Home Blog 2021 The rollercoaster ride from 2020 continued into Q1 2021 in sport footwear and activewear
Apr 28, 2021

Sneakernomics: Q1 2021 Sports Footwear and Activewear Recap

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The rollercoaster ride from 2020 continued into the first quarter 2021. Sales of sports footwear grew more than 35% versus the same period for 2020 and in the high teens compared to 2019. Much of the gains were due to one-off events: the third stimulus check, late EITC checks, warm weather, an earlier Easter, and the surge in vaccines. It is quite clear that the stimulus has had a positive impact on sales. But like the prior two stimulus efforts, the gains are short-lived. 2021 will be a challenge to predict.

Compared to 2019, Q1 sales of women’s sport footwear grew more than 20%. Men’s footwear grew in the mid-teens. Kids improved in the low teens, as trends there continue to trail the market.

The premium channel grew more than a third when compared to 2019. Mid-tier department stores were up low singles. Shoe chains grew nearly 20%, while athletic specialty/sporting goods improved in the mid-teens. This data does not include brand direct-to-consumer (DTC).

Viewed against 2019, sport lifestyle footwear grew in the high teens in the first quarter of 2021. Performance basketball continued to sink down in the low singles. There is no sign this category is making a comeback, although several of the new entrants did well, against a small base.

As expected, the strong trends of getting fit and remaining socially distant drove gains. Hiking and walking footwear grew more than 25% compared to two years ago. Performance running grew in the low teens. Tennis and golf footwear trends surged compared to two years ago.

Work/occupational/safety footwear improved more than a third as the American Rescue Plan takes hold and employment improves.

The juggernauts of Brooks, HOKA ONE ONE, and On all surged during Q1. Puma and Reebok also experienced strong growth. Skechers, Columbia, and Vans outperformed as well.

Nike, Jordan, Adidas, ASICS, and New Balance all underperformed the market compared to 2019. Under Armour sales were in line with the market compared to two years ago.

Activewear grew about 25% compared to 2019. All three wearer segments (men’s, women’s, children) grew in the low- to mid-20s for the period. Department stores grew in the mid-singles while athletic specialty/sporting goods improved by more than 20%. This data does not include brand DTC.

Sweatshirts grew more than 40% compared to 2019. Pants grew about 20%, with strong sales in sweatpants. Knit shirts were up in the mid-teens.

Undershirts, performance underwear bottoms, and sports bras all surged in Q1 compared to two years ago. Socks grew in the high teens.

The aggregate of all the retailer’s private brands is the largest “brand” in activewear, and sales leapt +50% compared to two years ago.

Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour all underperformed the market versus 2019. Reebok overperformed.

Hanes sales improved by nearly +75%, leveraging the positive moment gained during the pandemic as the brand is primarily sold through big-box, “essential” retailers. Champion, riding a retro fashion trend, grew by +90% when compared to 2019.

Source: The NPD Group / Retail Tracking Service



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