North Face both saw declines for the quarter.

In terms of brands that fared well, Champion activewear grew by more than half, and Patagonia was up by more than 25 percent. Private label, the largest “brand,” grew in the low single digits, as did Adidas.


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