No other industry changes as rapidly as fashion. What’s hot today is blasé tomorrow. Innovation becomes retro. Seasons change. Hemlines rise and fall ... and so do your sales figures. A celebrity makes a fashion statement on the red carpet and suddenly your financial statements are covered in red.
How do companies win in such an environment? The apparel, footwear, and accessories markets have depended upon The NPD Group for fashion market research and solutions for decades. Leading brands rely on us for comprehensive information and analysis about consumer spending and shopping behavior plus customized solutions that drive better business decisions.
How do we do it? We collect information from more than 1,200 retailer partners representing 165,000 stores worldwide, field 12 million consumer surveys each year, and mine the receipts of millions of consumers -- to tell our clients what, where, and why people are buying. We bring those robust data assets along with our industry expertise and combine it with your data or third-party data to address your business issues, from opportunity identification to program evaluation.
Monitor sales of men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel in department stores, specialty stores, and national chains. You also can use this service to track sales of women’s accessories in department stores and national chains. It delivers the most detailed point-of-sale (POS) information available for the fashion industry to guide your critical business decisions.
Understand who is buying apparel and accessories, and how, why, and where they are shopping. Based on market research information from nearly 2 million consumers, the service delivers an unmatched view across all retail channels in the U.S. In Canada, the Consumer Tracking Service focuses on apparel.
Account Level Reports
These reports enable retailers who choose this option to share their information with approved vendors, allowing vendors to analyze business performance at specific retailers down to the item level in many instances. By making this report available to their vendors, retailers can work together with them to optimize performance. These reports may only be made available with the express permission of the retailer.
Checkout Tracking℠ provides information on consumer buying behavior at the market basket level, based on receipts for brick-and-mortar and online retail purchases. You get precise, item-level purchase detail that is linked to buyers and their demographics. Data comes from large-scale longitudinal panels, making it possible to study the same consumers over time, analyze competitive market baskets, and identify purchase patterns.
NPD’s Analytic Solutions group includes senior leaders with extensive experience developing and delivering analytic solutions that help clients predict areas of risk and growth to improve marketing and product development. By combining NPD’s unique data assets and industry expertise with state-of-the-discipline research techniques and proprietary solutions, our Analytic Solutions team is able to answer clients’ most pressing business questions.
This report is designed to help you target new customer segments, inform product design, refine strategic messaging, and activate brand communication throughout the bra-purchasing journey. Learn how women shop for bras, what influences bra purchase decisions, and how brands influence those perceptions. It’s how to get the right products in the right places for the right people.
You can use the 2015 Women's Special Sizes Report to understand how the special-sized shopper thinks, how she shops, the brands and retailers she chooses, and more. You’ll discover how special-sized women classify themselves by size, how they prefer to be marketed to, and where your best opportunities exist in this growing segment of the U.S. apparel market.
Your single source for new insights on size, trends, average price, and more — see the independent shoe channel up close.
Get immediate insight into what's selling now — and what’s likely to be popular in the next six to eight weeks. The Flash Trends Report, created in partnership with Stylitics, delivers detail on the major style and color trend stories of the month. Now you’ll know exactly what’s happening in the marketplace and what to expect.
Explore the attitudes and behaviors of the Millennial handbag consumer. You can use our new report, Portrait of the Millennial Handbag Consumer, to identify new opportunities and develop marketing strategies that target this very important but hard to reach age group.
Understand footwear safety and style for men in the workplace
Apparel subscription services, like Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, and introduction of Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe, are examples of the hottest new shopping channel in the swiftly evolving $217.6 billion U.S. apparel market*, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. The apparel market’s evolution is evidenced by the fact that both Amazon and the apparel subscription service, Stitch Fix, were among the top 10 retailers last year in terms of online apparel wallet share, according to NPD’s online receipt mining service, Checkout TrackingSM E-commerce.
Global information company The NPD Group has launched Trend Tracker, a new microsite designed to help clients track and understand apparel trends. The NPD Group’s Trend Tracker provides access to data dashboards, insight reports, curated news, and industry analyst expertise, highlighting the sales performance of major fashion trends in the apparel industry.
The $13.5 billion U.S. women’s and men’s jeans market has rebounded from recent challenging times, growing sales 4 percent in 2016*, according to leading global information company The NPD Group. The latest styles and older standards (or models) both play an important role, and the respective roles of the two groups showcase how differently women and men shop for jeans.
Teenage females in the U.S. are changing when it comes to the types of clothing sizes they are purchasing, according to the 2015 Women’s Special Sizes Study from global information company The NPD Group. While there has been a sizeable decline among U.S. teens purchasing in the junior size category – from 81 percent in 2012, to 73 percent in 2015 – the percentage of those purchasing plus-size clothing has grown almost two-fold – now 34 percent, compared to 19 percent in 2012.
The three key components of the $334 billion retail fashion segment, apparel, footwear, and fashion accessories, are each in different positions when it comes to the business, according to leading global information company The NPD Group. The apparel industry, which represents 65 percent of total U.S. retail fashion dollar sales and spans everything from basics to jeans, continues to enjoy the consistent growth experienced over the past few years. Conversely, the more trend-driven footwear and fashion accessories industries are now experiencing sales declines, keeping overall retail fashion sales in the 12 months ending February 2017 even with results from the prior year.
Active wear today is no longer exclusive to athletic apparel; recent growth in key makeup categories coincides with the rising popularity of makeup as the latest workout essential. In the U.S., prestige makeup sales increased by 11 percent to $7.6 billion in the 12 months ending February 2017, accounting for over 80 percent of total industry gains*, according to global information company The NPD Group. Growth in foundation, primers, eye brow, and lip color products, as well as those formulated to be long-lasting and waterproof, are playing into the trend.
Loyalty Drives Victoria’s Secret Dominance in the Intimates Market, According to a New Report from The NPD Group
Victoria’s Secret is attracting a loyal consumer who shops frequently, and spends more than the average intimates consumer, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Over a quarter of in-store and online intimate apparel buyers purchase bras or panties from Victoria’s Secret, according to the new Victoria’s Secret Playbook report, based on analysis from NPD’s receipt mining service, Checkout Tracking℠. The new report examines the purchase behaviors of this major player in the intimate apparel market, uncovering the factors that contribute to their dominance.
Consumers who purchase at off-price retail outlets are a growing group, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Now representing two-thirds of all consumers, off-price buyers are also hardcore apparel purchasers and represent 75 percent of apparel purchases across all retail channels, according to NPD’s receipt mining service, Checkout Trackingsm. Not a particularly loyal group, off-price apparel buyers shop at multiple off-price retailers as well as other retail outlets.
Sports bras are the go-to bra for Millennials. With sizing ease and long-term comfort top-of-mind, Millennials start their bra wardrobe with sports bras and these seamless, activewear bras remain a wardrobe staple. While 41 percent of Millennials said they wore a sports bra in the past seven days, that number was much lower, just 21 percent, among non-Millennial women, according to the 2015 Bra Journey Insights report from global information company The NPD Group.
The fall and winter months are more commonly associated with warm coats than camping tents, but with 2015 being the second warmest year on record in the U.S. (behind 2012), annual outerwear sales were flat and camping-related equipment helped to grow the outdoor industry in 2015, according to global information company The NPD Group.
The back-to-school season now includes more options for the consumer than ever before. We took a look at how U.S. consumers shopped for back-to-school products in 2017 to help you plan for the 2018 season.
The back-to-school season isn't about one-stop shopping anymore. Find out what it is about these days.
It’s 2017, but real income is comparable to 2007 levels. Discretionary spending is down. What do you need to know to get ahead in the apparel market?
The back-to-school season is the second largest retail shopping season. To gauge what’s to come this year, we looked back on last year’s back-to-school shopping behavior
Millennials in the U.S. are known to be frugal — they’re careful about where and how they spend their limited income. And while they shop more frequently at brick-and-mortar retailers, they spend more when they shop online
Our client, a lingerie manufacturer, wanted to launch a new bra to stay ahead of trends, but its new product success rate was in decline. Our client started planning a new bra – comfortable and feminine. But . . . what would set the new bra apart from its many competitors? How could the client determine its likelihood of success in this category? The client wanted to be more analytical in its concept testing and turned to NPD for help.
The apparel market is changing fast - use real-time data to stay ahead of the competition and give your brand a winning advantage.
The Victoria’s Secret (VS) shopper is worth knowing. She’s loyal, she shops frequently, and she’s willing to spend more than total intimates consumers.
Retail success demands that manufacturers be at the forefront of what’s new, cool, and exciting to shoppers. If a retail buyer decides a particular product or brand is unlikely to fly off the shelves, the decision can cost an unsuspecting manufacturer significant business. Sometimes, it can cost the entire business . . .
Every journalist and student in America knows the so-called five Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. It turns out the same five Ws are also the most basic forms of consumer segmentation.
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts
This back-to-school shopping season is a clear reflection of changing times. Besides the season starting earlier and ending later, back-to-school shopping now includes more options for the consumer than ever before, and the effects of these overarching shifts are impacting retail fashion at a deeper level. Kids no longer flock to a single must-have item or a must-shop store. Rather, students are shopping eclectically and this is putting a new kind of pressure on retailers.
Apparel accounts for the largest share of back-to-school spending for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, and almost 60 percent of consumers told NPD that they planned to spend more on apparel purchases for back-to-school during the 2017 shopping season*. Yet, overall apparel dollar sales are down two percent in the nine weeks ending August 12 compared to the same period in 2016**. The reality is the majority of the back-to-school wardrobe comes together after school starts. By September 2016, more than a quarter of consumers had not yet completed their back-to-school apparel shopping*. In spite of the promotions happening at retail – the days of students shopping for the bulk of their school clothes in the summer are quickly fading. But even after school has started, the fashion industry has another set of challenges to face.
Today’s younger generations view fashion through a different lens than those who preceded them. Generation Z’s emphasis on social media has also changed the way fashion is communicated, inspired, and consumed among teens. As a result, fashion has gotten much more eclectic – a wide range of styles has now taken the place of the must-have look. There are also lots of choices for where to shop, from the high-end to the low-end, and everything in-between – never mind all the online and in-store options.
Consumer shopping delays and diversity are the drivers behind the recent two percent decline in apparel sales and the challenges that retail fashion will continue to face beyond this back-to-school shopping season. The lack of passion for fashion among today’s youth, the lack of on overarching fashion influence, and lack of a singular fashion direction has created a gap between the retailer and the consumer, which is resulting in a gap in sales.
While apparel will be a top back-to-school spend, albeit delayed, back-to-school shoppers are thinking about their back-to-school fashion spend differently. Manufacturers and retailers need to close the gap and relate to the students shopping for apparel consumer and ask, “What’s your look?”* Source: The NPD Group / LAB Series: 2017 Back-to-School Report
** Source: The NPD Group / Weekly Retail Tracking Service
We recently welcomed Alexa into my family through Amazon’s latest virtual assistant option, the Echo Show. She claimed prime real-estate on the kitchen counter thanks to her new seven inch touchscreen and was a big hit during a recent gathering with friends. The conversation quickly turned to the multitude of ways each of my friends currently utilize Amazon’s services to fit their own personal needs.
One friend will be sure to take advantage of the recent Whole Foods acquisition, as she’s on the hunt for more grass-fed cow’s milk options. Another, an avid Kindle reader, devours books in Prime Reading. While a third friend stated her kid would never be able to go to birthday party if it wasn’t for Amazon Prime delivering gifts the next day given her forgetful nature. As we spent hours asking Alexa to play music ranging from pop to nursery rhymes, and even 80’s hairbands, I couldn’t help but wonder how I’ll be able to use my new device once Prime Wardrobe officially launches.
There is still a lot to learn about Amazon’s new “try before you buy” service. Currently, you pick the individual items you want. But could devices like the Echo Show or Echo Look evolve into something similar to Stitch Fix, offering outfit curation based on subscribers’ style?
While Amazon is the top online apparel retailer among consumers of all ages, according to NPD’s Checkout Tracking E-Commerce information, Stitch Fix is not far behind on the list, especially for 35-44 year olds where it ranks sixth in terms of share of their online apparel wallet. Like the Amazon consumer, the Stitch Fix consumer is shopping online. They spent almost half of their online apparel wallet at retailers with no physical location. And consumers who shop at Stitch Fix also spend five times more at Stitch Fix than they did on apparel purchases from Amazon.*
Subscription shopping services are changing the way we think about shopping. With the technology of Echo devices and Amazon’s broad product reach, there is potential for Amazon to take the subscription model to a whole new level. As someone who regularly shops both Amazon and StitchFix, I’ll be keeping a close eye as to what emerges as a result of Prime Wardrobe, especially given the move towards more personalization in today’s apparel environment. Until then, I am truly enjoying Alexa as the newest member of my family.
*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Checkout Tracking E-Commerce,12ME Dec 2016
Eight glasses of water…check. Ten thousand steps…check. Whole grains…check. From clean eating to athleisure makeup, the idea of living a healthy lifestyle is here to stay and making its presence known across industries. But, for some, healthy living is less about actually being healthy and more about looking the part.
Beyond the comfort component that has been a major focus behind the athleisure trend, consumers are also looking for clothing to be functional, and of course, fashionable. Clothing that can be worn to work and the soccer field makes life much easier for working moms.
Enter “spashion”…companies are now blurring the lines between sport functionality and fashionable looks.
Athleisure has been a main trend in the industry for the past few years, showing double-digit growth since 2012. We are wearing activewear even when we are not actually exercising. It’s part of our wardrobe and part of the casualization of Americans that my colleague, Marshal Cohen, has been examining since its onset. This year, the craze for athletic bottoms has started to settle – dollar sales gained a moderate five percent compared to the 14 percent growth last year.
On the flipside, interest in denim has been on the rise, with dollar sales growing for the last two years, largely due to newness and innovation within the women’s category.* Jeans with yoga pant lining or extreme stretch are the types of products that consumers are starting to expect from clothing brands today. Gone are the days of uncomfortable denim. Today’s jeans are softer, stretchier, and more versatile than they were a few short years ago. These innovations are spanning various brands and price-points, making this trend more attainable.
Bralettes are another example of the fashion and sport worlds coming together. These products have made sport and non-sport bras somewhat interchangeable for the consumer. As a result, sport bralettes’ share of the market increased 12 points in just one year’s time.**
The list of categories that blur sports and fashion is long. From bigger ticket items like outerwear to your everyday basics like socks, elements from both sides are making their way into end products. Knowing which elements are most important to your unique consumer is essential in aligning your product’s offerings to their lifestyle.
After all, a consumer who wants to be fashionable while running errands around town may very well be looking for some of the same functional features as a consumer planning to run a marathon – when that happens, it is time to enter the world of “spashion”.
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking 12ME May 2017*
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking 12ME April 2017**
Ivy Park, Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy, and Calvin Klein are not your “traditional” athletic apparel brands, but they are making their presence known within the activewear category. The definition of athletic continues to evolve. More fashion-centric brands are embracing this lifestyle change, especially within women’s apparel, making it more inclusive of all brands. And boy, oh boy, there are a lot of brands.
The number of activewear brands still continues to grow. There are nearly thirty percent* more brands reported by consumers than there were just two years ago…that’s nearly five hundred* more brands! With everyone jumping on the active bandwagon, when will activewear sales slowdown? Well, that depends on the brand.
Lululemon revolutionized the premium athletic legging market but saw stock prices dive over 20 percent – their March 29 th investor call reported a slow start to 2017 resulting from a lack of depth and color in their spring assortment. And though some other factors, like weather, a late spring and delayed tax refund checks have plagued 2017’s performance across many brands, I can’t help but wonder, was this just a blip or a sign of more troubles to come for the brand?
The brand’s once unique yoga-inspired niche is now faced with competition across various price-points. While some consumers will remain loyal to the brand, there will be others that find solace in lower-priced options that are “good enough,” especially in today’s overly promotional retail environment. Consumers are trained to seek out a deal – half** of apparel consumers said they plan to rarely, or never, pay full price for their clothing in 2017.
Though dollar sales growth of women’s active apparel bottoms has slowed to five percent*** from the double-digit gains experienced just one year ago, women are still buying more. There were 118 million*** more women’s active bottoms sold in the 12 months ending February 2017 than what was sold just five years ago, clearly showing that this apparel item is a part of her everyday lifestyle, and it is not about to go away.
Along with the active world, the fashion world is addressing the consumer’s need for comfort. Whether it is the blurring of denim and active, pajamas going from sleep to street, or overall versatility, the options are endless. This bodes well for the consumer, who can be picky and select the right choice for her needs and her wallet. But, it puts added pressure on brands to differentiate from the growing field of competition, while connecting to their consumer to get their fair share. In this sea of brands it will be a survival of the fittest, pun intended.
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Dec 2016*
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Omnibus Feb 2017**
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Feb 2017***
Though store closings are not considered new news, there was a plethora of retailers officially announcing their closures earlier this year, including a number of industry leaders. And while businesses need to adjust to having less retail space, it will take a toll on overall apparel sales during this course correction.
The closing of The Sports Authority stores was called the largest failure ever seen in the sports industry by my colleague, Matt Powell. The Sports Authority represented more than 10 percent of the sports industry’s apparel and equipment sales. What was not anticipated after doors closed was that some of its business would simply evaporate. Some business went to adjacent big box retailers, some went to ecommerce, but there was about 20 to 25 percent that just disappeared.
So what will consumers do when some of their favorite apparel stores begin to close locations? In a recent survey, 58 percent* of respondents told NPD they would seek out the particular store, either at another physical location or on that retailer’s website. A third* said they will turn to another retailer. The remaining 9 percent of responses indicate an uncertain fate (six percent* said they will not shop for apparel, and the rest didn’t select any of the options), even before their store actually closed and could produce another sales evaporation story.
One channel that stands to gain during these changing times is off-price. Nearly six out of every 10 (56 percent)** consumers who purchase apparel, buy clothing at off-price stores. Those who shop off-price for clothing spent five percent more per purchase, bought thirty-three more apparel items per year, and visited twelve more apparel retailers per year. This consumer is passionate about their apparel purchase and will cross-shop – eighty-five percent** of off-price buyers also purchase apparel from department and specialty stores. But with fewer apparel store options on the horizon this consumer may start to dedicate more of their wallet to the off-price channel.
While retailers hope a consumer will remain loyal, the landscape is changing. Doors are closing and apparel brands are losing shelf space. Deep discounting has become a reality in today’s apparel industry. Retailers are looking beyond omni-channel and becoming more personal. Stores that not only recognize but also adapt quickly to each of these changes will be the ones to head in the right direction and ultimately prevail.
*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / February 2017 Omnibus
**Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Checkout TrackingTM, December 2016**
Change is in the air. News about companies outside of apparel bringing their manufacturing back to the U.S. is increasing. One of the largest clothing manufacturers in the U.S., American Apparel, was just purchased by Gildan, a Canada-based company; and we are preparing for the inauguration of a new U.S. president. This is both an exciting and uncertain time for domestic manufacturing. The next four years could play a major role in the ‘Made in the USA’ sentiment.
American pride is evident in today’s consumerism. Americans are expressing their national pride, and looking for ‘Made in the USA’ labels on the products they buy. Nearly eighty percent of shoppers said it is important to them to some degree, with almost half (44 percent) stating it is extremely or very important that the products they buy be made in the USA – even higher for those forty-five years or older. But when asked if they would pay more for a product that was made in the USA, less than a quarter (23 percent) said they are willing to spend the extra money all or most of the time. Half of shoppers said they would sometimes be willing to pay more for products made in the USA, which is likely dependent on what they are buying.
Hands down, and to no surprise, food was the item that most consumers said they would be more likely buy if it was made in the USA. Second to food was apparel. Apparel edged in front of categories like home appliances, footwear, and even cars. Apparel’s number two position was driven by women – Females were 30 percent more likely than men to opt for apparel that is made in the USA. But with heavy discounting dictating the way we shop, as seen throughout the recent holiday season, is it realistic to expect the consumer to pay more for American-made apparel?
My colleague, Marshal Cohen, said in a recent blog, “2017 will be the year that country of origin will take a significant step forward in terms of both consumer responsiveness and becoming part of the marketing DNA of the product.” What it all means for the apparel industry remains to be seen. Will consumers actually spend more on locally produced product? Only time will tell. What we do know is consumers are paying attention to where products are made, and so should manufacturers and retailers.Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Omnibus Sept 2016
This year will be one full of change for fashion at retail – some is overdue, some is driven, but all of it is necessary. The days of the consumer following trends have faded. Consumers are now creating their own looks, seeking apparel, footwear, and accessories that fit into their lifestyle, not the other way around.
Active will enter its second generation in 2017. Active apparel companies will transform their product to be less focused on performance and more focused on lifestyle. At the same time, lifestyle brands will try to become more active-oriented.
Footwear fusion will be the key. The hybrid approach to activewear will carry over to footwear in 2017 as well. The focus for feet will be less about dress and more about innovation and comfort.
Casualization will give pajamas new function. The next generation of casualization will mainstream the use of pajamas as weekend wear. This is not a new concept – college students have been doing this for years – but now it will be embraced by those who didn’t just have an all-nighter cramming for a final.
The little things will matter. Consumers will continue to focus less on mid-range purchases, and more on big and small spends. It’s the latter that will benefit fashion accessories. The affordable splurge on a wristlet or keyfob will maintain its appeal from 2016.
Organic fibers will come to the rescue of activewear, and our noses. The apparel industry will begin to rebel against the negative properties of activewear, such as smell. Look for increased promotion of organic fibers calling synthetic fibers out on their challenges with odor and durability.
Struggle and success will weave together for denim this year. Denim has been on the rebound over the past year, and it will struggle to return to its true glory in 2017. But some brands will fill their pockets and find growth.
There will be an evolution in accessorizing. Technology and innovation have an important place in the world of accessories. The emphasis on carrying a cell phone or tablet in style will be more important than ever. But even the accessories will have to be functional and innovative in order to fit with the current consumer criteria of convenience, need, desire, and price.
Apparel will face a new kind of opponent. The apparel industry will struggle to remain a priority spend, competing for their share of wallet. But it’s not just technology, apparel will go up against intangible purchases too, as younger consumers seek and spend on services and experiences more than ever.
The first half of this holiday shopping season proved to be a challenging start for the apparel industry. Despite early consumer intentions pointing to apparel as an area of increased spending this holiday season – a 7 percent increase in planned spending over 2015* – that spending doesn’t appear to have happened yet. NPD’s Holiday Shopping Bag 2016 Weekly Report has shown declines in apparel sales from week- to- week when compared to the same time last year, with few exceptions.
Over Thanksgiving week, apparel sales were not as low as earlier in the season, but still down 2 percent against last year and failing to gain momentum against the competition of more exciting and innovative categories for holiday. There were several apparel categories that gained some momentum during this peak week. Within women's dresses, swimwear, socks, and workout wear for women, the big winner. In men's apparel, it was a trip back to traditions with pajamas garnering the most growth for the week, followed by tailored clothing (includes dress and sport shirts, suits and jackets).
In the week after Thanksgiving – Cyber Week – apparel sales fell 5 percent below the same week in 2015. Abundant and deep promotions certainly got the attention of consumers, but it wasn’t enough. Apparel got a slight boost the following week (ending December 10), during the usual holiday lull, with a 1 percent increase in dollar sales compared to last year. Women’s and men’s outerwear were among the top performers, so the weather forecast likely played the biggest role in this shift.
The apparel industry has discounted themselves right off any possible path toward growth. This, combined with the lack of a ‘must have’ fashion item keeps apparel chasing last year’s results. While apparel is not alone in this holiday’s conundrum, the category has a prominent role in holiday retail performance, with 66 percent of consumers planning to purchase clothing during the season*.
There is still time to avoid a complete holiday wardrobe malfunction. In the final stretch of holiday shopping, which typically results in a sales peak close to that of Thanksgiving/Black Friday week, consumers will continue to look for deals, but they are also looking for those last-minute special gifts. The emphasis at retail needs to move toward delivering the products consumers are looking for, not just the price they are looking for.
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Holiday Shopping Bag 2016 Weekly Report
*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey
It’s the end of another fascinating year for the U.S. sports business, so that means predictions time! But before we get into that, let’s set the stage by recapping how we did on our 2016 predictions. Most of the predictions I made a year ago came to be true, but there were some surprises along the way.
Overall, the positive sales trend in athletic footwear and activewear did continue, but not quite as strong as I anticipated. Looking at brand performance, Nike and Skechers did not have as great of a year as predicted, but things seem to be turning for both late in 2016. Adidas remained on fire and earned the title, “Brand of the Year.” In terms of equipment, this business was indeed challenged; however, the minimum wage increase did help propel sales growth. Social trends including social fitness were huge influencers over the last couple years, and this remains a critical concept in sports.
Now let’s turn to 2017.
First, get ready for possible price increases in sneakers and other products manufactured overseas. The promises that the President-elect made on the campaign trail can potentially lead to strained relations with China, which may cause prices on foreign-made products to increase. I talked more about the election’s potential impact on footwear sales in my post-election blog.
Given the highly charged political atmosphere, we can expect consumers to focus on ‘ethical shopping,’ giving their business to brands and retailers that share their values and shunning those who do not. Consumers will demand to know where brands and retailers stand on issues and will shop accordingly.
Based on the current retail landscape, the void created by The Sports Authority bankruptcy will have a lingering but diminishing negative effect on the industry. I expect that most of the impact will be over by the end of Q2 and trend should improve for the industry. In the meantime, this vacuum will force brands to be more promotional. The 24/7 Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policy at Nike will add fuel to an already overheated promotional market.
Looking at the major players, Nike’s trend continues to recover, but it will be slower than it needs to be. While Nike will be a share donor, sales will return to growth. Nike’s direct-to-consumer business will remain robust. Adidas and Puma should stay hot in 2017. Both brands are working hard on diversifying from their narrow base of hot styles. This should keep the trends in a positive direction. Under Armour (UA) will likely hit a soft patch, particularly in footwear, as the fashion headwinds around marquee and performance basketball hit. Footwear brands of UA’s size often seem to stumble on their path to growth. While I agree with the strategy, UA’s expansion in the mid-market will be tricky, especially for the big box partners. I’m confident in the long term trajectory for UA, but 2017 could be a rocky year.
Given the rush to try and capture some of the athleisure business by non-performance brands, we can expect the athleisure category to grow but to be very noisy. The bubble created by all these new, opportunistic brands will burst and the market will return to the core brands and retailers.
Retro will remain the dominant fashion trend, but styles must constantly be updated. Brands that try to drive on style for too long will face markdowns and margin pressure. Casual athletic footwear and sport slides will reap the benefits of the retro trend. Retro in apparel will become even more important.
On the other hand, the performance categories will remain challenged in 2017. One possible bright spot will be the mash-up of retro uppers on performance outsoles. We’ll see the first of these products hit store shelves this spring.
Some have tried to scold certain big brands for a lack of innovation, but this is misguided. We have been on a sturdy trajectory for technical innovation in footwear for the last few years, so it makes sense to now take a pause and let current technologies seek their own level. But, more importantly, much of the technical advances are happening behind the scenes. Advances in manufacturing techniques will make it possible to get shoes to market more quickly and more sustainably. The ability to truly make customized shoes is not that far in the future. Advances in manufacturing will have a far greater and longer lasting impact on the industry than a new cushioning system for shoes.
Brands are also making huge innovation gains in “connectedness” and the “quantified self.” Helping athletes be better athletes and to share their experiences will continue to be a source of growth for the sports industry.
Finally, innovations to the in-store experience will prop up the sinking brick-and-mortar side of retail. Smart stores, contextual marketing, and augmented/virtual reality all have a role to play in slowing the decline of physical retail.
E-commerce, which is already a force in the industry, will continue to rise. According to NPD research, one-in-four athletic shoes were sold online last year. Over time I expect that contribution to rise to two-in-five. The physical limitations of brick-and-mortar stores will continue to drive this growth.
Retailers will quickly figure out that ‘buy online, pick up in store’ will be another way to leverage e-commerce to help save physical stores. Retailers will use this additional store visit to create add-on sales.
We can expect retail rationalization to continue. We still have far too many stores than we need in the U.S. Much of the rationalization will be silent as small chains, specialty, and “mom and pop” shops shut down without much fanfare. This rationalization is both needed and inevitable.
Demographically, I hope 2017 is the year the sports industry finally figures out the women’s business. Women’s sports retail remains woefully underserved, and this has allowed brands from outside our industry to capture significant sales and share. (Hint to sports brands and retailers: “win the bra; win the woman”). Another demographic trend the sports industry must embrace is plus sizes in women’s apparel. Research by The NPD Group says the most common size in women’s apparel is 16. Brands that focus on the S-M-L-XL consumers will never win the women’s business.
Finally, Hispanics remain a great untapped audience for the sports industry. Hispanics are projected to represent a quarter of the U.S. population in a few years. They have a great affinity for all things sports and spend their money on sports products. Brands that embrace this change will win.
In my opinion, 2017 presents many opportunities and challenges for the sports industry. I expect it will be another good though not great year, with trends improving as we move into the second half of 2017.
Pumpkin spice lattes and #sweaterweather would normally mark the beginning of fall. October 31st would roll around and temperatures would drop. Frost would begin to form on the car doors and our senses would demand mint cocoa, scarves, and cocoon coats. As humans we lead with our sense to see, to feel and to experience.
This year something changed… When fall came around we were still holding onto summer, bare ankles and all. With above average temperatures in September, October and November #sweaterweather was delayed. Actually sweater sales in Canada were down -14 percent compared a year ago*. Sweaters are not the only category impacted by the weather; we’ve seen this trend across all seasonal categories. Take winter outerwear for example, posting declines compared to a year ago for the first time in over 7 years. So with Mother Nature, an unpredictable force, having the largest impact on seasonal sales, how do we plan for the future?
Ever notice that as soon as that first day the temperature drops below zero we are all running out to buy turtleneck sweaters and fur trimmed parkas. This is the effect of we consumers switching from proactive purchase planning to reactive buy-now-wear-now. Consumers are no longer purchasing seasonal merchandise in anticipation of the weather change, they are purchasing based on when they need it.
An interesting fact is that in 2016 sweaters and winter outerwear had above index sales growth in January and February, respectively. These are also the two most promotional months for seasonal merchandise, as retailers try to clear the winter merchandise that has been sitting on the floor for the past three months. Winter 2016 was also one of the warmest winters in history, so consumers could hold off on buying winter apparel and just waited to take advantage of the end-of-the-season deals. Seventy percent** of all seasonal merchandise purchased during these months were purchased on sale.
So if consumers are only purchasing seasonal merchandise at the height of the season when they need it, why do we continue to deliver merchandise that will sit on the retail floor for months and be perceived as old merchandise by the time the “real” buying season hits? In addition the season-end sales conditions consumers to expect and wait for the discounts.
It’s time to rethink the traditional merchandising calendar and adjust it to meet consumer needs. After all , from the consumer’s point-of-view, #sweaterweather starts in November and stays with us until March.