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Footwear Market Research & Business Solutions

The NPD Group is the industry authority for the footwear market. Leading brands, specialty retailers, Wall Street analysts, and the media rely on our data of record and unique perspective.

Our comprehensive information and analysis about consumer spending and shopping behavior, analytics and modeling capabilities, Checkout receipt-harvesting, and other solutions drive better business decisions.

From opportunity identification to program evaluation, uncovering competitive threats to boosting market share, The NPD Group knows the “steps” you need to take to succeed.

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Footwear
Solutions


Retail Tracking

The NPD Group has the largest POS footprint in the industry. We collect weekly and monthly sales data from over 30,000 doors globally, spanning all industry channels of distribution, including independent specialty stores, sport specialty stores, sporting goods, department stores, mass merchants, and e-commerce. This allows you to continuously monitor sales of men’s, women’s, and children’s sports apparel, footwear, equipment, and accessories.

The Retail Tracking Service delivers the most detailed point-of-sale information available to guide your critical business decisions. Standard measures available at the category, brand, and item levels include unit sales/share, dollar sales/share, and average selling price. Advanced measures available for specialty channels include inventory, margins, and GMROI.


Consumer Tracking

Stay on top of shifting preferences and trends with insights from consumer panelists who have agreed to provide information about their purchasing habits, usage, and attitudes.  You can use this information to analyze consumer behavior, preferences, and purchase drivers as input for product development, brand management, and marketing strategies.


Athletic and Outdoor Segmentation

Identify and reach specific consumer groups so you can efficiently target and capture your most valuable consumers. Use our athletic and Outdoor Segmentation to drive more sales using targeted messaging. It also can help you refine your merchandising mix and assortment once you understand the differences among key consumer segments. Seven athletic segments and four outdoor segments are included.


Geo Level Information

Assess regional strengths and opportunities, monitor competitive performance by region, and plan and evaluate effectiveness of targeted activities. Call on our insight into retail sales in specific regions or store groupings using Geo Level information from our Retail Tracking Service.


Checkout

Checkout delivers the most comprehensive view of consumer purchase behavior for general merchandise categories, across all retailers over time, to help you understand how to adjust your marketing to fuel growth. Checkout E-commerce offers the most complete and accurate view of the online channel – including  first and third-party sales for Amazon and other marketplaces, 400+ e-commerce retailers including direct-to-consumer, and  an early read on emerging players.


Analytic Solutions

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.



Footwear
Reports



Footwear
Press Releases


February 6, 2018

U.S. Athletic Footwear Industry Sales Grew 2 Percent to $19.6 Billion in 2017, NPD Group Reports

The U.S. athletic footwear industry grew by 2 percent in 2017, generating $19.6 billion in sales, according to global information company The NPD Group. Unit sales also grew by 2 percent and average selling price remained flat, at $58.16.


November 29, 2017

New Realities of Shifting Consumer Needs and Marketplace Disruption Are Shaping Eating Patterns in America and Creating a One Percent World

Shifting consumer attitudes, behaviors, and demographics; an evolving marketplace with ongoing channel and digital disruptions; and increasing competition for consumer mindshare and dollars are changing the playing field for food companies and foodservice operators, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. The key shifts are how consumers shop, define convenience, use restaurants and foodservice outlets, and personalize health and wellness, according to NPD’s recently released Eating Patterns in America report.


April 17, 2017

Shift in Footwear and Accessories Spending Sends Warning Signal for Retail Fashion, Reports NPD

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.


February 8, 2016

U.S. Athletic Footwear Industry Grows 8 Percent to $17.2 Billion in 2015, NPD Group Reports

The U.S. athletic footwear industry grew by 8 percent in 2015*, generating $17.2 billion and marking one of the best performances the industry has had in a number of years, according to global information company The NPD Group. Unit sales grew by 3 percent and average selling price by 5 percent, to $61.15.


Footwear
Insights


October 19, 2017

Back-to-School 2017 by the Numbers

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.


September 15, 2017

Back-To-School Shopping — Not a One-Stop Occasion

The back-to-school season isn't about one-stop shopping anymore. Find out what it is about these days.


July 24, 2017

Checkout: How a Manufacturer Sold an Exclusive Product to a Major Retailer

Our client, a footwear manufacturer, wanted to win floor space for a premium product designed exclusively for a major retailer. The manufacturer needed to prove to the retailer that the return on the new product would be worth the incremental spend. Our client turned to us to build a compelling case.


June 15, 2017

Back-to-School Shopping: Looking Back to See Ahead

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


October 18, 2016

Three Trends Driving Independent Footwear Sales in 2016

Identifying top-selling and fast-growing styles is key to your success in today's competitive U.S. independent footwear market. Go to the source for ongoing insight that details exactly what's happening in the independent shoe channel and how it relates to your market. Identifying top-selling and fast-growing styles is key to your success in today's competitive U.S. independent footwear market. Go to the source for ongoing insight that details exactly what's happening in the independent shoe channel and how it relates to your market.


October 10, 2016

How We Predicted Sales for the Under Armour Curry 2 Low Basketball Shoe

Want to make killer products people love? If so, you need to distinguish the winning ideas from the losers, move fast to keep ahead of trends, and prepare yourself for the possibility of a hot category’s decline.


August 31, 2016

How Can You Convince A Retailer To Carry Your Brand?

The footwear market is changing fast. In-store foot traffic is down, and retailers are fighting for share. How will you expand your brand's value at your current retailers and make a case for new retailers?


August 30, 2016

How a Leading Footwear Manufacturer Increased Sales and Market Share

Just last year, a leading footwear manufacturer client sought help understanding the reasons for a cornerstone shoe’s year-over-year sales decline. The dip came as a big surprise, because the company had invested heavily in a new marketing campaign. The first natural assumption—the message did not resonate—wasn’t necessarily true. It turns out our client, through its media planner, had also changed the mix of media placements. It was entirely possible the new mix was not as effective as previous placements had been.


August 15, 2016

Case Study: Making the Case For Assortment Expansion

A major footwear brand increased their SKU listings over 50 percent at one large, national footwear specialty retailer. See how they did it


November 10, 2015

Segment And Sell To Gen Y: 10 Ways Younger and Older Millennials Shop Differently

The retail world is obsessed with Millennials.



Footwear
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts


January 30, 2018

Sneakernomics: State of the Outdoor Retail Industry

Like the rest of the sports world, the U.S. outdoor retail business was challenged in 2017. For the 12 months ending November 2017, sales declined in the mid-single digits. The void created by The Sports Authority and Sport Chalet bankruptcies made the comparisons even more difficult. One bright spot was that the trend improved, with sales flat rather than down, in the last three months. Whether that positive momentum can carry into 2018 remains to be seen.

For the last 12 months, outdoor industry sales declined in the high single-digits within the athletic specialty/sporting goods channel. In outdoor specialty sales were flat, and in sport specialty e-commerce, sales grew in the low singles.

By category for the 12 month period, footwear declined by about 10 percent, apparel and accessories in the mid singles, and equipment in the high single-digits.

Apparel is the largest category in the outdoor market, driven by outerwear. By channel, apparel sales declined in athletic specialty/sporting goods, but grew within sport specialty and e-commerce.

Outdoor equipment sales were down in all three channels. Sales in outdoor specialty were the most concerning, down in the high single-digits.

Outdoor footwear sales were down sharply in athletic specialty sporting goods, and were also down in outdoor specialty. A bright sport was the sport specialty e-commerce channel, where sales were up in the high single-digits.

For the 12 month period, many of the smaller brands had nice increases, as did Patagonia, Arc’Teryx, Kuhl, Hydroflask, Sorel, Carhartt, and Adidas. Nike, Under Armour, The North Face, Yeti Coolers, and Columbia all posted declines.

Given the reported weak gun sales, I expect that the outdoor categories will be challenged in the athletic specialty/sporting goods channel for 2018, as weak gun sales could lead to weaker traffic for other outdoor products. E-commerce should be the best performing channel, tracking the rest of sports sales online.

After last week’s Outdoor Retailer show, it is clear that there is no new hot item or must-have category that is of scale to move the industry. While some brands will outperform, some of the larger brands will still lag the industry. I expect 2018 to be a year of discovering and transitioning for the outdoor industry, to better position it for the long-term growth it needs.


January 23, 2018

Sneakernomics: Solutions for the Sports Retail Industry

In my annual predictions here, I explained why 2018 is positioned to be another mediocre year for the U.S. sports industry, as it is following in the footsteps of the tepid sales growth, heavy promoting, and weak profits of 2017. What can the industry do to reverse these fortunes? There is no magic bullet, but there are several steps that brands and retailers can take to improve results and get the industry back on track.

First and foremost is the need for great product. Brands have continued to make and sell products that consumers don’t care to buy, which has further fanned the flames of promotion. Technology as fashion is out of style right now (and may never come back). It’s sportswear and athleisure that rule the runway, and brands and retailers must feed this trend.

The industry also needs a new hot look. The modern runner trend which has carried the market for the last few years is getting ubiquitous. The industry must quickly address this and find the next new idea, before the modern runner gets played out.

Brands and retailers must also carefully curate their assortments to address their core consumer. Gone are the days of being all things to all people. Likewise, retail formats must be more diverse and focused; cookie cutter formats are antithetical to the market. Personalization is the new currency, and “Brand Me” will be the most important brand of all.

That said, there is a crying need from the consumer for uniqueness and differentiation -- small is the new big. Across the landscape, we see growth coming from smaller brands and unique items. Brands need more items, not fewer, to address this need.

Private label looks more appealing every day, as retailers seek shelter from the promotional storm. Brands and retailers must collaborate to create private brand footwear and apparel.

Celebrity collaborations must either become commercial in nature or be abandoned. Microscopic releases might drive Instagram likes, but they do nothing for the business.

The line between what is an athletic shoe and a casual shoe continues to blur. We only need to look at Steven Madden’s athletic business last year to see the future. The nimble brand and retailer will be the winner.

Our business must be omnipresent, available to the consumer wherever, whenever, and however they want to shop. Physical stores must be places of discovery to surprise and delight our customers. At the same time, the retail transaction must be frictionless. All impediments to speed must be removed.

Last but certainly not least, data must drive decisions. In this fast-changing fashion environment, rich data will inform the best decisions. Forecasting and predicting have never been more essential.

Expectations are that 2018 will be a challenging year for sports retail; however, retailers and brands that adopt these recommendations will find it to be a more successful year than their peers.


January 18, 2018

Sneakernomics: The Golf Business Remains Challenged

The golf retail market in the U.S. remains challenged, largely impacted by the fact that Millennials are not picking up the game at the rate that Boomers are aging out of it. As I wrote about here, there are major structural issues which have hurt this business.

Golf equipment sales were challenged in 2016 and look to be even worse in 2017; total golf sales year-to-date through November 2017 declined in the mid-teens. Across key categories including golf clubs, balls, and gloves, sales have not fared positively.  

Specifically, golf club sales—an indicator of new players entering the game—were down by more than 20 percent. Nike’s exit from the category accounted for about 13 percent of the total decline in clubs. Of the major brands, only Cobra picked up a low-teens sales increase and +260 basis points in share. Callaway and TaylorMade both acquired share from the Nike void, but have experienced a decline in club sales over last year. A bright spot for the category, however, was a 5 percent increase in the average selling price.

Golf ball sales—an indicator of rounds played—declined in the mid-single digits. The Nike golf ball clearance has had a negative impact on the category, as has a sales decline from category share leader Titleist. TaylorMade, Callaway, and Top Flite, who appear to have benefited from Nike’s exit, grew between 110-250 basis points year-to-date.

Of the top 15 brands in golf, Cobra, Top Flite, and Pride were the ones to show gains year-to-date.

The golf equipment business is a market share game right now; for someone to win, others must lose. What the golf industry needs to focus on is participation, both in terms of holding onto their existing participants and adopting new ones.

Source: The NPD Group / U.S. Retail Tracking Service, January-November 2017



January 18, 2018

2018’s Three C’s of Fashion Footwear & Accessories

Fashion footwear and accessories players are looking for opportunity in 2018, following a soft 2017. I expect fashion footwear sales in the U.S. to improve slightly and fashion accessories, such as bags and jewelry, to contract a bit more. But, there are and will continue to be successes in both markets if brands and retailers focus on comfort, convenience, and curation.

Comfort
Comfort is not just an added benefit anymore – it’s a necessity. Consumers have grown accustomed to wearing activewear and sneakers, and they don’t want to give up that comfort when they are wearing boots or dress shoes. Closing out 2017, the women’s active/leisure and comfort brand segments together grew seven percent in an overall flat women’s fashion footwear market.  In addition, women’s designer continues to be a key growth area – led by sneakers, as well as fashion boots and mules with low-mid heels.  And, particularly in the men’s space, the bridge segment is being driven by brands that have incorporated athletic and comfort elements into their dress and casual styles. This momentum in sport leisure and comfort will continue into 2018.

In accessories, the idea of comfort has manifested itself in the growth of backpacks for adult wearers over the age of 25, particularly for work and travel (or anytime).* In 2018, we will see more convertible styles, and new entrants into the market will steal share as the major players in the bag market fall behind in terms of innovation. 

Convenience
Function and versatility is top of mind (think Instant Pot!). Similar to their housewares and technology, consumers are also looking for their footwear and accessories to do more than one thing, or to perform in a variety of conditions. Consumers will place value on features such as weatherproofing, ability to style multiple ways (i.e. adjust the boot shaft height or straps), and year-round relevance.

Bags, luggage, and small personal accessories must meet the demands of busy lifestyles, offering fashion along with functional elements – lightweight materials, multiple straps to keep hands free, and pockets to organize tech and other daily essentials are the kinds of features consumers will be seeking.  The designer market will not be immune to these demands.

Curation
Expect tighter assortments. Retailers are looking to keep demand high and inventories under control.   Personalization options will increase in footwear, bags, and jewelry. But, on the opposite end of the spectrum, direct-to-consumer start-ups like Allbirds, Rothy’s, and Away offer very focused selections of feature-rich products, meant to appeal to broad target audiences by solving problems that they didn’t even know they had.  More established brands need to sharpen their stories. 

In 2018, consumers will be asking, “What have you done for me lately?” And in response, footwear and accessories brands and retailers must be thinking about how their products will fit into and enhance everyday life. Messaging and shopping experiences that address this focus will be critical. Consumers are willing to spend, but they want their dollars to go further. If you can demonstrate more than one of the three C’s, you’ll be on track to take share.

 

The NPD Group / Retail Tracking Service, 3 months ending  December 2017
*The NPD Group / Consumer Tracking Service, 6 months ending December 2017



January 9, 2018

Sneakernomics: Sports Retail Predictions for 2018

On the surface, the 2017 results for the U.S. sports industry appear to be below average, but not a disaster. When we understand that it was an extraordinarily promotional environment that drove these results, we realize that things still weren’t as great as they have been in prior years. 

The issues that plagued the industry in 2017 still exist as we enter 2018. Some of the necessary steps that brands and retailers must take to correct these issues will further harm topline results. However, these steps must be taken if we are to recover the aspirational and inspirational foundation that built this great industry.

I have low expectations for athletic footwear in 2018. Brands have stated that they will tighten advertising policies to try and rein in the rampant promoting we saw in 2017. While these are the right steps to recovery, it means that in the short term retailers and brands will do less business. Acceptance of this fact is the first step to improvement.

Brands have also stated that they will cut back on the distribution of formerly coveted products to try and drive demand back up to lost levels. Again, this is the correct strategy, but in the short term it will mean fewer sales for brands and retailers. It remains to be seen if the cache can be restored.

While reported inventories are improving in terms of quantity, the quality of inventory remains poor. There still is far too much performance basketball and running products in the market, which is creating markdowns at retail. Brands and retailers must work to shift inventories away from performance. The consumer is quite clear in telling us they have no appetite for “performance-as-fashion.”

On the other hand, the sport lifestyle sneaker category will be the primary growth vehicle in 2018, though increases will moderate. The “modern runner” look has become too pervasive, and the industry needs a new hot look to lift sales.

Those brands that thrived in 2017 will continue to do so; those that did not, will not. New, smaller brands will flourish in 2018 as the consumer seeks differentiation and retailers seek relief from the unprecedented promoting that drove the meager increases from the mega brands.

Athletic apparel will not see much improvement over 2017. The category was on promotion for nearly the entire year, and difficult comparisons will make growth challenging. A lack of a new items or looks for apparel will also dampen results. This remains a major opportunity.

In terms of other key opportunities, private brands, which were a bright spot for apparel in 2017, can flourish in the 2018 environment as retailers seek relief from the downward promotional spiral. Women’s athletic apparel remains the greatest opportunity for the industry, and one that the industry continues to squander. The sports industry needs to look to the white-hot beauty industry for cues on how to reverse fortune.

Beyond footwear and apparel, the sports equipment market will face the ongoing challenges of declining participation. Fewer kids playing sports means less equipment sales.

The baseball business will have a decent year as new bat regulations will drive sales; however, this is a one-off benefit, and retailers and manufacturers will have to seek new ways to keep consumers engaged.

One bright spot in team sports remains protective gear. Parents whose kids are still playing sports are very concerned about injury, and justifiably so. There is a major retail opportunity to leverage this concern.

The golf business will remain challenged as Millennials are not picking up the game and Boomers age out. Golf is a share game now, where winners will win by taking from losers.

The outdoor industry woes will continue as it remains too focused on pinnacle product and less aimed at the everyday user. Likewise, the cycling and run specialty businesses are also too focused on pinnacle users.

Overall, we will continue to see retail rationalization in the sports industry, as there is far too much mediocre retail in the space. I expect that 2018 will be a challenging year for the industry, and one of transition. In the coming weeks I’ll share some thoughts on what I see as solutions for improving the industry in the months ahead.


December 12, 2017

What the Sports Business Can Learn from the Toy Business

The New York Times published a fascinating article a couple days ago on WowWee Brand’s Fingerlings toy, one of the hottest toys of the holiday season. In it, I found several interesting lessons for the sports industry.

“For decades, there has always been a must-have holiday toy” - Last year, the Adidas Superstar was the must-have shoe. It was the first time in years that the top-selling shoe was not a Nike/Jordan product. In 2017, we do not have a “must-have shoe,” and sales and margins are suffering for it.

“The $84 billion global toy industry is struggling for the attention of children obsessed with smartphones and tablets. Global toy sales have been growing each year, but at a slower pace than video games” - The sports business has also struggled for the attention of today’s kids. There are many competitors for kids’ attention and parents’ money.

“The average life span of a toy fad is about eight months from its launch until it’s marked down.” “The life of an item is a little rockier” than it used to be, said Walmart’s VP of Toys. “We move as a country faster from one thing to the next” - In the sports industry we have seen fashion cycles become ever shorter. Brands and retailers must figure out new ways to bring products to market more quickly. The sports industry must be more responsive to changes in consumer interests and preferences.

“Cultivating the success of a hot toy carries its own risks, including managing supply…WowWee says it did not intentionally create the shortage. But whether by design or happenstance, there is no question that scarcity fuels a toy’s mystique. ‘The reality is that you are better off having some disappointed children this year in order to excite them next year’ ” - Much of the sports business was built on unrequited demand. That strategy has been abandoned, chasing higher revenues. We must get back to scarcity as a motivator for purchase.

“It’s like coming up with a hit movie or a hit song. If you see signs of success, you pour gas on it” - Brands and retailers must become more responsive to shifting tastes and the winds of fashion.  The sports industry has to figure out ways to “pour gas on” new trends and items. Micro-collaborations are not the answer.

“You know you can trust a toy company if its toys fart. It knows what kids want” - Two takeaways here: A sense of humor is essential in today’s market. More important, we’ve got to get back to knowing our customer.

“When the toy business is good, it is really fun. When it is bad, it is really bad” - Enough said there.

“Over the decades, the industry consolidated and retailers struggled. The rise of social media — where toys can be instantly validated or just as quickly panned — has raised the stakes for companies like WowWee. There are less shades of gray. You either fail or you succeed” - The sports industry must react better to the changing retail landscape and the methods in which we market our products.

“Walmart invited hundreds of children to a convention center to play with a range of new toys, including the Fingerling. Based on the children’s feedback, the retailer named the Fingerling one of its 25 top-rated toys for the holidays and purchased more monkeys” - Walmart and the toy brands understand the value of listening closely to your customer.

We sometimes act as if the sports industry exists in a vacuum.  As we can see from this article, there are lessons to be learned outside our industry; these are lessons we should be learning every day.



December 5, 2017

Sneakernomics: Retail Should be Omnipresent, not Omnichannel

I’ve never liked the term “omnichannel” to describe the new sports retail environment. To me, this is looking at the business from an old school, logistics-driven point of view. 

What we need in sports retail is a customer-centric approach. Brands and retailers are no longer in charge of the conversation or transaction; the consumers are 100 percent in charge, and they demand to shop whenever, wherever, and however they want. In other words, retail must be omnipresent, not omnichannel.

Brands and retailers no longer create trends; they feed trends. In order to feed consumer-driven trends, brand and retailers must have their products available 24/7 and on a variety of platforms. The sports consumer is moving back and forth between various shopping platforms. An omnipresent retailer must be able to meet the consumer wherever he/she may be.

Omnipresent sports retail will change the platform of physical stores. Stores will now be showrooms for a broader online assortment, warehouses for e-commerce fulfillment, and return/exchange centers.

So, how does a physical store become omnipresent?  By developing one singular view of the consumer.

Omnipresent retail has one database housing all the transaction history from their customers. These databases also have information on sports consumers’ preferences and interests.

There is only one retail inventory at an omnipresent retailer. All inventory—whether in a store, warehouse, or even in shared vendor sites—is visible and common.

Omnipresent retail has one price, regardless of where the sale is completed. That price must be transparent, matching any other competing price in competitors’ or brands’ sites.

There can only be one voice for an omnipresent retailer, which means marketing messages must be consistent across all platforms.

Omnipresent retailers have one set of policies for everything like returns to shipping fees. Policies must be consistent, regardless of where the consumer shops.

It is also critical that loyalty programs are consistent across all platforms. As loyalty programs become even more important, the platform cannot dictate the programs.

As the Internet of things becomes more pervasive, and with the growth of voice controlled shopping, omnipresence will become even more critical to brand and retailer success.


December 4, 2017

Cyber Season

I’m just a sample of one, but I witnessed what I thought to be healthy crowds at a suburban New York mall on Black Friday. I also heard from a few others (who braved outlet centers!) that cars were being turned away due to lack of available parking. Post-holiday weekend press coverage also seems to support my anecdotal findings about store traffic. 

But we have three pre-holiday shopping weeks to go, and I anticipate that much of that foot traffic will become finger traffic from here on out. Cyber Monday is now behind us, with seemingly record results. Predictably, as I sit here writing this, many of the “screenbusters” have been extended and are running through what is now Cyber Week. And, we’ve still got Green Monday (a newer shopping holiday with “green” referring to money, not the environment), and Free Shipping Friday coming up mid-month, all likely to extend beyond one day as well. Clearly, online promotions will abound for the rest of the season, allowing consumers to get the best deals from home, the office, and everywhere in between (hello speedy new iPhone X).  

While Holiday (November and December) is obviously a key time for in-store purchasing, it’s proven to be even more important for online shopping. In 2016, 26 percent of fashion footwear sales in the U.S. were generated online during January-October, with growth of 7 percent versus January-October 2015.  But, during Holiday 2016, the percentage of sales generated online jumped to 29 percent and growth versus the prior year increased by 10 percent. This was, of course, at the expense of in-store sales, which were flat versus the prior year during the January-October, period but declined 7 percent during Holiday 2016*. 

So, what’s in store (pun intended) for this holiday season? Year to date, online purchasing has accounted for 27 percent of fashion footwear sales, with dollar volume flat compared to last year*. I expect this penetration to reach between 30-33 percent of sales for the holiday season; and I anticipate online growth to pick up as well, into the mid-single digits compared to holiday last year.  

Of course, as more sales move online, especially during the concentrated holiday shopping period, managing returns is a growing concern. This year, some major retailers have quietly rolled out digital gifting technology to facilitate online gift giving. The recipient can choose something else (or a gift card in some cases) before their gift is ever delivered, thus minimizing the return risk. This holiday season will be the first real test for these types of services, likely to see only light adoption, but the potential is there for this to become another key driver of online holiday sales in the future. I’m planning on giving this a shot this year, and will report back. 

 

*Source: The NPD Group / Consumer Tracking Service



November 30, 2017

Sneakernomics: “Surprise and Delight”

A wise man once told me that a retailer’s first responsibility is to “surprise and delight” their customers. Boy, does it feel like we’ve lost that thread. Shopping has never felt more joyless.

So, how can sports retailers bring back “surprise and delight?”

One thought is to really “surprise” again. Today, sneaker marketers “leak” pictures of new shoes to bloggers months before the shoes hit retail. I had one Twitter follower tell me, “I’m angry about this shoe. I really want it, but I know I’ll see pictures of it for six months and then I won’t be able to get a pair anyway.” Another said, “I’m already sick of this shoe and it hasn’t even hit retail yet.” What if we stopped leaking pictures and forced consumers to come into our stores to see what is new?

I’ve talked about the lifecycle of shoes and trends becoming shorter and shorter. The up cycle of performance basketball lasted only three years and broke the ankles of the industry when it ended. If shoes had not been in the public eye for months and were only revealed on the shoe wall, the trend might have lasted longer and not ended as precipitously.

I wrote a blog recently about lessons for the sports industry to learn from fast fashion. I noted that the typical Zara customer visits Zara 17 times a year. How often does the sports customer visit our stores - maybe two or three times? What if there was a discovery, a surprise, every time the customer came in? I’m betting that if the consumer saw something fresh each time, he or she would come back more often (and buy more often).

Of course we cannot turn our inventories as quickly as fast fashion, but new products are flowing all the time. We need to think about ways to creatively call out these new products on our floors.

We also must return to scarcity as a fundamental principle. Great brands were built in the sports industry by never having enough stock to meet demand. Now, those products are seen in abundance and the cachet is clearly gone.

Retailers and brands make the greatest profit percentage on styles that sell out. Styles that sell out make way for new and fresh stock. Inventory is like fruit; it does not get better with age.

The sports industry is in a downward spiral, and price is the primary driver. We must get back to the days of inspirational and aspirational products that “surprise and delight.”


November 28, 2017

Sneakernomics: Black Friday 2017

As expected, Black Friday 2017 was marked by broader and deeper discounts than last year. Promotions started earlier than last year as well. Most Black Friday deals were available before Thanksgiving.

In 2016, we saw most discounts at about 20-25 percent off and styles were limited. This year there were many promotions that went as deep as 40 percent off, and many were on entire stocks instead of select styles. At retail, I saw discounts that were deeper than were advertised. The most heavily promoted sports-related categories were boots, basketball shoes, and sweatshirts.

Foot traffic was slightly better than last year, but it appeared to me that fewer people were actually buying. While I am not checking purchases made from shoppers’ phones, which have consistently been on the rise, it is likely that shoppers were reviewing products of interest in-person and then searching for the best price online.

The sports industry does not have the same doorbuster appeal as electronics; most of the sports doorbusters appeared to be in stock well into the afternoon.

Black Friday is known for being a time for major shoe releases, but all the releases of scale appear to still be in stock. In the past, those releases would have been sold out in the first few hours. Brands are putting far too many pairs of “limited” releases into the market.

All in all, it was a weaker start to Holiday 2017 for the U.S. sports industry, but given an earlier Thanksgiving this year and with almost four weeks to go before Christmas, there is opportunity for the industry to rebound from a soft Thanksgiving weekend.

Black Friday ad items of note:

  • Nike.com: 25% off clearance
  • UA.com: 30% off fleece; 40% off other key items
  • L.L. Bean: 25% off Bean boots
  • Cabela’s: 25% off Under Armour
  • Champs: 50% off Under Armour apparel
  • Dick’s: Adidas Tiro pants and Team Issue fleece, $29.98; Nike and Under Armour fleece $39.98; 40% off Adidas apparel; 25% off Nike apparel; 25% off North Face; Select shoes $39.98- 69.98, including Roshe ($59.98) and Free RN ($69.98)
  • Finish Line: Up to 40% off Nike footwear
  • Kohl’s: 25-40% off Under Armour; 25-30% off Nike
  • Olympia: 50% off Under Armour fleece; 25-35% off Nike fleece; Champion fleece, BOGO $2.99
  • Rack Room/Off Broadway: BOGO Free boots
  • Super Shoes: 25% off Nike; Skechers, Half-price


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