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Sports Market Research & Business Solutions

In today’s world, it seems everyone is an athlete, an outdoorsman, and a yogi. Or wants to be. Or at least wants to look like one.

To help you win in this growing market, The NPD Group provides the broadest and deepest global view of the sports and recreation marketplace. With NPD you get the most complete, accurate, and comprehensive information about your products’ sales and your consumers to help you track trends, identify business opportunities, and grow sales. 

NPD’s information is a critical ingredient in new product forecasting, segmentation, price and promotion evaluation, and market forecasting. Categories include hiking, camping, snow and ski, cycling, running and fitness, athletic footwear, active apparel, and team sports equipment.

The NPD Group’s data delivery tools equip you to dig into your products’ performance at the category, brand, and item levels. And you can take a step back to understand the macro view of sales trends by looking across relevant categories, for a complete industry view.

A team of dedicated sports industry analysts will help you put the data in context. They mine our consumer and point-of-sale (POS) research to tell you who buys your products – and your competitors’ products – and where, when, how and why they use them.

Interested in becoming a retail partner? Learn more now


Sports
Solutions


Retail Tracking

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

Monthly Retail Tracking: 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.

Weekly Retail Tracking: Monitor product launches, promotions, and seasonal sales cycles, especially when fast market response is required. This service delivers a clear view of a promotion’s impact during the week or weeks the promotional event occurred. It gives you the flexibility to more effectively analyze sales influenced by holidays, seasons, and even weather events. This service also allows you to analyze actual market price changes with increased precision, so you can better align pricing with drivers, and make apples-to-apples comparisons to the previous year.


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 NPD’s 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 down to the DMA level, and plan and evaluate effectiveness of targeted activities. Call on NPD’s 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 adjust your marketing focus and 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. It covers more than 400 e-commerce retailers including direct-to-consumer and provides 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.



Sports
Reports


Exclusive Offer for Outdoor Industry Association Members

Our partnership with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) gives OIA members the ability to access a top-level outdoor industry report covering sales of outdoor equipment, equipment accessories, apparel, and footwear, at a discounted price.

The report provides insight into performance across the three core outdoor retail channels: outdoor specialty; sports specialty ecommerce; and athletic specialty & sporting goods.  With this insight on outdoor industry retail trends, industry members gain easier access to current market opportunities and trends to better evaluate the business of outdoor retail, drive sales, and improve results.

The report is intended to provide a comprehensive view of the core outdoor marketplace, including growth and sales trends across all outdoor categories from hiking, camping and climbing to trail running and mountaineering.

In this report you can review sales

  • Time periods (current, 3 month rolling, 12 month rolling)
  • Channels
  • Categories
  • Class
  • Sub class
  • Sub class segment

This report provides the following metrics:

  • Dollars sold
  • Dollar share
  • Units sold
  • Unit share
  • Average selling price


Global Sport Estimate

For nearly a decade, our Global Sport Estimate has been the go-to source of industry insight for sports industry leaders around the world. You can use the 2017 release to explore new data and insights on the categories that matter to your business. No other source matches this report’s breadth and depth of sports industry insight. See what sports activities and product categories are capturing consumers’ attention and spending, across 19 countries and 17 sports. Use it to spot opportunities for growth and investment, understand the dynamics in a variety of sports, assess your market share, and gauge the impact of exchange rates.



Sports
Press Releases


February 20, 2018

Let it Snow! Early Season Sales for Snow Sports Gear Begin Strong, but Weather Shifts the Game, Reports NPD

Early 2017/2018 season sales for the U.S. snow sports market were off to a great start; however, a lack of snow caused December sales to fall short, according to global information company The NPD Group. Dollar sales grew 8 percent from August through November 2017 compared to the prior year, but a 6 percent decline in December slowed the season-to-date’s growth rate down to 1 percent. Thus far, the snow industry generated $3.9 billion in retail sales during these collective five months.


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.


December 11, 2017

Sales of Baseball Bats Grow Double Digits as New USABat Approved Products Begin Hitting the Market, Reports The NPD Group

Baseball/softball bat sales in the U.S. were down in the 12 months ending October 2017,* but experienced a turnaround in the last two months to coincide with the updated USA Baseball Bat (USABat) guidelines, according to retail sales data from global information company The NPD Group. Looking at the eight weeks since new USABat approved products began reaching store shelves in September, dollar sales for the category have grown by 11 percent, with the growth being driven by a 24 percent increase in average selling price.**


October 3, 2017

It’s Electric! E-Bikes Led by Higher Price Points Drive Bicycle Sales in the U.S.

Electric bicycles are showing strong year-over-year growth in the U.S., with dollar sales growing by 95 percent in the 12 months ending July 2017, and unit sales up 96 percent, according to global information company The NPD Group. A $64.9 million category today, electric bicycle sales have nearly tripled over the last 36 months.


August 29, 2017

Back-to-School Shoppers Don’t Spend All In One Place or At One Time, Reports NPD

The back-to-school shopping season isn’t about one-stop shopping, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Back-to-school shoppers make an average of 16 trips to purchase back-to-school related products between July and September, according to NPD’s receipt mining service, Checkout TrackingSM.


August 1, 2017

Hydration is a Hot Spot for the U.S. Outdoor Industry, Reports The NPD Group

Water may seem like a small luxury, but consumers are showing that they are willing to pay the price for it. According to global information company The NPD Group, Inc., hydration represents a $345.7 million category within the core U.S. outdoor industry*, with sales up 16 percent in the 12 months ending May 2017. Dollar sales have grown by $94 million in the past two years, or 37 percent.


May 17, 2017

The NPD Group Expands Retail Tracking Service to Cover U.S. Team Sports Equipment

Global information company The NPD Group today announced that it has expanded its Retail Tracking Service to provide the most comprehensive view of the U.S. team sports equipment market. Data will encompass the major categories of basketball, football, baseball, softball, soccer, hockey and field hockey, racquet sports, golf, and lacrosse.


March 13, 2017

U.S. Climbing Industry Reaches New Heights: Sales Rise as the Outdoor Experience is Brought Inside

The urbanized and less-traditional camping phenomenon has made its way into the U.S. climbing market. Beyond the mountains, increasing popularity of indoor climbing has sparked new interest in the activity, helping the industry to grow by 13 percent in the 12 months ending January 2017, according to global information company The NPD Group. The industry has grown its sales by $52.9 million since 2014, reaching a four-year high of $175.5 million.


January 30, 2017

U.S. Athletic Footwear Industry Grows 3 Percent to $17.5 Billion in 2016, Despite Turbulence in Q4, NPD Group Reports

The U.S. athletic footwear industry grew by 3 percent in 2016*, generating $17.5 billion, according to global information company The NPD Group. Unit sales also grew by 3 percent and average selling price remained flat, at $60.81.


January 30, 2017

U.S. Athletic Footwear Industry Grows 3 Percent to $17.5 Billion in 2016, Despite Turbulence in Q4, NPD Group Reports

The U.S. athletic footwear industry grew by 3 percent in 2016*, generating $17.5 billion, according to global information company The NPD Group. Unit sales also grew by 3 percent and average selling price remained flat, at $60.81.


Sports
Insights


January 29, 2018

The Future of Sports Retail

It’s no secret that brick and mortar retail is in trouble. Even industry giants are closing hundreds of stores. How can retailers bring shoppers back to physical stores? Hear what some Millennials had to say about the future of sports retail.


January 23, 2018

How Do Millennials Communicate?

Phone calls, texts, or email? Watch now to hear how Millennials prefer to communicate.


January 19, 2018

Matt Powell Talks Sports With Millennials – What Gets Millennials Into Stores?

The changing shopping tastes of the younger generation are implicated in the closing of hundreds of stores and are leading them to mostly shop online. But, what can retailers do to change this habit and get this age group to shop in stores? Watch this video to hear what some Millennials had to say.


January 11, 2018

Matt Powell Talks Sports with Millennials – Online vs. In Store

Everyone talks about how millennials are changing the way shopping is done, but how true is that really? Matt Powell chats with graduate students at Rutgers University to find out what their shopping habits are.


October 25, 2017

Follow Your Muse

Retailers’ days of being all things to all people are over. Consumers want to shop in stores that seem to be made just for them. Find your muse and focus on that customer. Watch Matt Powell’s view on why designing assortments for your customers is a vital component in today’s retail landscape. And, don’t forget to download his guide to retail success.


October 23, 2017

All Shopping is Social

All shopping is social. Your customers share their experiences pre-purchase, at purchase, and post-purchase. How can retailers capitalize in that sharing? Watch Matt Powell’s new video on how social media impacts in-store business and be sure to download his guide to retail success.


October 18, 2017

The Effect of Online

In the U.S., one in every four athletic shoe purchases happens online; in Germany, that number is one in three. There always will be physical stores, just fewer of them. And mobile plays an increasingly important role as the primary shopping method. Watch Matt Powell’s take on how the Internet is impacting physical store sales and make sure to download his guide to retail success.


October 16, 2017

In-Store Opportunities

There are too many stores in the U.S. Right now, the retail market has over 23 square feet for every man, woman, and child in the country. See Matt Powell’s recommendations on getting ahead of in-store opportunities and make sure to download his guide to retail success.


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.


August 31, 2017

DeadStock "The History of Resellin"

Sports and Footwear Industry Analyst Matt Powell shares his insights on the sneaker industry in this documentary DeadStock "The History of Resellin,” which tells the story of the sneaker game and its highs and lows.



Sports
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts


February 23, 2018

Sneakernomics: Sports Retail in the Internet Age, Part 1

In 2017, growth in the U.S. athletic footwear and activewear markets meagerly improved. While sales in physical stores declined, online sales grew in the high single-digits. We can expect this pattern of online sales driving industry growth to continue.

At retail, a record number of physical stores closed in 2017 and it’s expected that even more will close over the next two years. Some have predicted that there will be 25 percent fewer malls in the U.S. Sports retailers are facing a very challenging time, especially in the brick-and-mortar channel.

Of course brick-and-mortar sports retail will continue to exist, but the industry must accept the fact that there will be fewer physical stores in the future, physical stores will contribute a smaller portion of total sales, and that profits in physical stores will get squeezed.

In this downsizing, which doors will close? Retailers must look towards building models that predict which stores are the likely closure candidates and move swiftly to get those units behind them. Stores that just break even today are never going to make money again. Stores that are in malls with vulnerable anchors will likely not survive. We cannot expect stores that are not growing now to return to growth. Closing marginally profitable or unprofitable doors improves the health and profitability of the remaining smaller companies. Retailers must be ruthless in their rationalization strategies.

Retailers must respond to this new normal. To compete in this new world order and hold onto their territory, they must elevate the shopping experience.

Today we have the ability to make the shopping experience more personal than ever before. With contextual marketing, retailers can know what their shoppers bought and can find ways to add on to or enhance that purchase. Consumers want to shop at retailers that know their needs and desires, sometimes even before they know themselves.

Shopping must also be easy and frictionless. Too many steps and too much time wasted are all negatives for today’s consumer. In addition, all shopping is social today. A consumer’s most important influencers are his/her peers. Retailers must make it easy for shopping to be more social.

Part of making shopping easier is to bring the internet into the store. Physical and virtual shelves need to be more fluidly intertwined. Retailers should arm sales associates with devices that can easily access inventory. These devices can also be great training tools for the sales associates.

Physical retail also needs to elevate the quality of their sales associates. With a tight labor market and increasing minimum wages, we can now demand more from our sales associates. If we pay peanuts, we get a different level of quality than if we pay top dollar and can demand the best.

Not all of these suggestions are easy. Many are complicated and expensive, but retailers must transform shopping into a unique and cohesive experience if they are to survive in the age of the internet.



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 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.


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


November 15, 2017

Sneakernomics: The Private Brand Defense

This is turning out to be the most promotional year in U.S. sports retail that I have ever seen. Having too much of the wrong inventory forces brands to loosen the reins on minimum advertised price (MAP) policies, which has caused formerly aspirational and inspirational products to be on sale pretty much 24/7. The brands themselves have been the worst offenders.

While there is talk about restricting MAP policies next year, there is no way for brands to do that without taking a hit on sales. No one can afford to do that right now.

There is one area of growth to consider: private label brands. Let’s take activewear as an example. According to data from NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, the aggregate of all private brands represented about 20 percent share of the U.S. activewear market in the third quarter of 2017, making it the largest “brand” reported. Private brand sales grew more than 20 percent, well above the low single-digit growth seen in all of activewear combined.

Retailers are turning more and more to private brands in an attempt to get above this promotional quagmire and to drive greater sales and profits. With the never-ending promotional environment, retailers must take action to protect sales and profits.

As brands move more of their business to direct-to-consumer, retailers need to insulate themselves from the increased and formidable competition. Private brands can create that insulation.

Retailers should develop private brands that complement their assortments. Duplicative products will only confuse the customer and create more markdowns.

The concepts behind PUNY (premium, unique, new, and young) should inform private brand development. The goal of private brands should be to elevate assortments and the retailer’s own brand. The market doesn’t need more programs that must be promoted to move; traditional brands are giving us plenty of that.

Private brands don’t have to include all four principles of PUNY, but should include at least three.  “Premium” is a subjective term that means something different to every retailer. “Unique” should reflect the personality of the retailer.

Private brands are much easier to execute in apparel than in footwear, due to footwear’s high development costs. But, given the non-tech modern runner trend we are seeing, new products are easier to develop. It would not surprise me to see a smaller, more entrepreneurial footwear brand connect with retailers to build private brand shoes for them.

There is no end in sight to the promotional death spiral we are in. Retailers must seize their own fortunes, and build out private brands.



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