Home Blog 2020 Athletic Footwear and Apparel 2019 Results
Jan 30, 2020

Sneakernomics: Athletic Footwear and Apparel Year in Review 2019

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As I predicted, athletic footwear* sales only saw a slight bump in 2019, with annual growth in the low single digits. The lack of a true hot item really hurt the outcome this year. I do not expect a major change in trend in 2020.

Men’s, women’s, and kids’ athletic shoes all grew in the low singles, with kids performing the best. The top five brands in women’s athletic footwear all posted negative results. The women’s business remains the industry’s greatest challenge and its greatest opportunity. Hopefully the arrival of Lululemon footwear will shake the industry.

Premium department stores fared the best of any channel, with a mid-single digit increase in sales. Mid-tier department stores suffered a decline in the low singles. Athletic specialty/sporting goods grew in the low singles, while shoe chains were flat.

As expected, the performance versus fashion story remained unchanged. Sport lifestyle footwear—the largest category—improved in the high singles, as casual athletic inspired sneakers continue to be the market driver. The major performance categories were all negative – performance basketball shoe sales declined in the low teens (now representing less than 5% of all athletic shoes sold), and performance running shoe sales declined in the low singles.

Looking at other key categories, hiking shoes and cold weather boots were essentially flat for the year. Skate shoes grew in the low teens.

In terms of brand performance, Nike brand had a low single-digit increase, as declines for 2018’s top selling item offset gains in 2019’s top shoe. Brand Jordan grew in the mid-singles, even as many releases did not immediately sell out. Converse again declined in the mid-teens. Nike Inc. had a low single-digit increase, in line with the overall industry trend. Nike share remained on par with last year.

Adidas had a mid-singles decline, after a weak Q4, on account of the changing Yeezy releases. Yeezy sales appeared to be down against 2018.

Skechers athletic sales were down slightly. Under Armour footwear declined in the low teens, as the market continues to shift to sport lifestyle. ASICS declined in the low singles. Looking at growing brands, Vans grew more than 20%; Brooks had a low teens increase; and Puma and Fila both had solid gains.

The top selling sneakers for 2019, in dollar rank order were: Nike Air Max 270, Nike Air Force 1 Low, Nike Tanjun, Adidas NMD R1, Jordan IV Retro, Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2, Vans Ward, Converse Chuck Taylor OX Low, Nike Air Max 97, and Jordan XI Retro.

Looking at the activewear market, my annual prediction also came to fruition as 2019 sales declined in the low singles in 2019. There is a malaise around apparel in the U.S., but activewear continues to outperform fashion apparel.

Men’s activewear experienced a small sales increase while women’s and kids’ declined in the low single digits.

In terms of channel performance, premium/mid-tier department stores and athletic specialty/sporting goods both had low single-digit declines.

Looking at key categories, outerwear tops declined in the mid-singles as the weather did not cooperate, with temperatures being, on average, not as cold as the previous year. Total pants were essentially flat for the year. Sweatshirts remained one of the bright spots, improving in the mid-singles.

Undershirts and underwear both saw nice increases, as brands are adding more performance attributes to these basic categories. Activewear bras, however, declined in the high singles and socks were down in the mid-singles.

Private label remained the largest “brand,” but sales were only up in the low singles. Nike brand activewear grew in the low singles, while Adidas improved in the mid-singles and Under Armour sales declined.

Fruit of the Loom declined in the mid-singles, while Hanes brand was up in the mid-singles and Champion grew by more than half. Puma activewear was up in the mid-teens, while Brand Jordan declined.

For my 2020 expectations across athletic footwear, activewear, and other sporting goods related categories, check out my recent blogs 2020 Predictions for Sports Retail and Overarching Themes Impacting Sports Retail in 2020.

Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service/ January-December 2019

*Athletic footwear encompasses the sport leisure, performance, outdoor, and work/occupational/safety categories. 


The 2018 retail calendar accounted for a 53rd week in January, making the comparison 52 weeks in 2019 versus 53 weeks in 2018.

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