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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 is the gold standard consumer receipt panel for tracking and analyzing consumer behavior across general merchandise and foodservice. We offer the most robust e-commerce data plus tailored analytics to help you keep current customers and win new ones. 


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.


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 12, 2019

Snow’s on the Ground and Sales are Sound for Snow Sports Gear in the U.S.

With ski areas in the U.S. reporting record-breaking snow fall, Mother Nature has been good to the snow sports market so far this season. Winter/snow sports gear sales grew 7 percent from August through December 2018, to $4.3 billion, according to NPD. Snowboard equipment sales are doing particularly well.


January 30, 2019

NPD to Acquire Assets Relating To SportsOneSource POS Sports and Outdoor Tracking Business

The NPD Group has signed an agreement with SportsOneSource, LLC (SOS) to acquire assets relating to the company’s SSI Data POS Sports and Outdoor tracking business. The transaction is expected to close on April 1, 2019. SOS will continue to collect data and service clients through March 31, 2019.


January 14, 2019

U.S. Golf Market Sales on the Upswing, Rising 8 Percent as Consumers Show Renewed Interest in Spending on the Sport

Following shakeups in the U.S. golf retail business over the last few years, the market has not only recuperated but experienced a significant uptick in sales over the last 12 months. Golf sales in the mass/sporting goods retail space generated $2.6 billion and grew by 8 percent in the 12 months ending November 2018.


November 21, 2018

France Sports Apparel and Athletic Footwear Industry Grows 4 Percent to 6.68 Billion Euros Over the 12 Months Ending September 2018

Market research company, The NPD Group, offers year-to-date sales insights for sports apparel and athletic footwear in France.


November 5, 2018

Outerwear, Fanny Packs, and other Bags Drive U.S. Outdoor Industry Sales, Reports NPD

Within the $18.8 billion outdoor industry, the bag business and fanny pack comeback is being driven by travel and consumer affinity for experiential spending, while weather has helped outerwear sales.


August 8, 2018

Golf and Racquet Sports Equipment Sales on the Upswing, Reports The NPD Group

With both the 2018 PGA Championship and US Open Tennis Championship coming up, the golf and tennis equipment markets have something to celebrate.


July 23, 2018

The NPD Group Offers Interbike Attendees Customized Reporting around U.S. Cycling Trends

The service will provide attending retailers with complimentary category reports of their choice on nationwide selling trends and top sellers, along with a list of the top-performing brands and items being exhibited at Interbike.


July 9, 2018

U.S. Outdoor Industry Sales Have Declined, but Growth Opportunities Exist with Consumers’ Appetite for Experiential Spending

Outdoor industry sales overall have been in decline, but pockets of growth suggest that adaptable products associated with travel, as well as those tied to replenishment are bright spots within the outdoor marketplace.


June 12, 2018

Sales of Soccer Shoes in Russia Grew By 8 Percent Over The Past Year

While the soccer sportswear market in Russia is smaller compared to countries like the U.S., U.K., and Germany, it shows growth potential. Over the past year, soccer shoe sales in Russia grew by 8 percent while the apparel market remained flat; however, growth is expected to accelerate thanks to the World Cup.


April 10, 2018

The U.S. Bike Specialty Market Pedals Ahead, with Mountain and Electric Bicycles Leading the Pack

In the U.S. bike specialty market, mountain and electric bicycles are leading the pack today. Higher price bands are growing; new brands are emerging; and innovations in drivetrains, suspension, and electronics are taking place.


Sports
Insights


January 25, 2019

U.S. Golf Market Sales on the Upswing

Consumers are showing renewed interest in spending on golf, leading to market growth of +8%. Over the last few years, the market has not only recuperated — it has experienced a significant uptick in sales over the last 12 months, following shakeups in the U.S. golf retail business.


January 14, 2019

Generation Z Sports Apparel Shoppers in South Korea

Born between 1995 and 2014, Generation Z consumers are now at the forefront of the global retail market’s evolution, including the shift toward experience-oriented brand communication.


November 13, 2018

8 Expectations for Holiday 2018

We asked our top industry advisors to weigh in on how they see Holiday 2018 shaping up for their respective industries. Drawing upon Holiday 2017 trends, the retail environment during the first three quarters of 2018, and our 2018 Holiday Purchase Intentions survey, the advisors shared what to expect this holiday season, both in stores and online.


November 1, 2018

5 Things Smart Industries Are Doing to Engage Consumers

In this paper, released at Summer Outdoor Retailer, NPD's Industry Advisor Matt Powell looks to growing industries' strategies to fuel the outdoor sports market.


October 17, 2018

E-commerce Trends You Can't Ignore

The emergence of the endless aisle has created stiff competition for brands and retailers trying to win online. Uncover the latest e-commerce trends across fashion, home, and technology. Read on to see how successful brands and retailers are winning by leveraging digital content to engage with consumers.


October 15, 2018

Demand Rises for Women’s Sports Apparel in South Korea

The South Korean government’s push to shorten the number of working hours has resulted in more spare time for the country’s women to become more aware of, and involved in, sports activities.


August 30, 2018

What the Fashion Industry is Learning From Sports

What can fashion brands learn from sports? Hear Matt Powell’s expertise.


August 3, 2018

3 Ways to Foster a Seamless Consumer Experience in the Future

In the future, brands and retailers will adapt to increased consumer demand for more seamless experiences. See how this will impact every aspect of their lives—from the kitchen to the gym.


July 16, 2018

Play To Win: 15 Sports Across 19 Countries

Consumer spending in the global sports market is growing, and that means there is abundant opportunity for companies that know how to get the right products in the right places for the right people. See what we see — by country, by sport, by use, and more.


May 1, 2018

The U.S. Bike Specialty Market Pedals Ahead

While U.S. cycling sales have been soft across the “rest of market” channel, the specialty channel has been stable thanks to the pockets of growth and shifts that are driving the market.



Sports
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts


February 15, 2019

Sneakernomics: Predictions for Sports Retail in 2019

I am anticipating a rocky year for sports retail in 2019, as macro issues will likely weigh heavily on the industry. The extra 53rd week in the 2018 retail calendar, which was accounted for in January 2018, will start us off in a bit of a hole. The government shutdown cost the U.S. economy $11 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and it will delay tax refunds and EITC checks, which will have a negative impact on sales that won’t be regained. The looming tariffs, if implemented, are likely to dampen sales further and last year’s tax cut “bump” cannot be repeated.

Taking that all into consideration, my expectation is we will see a low single digit increase in the U.S. athletic footwear market in 2019 – substantially lower than the mid-single digit growth in 2018. The heavily promotional environment driven by the brands is unlikely to abate. We currently have no hot item to drive sales and, in fact, many previous ones are now in decline. Without a hot new look to drive interest, we cannot expect robust results.

Looking at some of the major brands, I anticipate that Adidas will continue to take share in the first half of 2019 on account of the Yeezy expansion, but keeping this momentum through the end of year will likely be challenging. I expect we’ll see a sales increase for the Nike brand, though soft Brand Jordan and Converse results may impact Nike, Inc.’s overall results. I expect the bulk of Nike’s growth in 2019 will come from their direct-to-consumer efforts, but as they further develop this channel they should also not lose sight of their wholesale partners. Given the shrinking of the performance footwear category, Under Armour will need to pursue opportunities beyond core performance to generate growth for the brand.

With small continuing to be the new big, I anticipate smaller (and non-traditional) brands will outperform the overall market. 

From a sales channel perspective, online will continue to grow faster than physical stores, which will force further rationalization of brick-and-mortar outlets.

In activewear, we can also expect a low single-digit sales increase for 2019. Pressure from verticals and non-core brands will likely increase. As in footwear, small brands will outperform the market. In addition, I expect that private label and e-commerce will be the primary growth drivers for activewear sales.

In terms of sports equipment, declining participation will likely leaven the surge in retirees which lifted golf and tennis sales last year. After a boom in baseball in 2018 due to new youth bat regulations, we can expect a negative trend for baseball equipment sales in 2019. Soccer equipment saw a lift in 2018 thanks to the World Cup, but will likely give back those gains in 2019. Given these circumstances that were unique to 2018, the sports equipment market will need to capitalize on new, long term opportunities to succeed in this new year.  

In these challenging times, what can retailers and brands do to stand out?

  • Consumers have told us that they are willing to spend more money on products that are made sustainably. I believe there is a significant growth opportunity here, as brands and retailers can do a better job of educating consumers and calling out sustainable characteristics in their products.
  • Loyalty programs are providing great leverage for brands and retailers. Rewarding your best customers remains a powerful tool.
  • Personalization of the shopping experience is key, but a lot of what is being passed off as “customer experience” is just gimmicks and parlor tricks. Brands and retailers must make their customers feel more important.
  • It’s quality over quantity; not everyone will survive in this environment. Brands and retailers must pick the winning products and elevate those that they think will thrive. Others should not necessarily be cut off, but marginalized.
  • Social responsibility is a message that resonates with the consumer. Purpose driven brands and retailers will outperform those that do not express their positions on social issues.
  • Brands and retailers must create a blended experience where the physical and digital worlds are completely intertwined. Shopping must be a totally seamless experience.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of your customer and communicate with them on every platform. Anticipate trends and respond quickly and aggressively.

All in all, 2019 will be a challenging year for the sports industry, but those that seize these opportunities can thrive.



February 5, 2019

Sneakernomics: What Really Happened with Athletic Footwear and Activewear Sales in 2018

U.S. athletic footwear sales grew in the mid-single digits for the year, exceeding my expectations due to strong Q4 results. Many of the factors for growth were one-offs and unlikely to be replicable in 2019, so fresh opportunities must be sought after for growth in this new year. The 53rd week in the 2018 retail calendar, which was accounted for in January 2018, produced about one-third of the market’s growth. 

Here are some of the major highlights:

Footwear

Fourth quarter sales gains for cold/all weather boots helped to drive sales gains for the year; the weather was a big factor in its success.

The “democratization” of Adidas’s Yeezy franchise led to unexpected gains, in my opinion, with sales up more than five times. Whether Yeezy can withstand the pressure of the expanded allocation remains to be seen.

Performance footwear categories were all negative for the third year running, as the athleisure trend has fully taken over athletic footwear. Running, training, and basketball all experienced sales declines. Basketball, in particular, shrunk to one of its smallest sales numbers in years. However, while performance struggles the opportunity lies in athletic inspired sneakers with a performance-based heritage, as they are reaping the benefits of this shift. Sport lifestyle footwear, designed for style and every day wear and not for engaging in sport activity, continues to drive the broader footwear market and now represents nearly half of all athletic shoes sold in the U.S. Also included in this segment are skate shoes and sport slides, which both also had a solid year with sales growing by more than 40 percent and over 20 percent, respectively.

Among the more sport-specific footwear, soccer boots grew in the low singles, which I’ve observed is typical during a World Cup year. Those gains are often given back the following year. Baseball and football cleats both declined.

Looking at retail channel performance, premium department stores had the greatest increase, as they fully exploited the athleisure trend. The athletic specialty/sporting goods channel grew in the low single digits for the year, with particular strength during Q4. Shoe chains improved their sales in the high singles, while mid-tier department stores were up in the mid-singles.

By brand, Adidas sales grew in the high teens in 2018 and took over 100 basis points in share. Adidas now has the highest share I’ve ever recorded. Nike brand had a mid-single increase, showing renewed interest in and growth for the brand. Nike Inc. grew in the low singles, with growth in the Nike brand partially offset by declines in Brand Jordan and Converse. It is still newsworthy that the largest athletic footwear brand is growing again.

The top selling athletic footwear styles for 2018, in dollar rank order, were dominated by Nike. These styles were: Nike Tanjun, Nike Air Max 270, Converse Chuck Taylor Ox Low, Jordan XI, Nike Air Huarache, Vans Ward, Nike Revolution 4, Nike Flex Contact, Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 v2, and Nike Air Force 1 Low.

Vans had a banner year as sales increased by nearly 60 percent, and Brooks grew by nearly 30 percent. New Balance, Reebok, and Skechers all grew, while Under Armour, ASICS, Saucony, and Mizuno posted declines.

Activewear

In 2018, activewear sales increased in the low single-digits, also boosted primarily by the 53rd week mentioned above. The men’s and kids markets both grew, while women's declined.

Premium outerwear, sweatshirts, and activewear bottoms were the stand-out categories. Bras and socks continued to decline.

By channel, premium department stores grew the fastest, with sales up nearly 10 percent, but mid-tier department stores and athletic specialty/sporting goods outlets also saw gains.

The aggregation of all the retailers’ private brands was again the largest “brand” and growth driver. Adidas apparel grew by more than a third, and Nike improved in the high single-digits, while Under Armour sales declined. The North Face, Columbia, and Patagonia all experienced gains.



January 24, 2019

Sneakernomics: Golf and Team Sports Equipment 2018 Recap

Overall it was a fair year for the U.S. team sports equipment market. Dollar sales were up in the low single-digits, due to the 53rd week in the 2018 retail calendar. Without that extra week, sales would have been flat compared to 2017.

The big story for 2018 was baseball/softball equipment sales, which grew in the high single-digits. Most of the growth came from composite bats, which improved by about 30 percent. This surge in traffic and sales was, in part, a result of new youth bat safety regulations that required most youth players to replace their bats. On the brand side, anyone making composite baseball bats did well. Unfortunately, the market will likely give those gains back in 2019, and the brands and retailers will struggle to anniversary these sales in 2019.

Golf was another bright spot. After years of soft sales, the category bounced back with a mid-single digit increase. My theory is that this increase in golf is being driven by the wave of retirees. We are retiring about 50,000 people every day in the U.S., and many of them are looking for some kind of recreational activity. One of the top growth categories in golf were complete golf sets, particularly at opening price-points, suggesting new entrants. On the brand level, most golf brands did well, led by Callaway.

The systemic issues for golf and Millennials (covered here) have not changed, but we can expect this surge in retirees to sustain moderate growth for the golf market in the near term. I believe a similar trend is also giving a lift to tennis equipment sales, which experienced a low single-digit increase in 2018.

Basketball equipment sales (just like basketball shoes) continue to struggle. No doubt kids are finding it easier to shoot threes with their thumbs on their PS4, rather than to actually practice in their driveway.

Football equipment sales also struggled, as parents remain concerned about player injury. In my home state of Maine, high schools are having trouble fielding enough kids to make an 11 a side team. The Maine high school association is encouraging schools to shift to eight-man leagues.

Soccer sales had a low single-digit increase. This is typical in a World Cup year, and typically we give back those gains the following year.

Lacrosse, field and ice hockey, track and field, volleyball, and bowling all posted declines in 2018. Combat and wrestling equipment had a solid year, as the popularity of watching mixed martial arts continues to grow.

A major missed opportunity was universal protective gear, which remained flat over 2017. With heightened parental concerns over injury, there is an opportunity to sell protective gear as an add-on to every equipment sale.

It was a mixed bag for the team sports equipment market in 2018. The resurgence in golf sales is encouraging, and for other sports, promoting and increasing participation is a critical component to generating sales. 



January 7, 2019

Sneakernomics: Nobody Wins a Race to the Bottom

The U.S. sports retail business used to be aspirational and inspirational. Consumers used to believe that these products would help them perform better, which would often lead to being inspired to take up new activities. And if the products didn’t help their performance, most consumers were happy with how they looked wearing them.

Now, we have a race to the bottom; and that’s a race nobody wins.

Holiday 2017 was the most promotional on record – that is, until Holiday 2018. This season’s promotional activity was driven by the brands, which are making it ever more apparent that their growth comes at any expense, including that of their wholesale partners.

Most brands kicked off their holiday promotions before Black Friday, setting the tone for the season. One brand took 40 percent of its outlet pricing, signaling both a sales and inventory problem. Another was deeply discounting every week during the season.

The retailers were not immune to the promotions, with one taking 25 percent off the whole store (which is the surest way to sell all the good stuff at a discount and be left with the rest in need of further reductions).

We’ve trained our customers to wait for the deal. The products selling quickly are those that consumers think they can flip in resale marketplaces. And even that model is starting to show flaws. In an unprecedented event, one reseller took 15 percent off a popular “designer’s” shoe before the holidays. Resale multiples continue to sag.

What caused this to happen? Weak product lines, failed business models, and too much reliance on old thinking is my opinion.

It’s not too late to change the course here. But brands will have to be disciplined (and do less business, in the short term). Retailers will have to be restrained from chasing the last (and least profitable) sale.

It’s going to be hard to put that genie back in the bottle, but it is possible. We need to return the industry to one of aspiration and inspiration or we run the risk of just being another teen retailer, with massive discounts needed to populate the stores. This new year brings with it new opportunity for the industry to change course.



November 27, 2018

Sneakernomics: Hot Topics at the Outdoor Retailer Show

At Outdoor Retailer’s first ever November show earlier this month, I put a different spin on the format of my industry trend breakfast and focused on a Q&A, taking questions from the audience. Here are some the questions and common themes I’ve identified as being top of mind for folks in the industry.  

We are seeing more subscription boxes at our doorstep, Millennial-friendly catalogs in our mailbox, and pop-up stores around our cities. What do you see as the future of these retail trends for the apparel and general soft goods markets?

While there’s a lot of hype around subscriptions, we are seeing a high level of subscription abandonment. If subscription services are to succeed, they need to develop products that are more personalized. They also must leverage their best customers, as they represent the majority of the sales. Catalogs present another way for brands and retailers to be omnipresent – available to the consumer whenever, wherever, and however they want to shop. Pop-ups are fun and a great brand builder, but I don’t expect them to be commercially profitable in the long run. However, with the amount of retail vacancies, there may be an opportunity to exploit the lower rents.

What are some of the major generational trends? What other cohorts should the outdoor industry focus on bringing in? 

Boomers are no longer acquiring many things. Instead, they are spending their money on experiences, such as travel. The outdoor industry has so far failed to fully leverage this interest in travel. Millennials remain cash strapped, so they are looking for value and versatility. The outdoor industry remains too focused on pinnacle products and is leaving money on the table. The secondary market (rent, buy used, Uber-like services) is ideal for the Millennial as it is less expensive for each use and much more convenient. Both Millennials and Gen Z consumers are supporters of sustainability, and the outdoor industry must raise the bar on speaking forcefully to these issues. In terms of other groups that should be emphasized, the outdoor industry continues to underserve the female consumer. The women’s market is our greatest failure, yet our great opportunity. In addition, in presentations I have highlighted a study done by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) on the opportunity to leverage the interests of the Hispanic consumer in the outdoor industry. So far, this suggestion has been largely ignored, but I believe there’s opportunity with this consumer segment.

As more brands focus on sustainability, do you see economies of scale helping to drive down cost, so the consumer does not necessarily have to pay more for these products?

I do think we will see some cost relief due to scale, but sustainable products are always going to be more expensive. However, a recent NPD study showed that one-third of Millennial women are willing to spend more on sustainable products. The study also showed that many consumers have no idea whether they are buying a sustainable product or not. The industry can do much more to educate consumers and tell their sustainability story.

How important are collaborations within the outdoor industry? Who is doing it well, and why?

The outdoor industry is far too focused on pinnacle athletes; the emphasis must shift to the everyday user. The beauty market is a great industry to learn from in this regard. When we look at the beauty business, which remains one of the hottest industries that NPD tracks, there are some important lessons. Beauty is moving away from celebrity influencers to micro-influencers who have a small, but loyal following. These micro-influencers are honest, open and relatable.

How do you see e-commerce and brick-and-mortar blending together? In today’s retail environment, what do you see as the most effective avenues for marketing to consumers?

The internet will continue to be the primary sales driver for the outdoor industry. However, lines are blurring; is “buy online, pick up in store” a store purchase or an internet one? We are seeing more stores serving as warehouses for internet sales. At some point, we may no longer be making the distinction, but e-commerce will remain the dominant growth story. Digital remains the easiest and most cost-effective way for brands and retailers to tell their stories. The platforms may change, but the web will remain the best marketing tool.

How can small specialty retailers successfully compete with the bigger players? Is there an advantage to building a local presence, or must they set their sights on geographically broader markets?  

Hyper-local is a key differentiator between the smaller and bigger players in the market. Specialty retailers must be immersed in the community they serve, but broaden their consumer reach within these communities. Specialty retail has a reputation for focusing on the pinnacle user, but there is also opportunity among the everyday user. In addition, specialty retail must have an internet presence, even if it means using a third-party provider.


November 26, 2018

Black Friday Through the Eyes of NPD’s Industry Advisors

Black Friday sets a mood for the consumer and is an indication of things to come. But, while a good Black Friday makes us all feel holiday will do well, a poor one doesn’t mean poor growth performance for the holiday overall.

Whether they were in New York, Virginia, Florida, Illinois, or Texas, there were common themes that each of our industry advisors noticed as they hit the stores over this peak holiday shopping period. The biggest callout – Black Friday weekend has changed.

Click on the bars below to see the recaps, and follow #NPDHoliday on Twitter to see everything our advisors saw in their Black Friday travels.

The Industry Advisors

  • Marshal Cohen
    Chief Industry Advisor, Retail
    @marshalcohen
  • Stephen Baker
    Vice President, Industry Advisor, Technology and Mobile
    @NPDSteveBaker
  • Matt Powell
    Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor, Sports
    @NPDMattPowell
  • Juli Lennett
    Senior Vice President, Industry Advisor, Toys
    @JuliLennett
  • Joe DerochowskiJoe Derochowski, Executive Director, Home, Appliances
    @JoeDerochowski
  • David Portalatin 
    Vice President, Industry Advisor, Food
    @NPDPortalatin

Insights from the Experts

1. Marshal Cohen – This Black Friday was very telling – it had a lot to say

Marshal Cohen
Chief Industry Advisor, Retail

This Black Friday was very telling – it had a lot to say.

The deals were plentiful, both in offerings and depth of product, but by day’s end, there was still product left, though not piled as high as at the start. The days of stampedes of shoppers fighting for too-good-to-be-true deals on limited quantity items seem to be gone. Instead, there were a fair number of shoppers queued up at store openings and seeking deals in a more orderly fashion.

Retailers were more prepared and organized than ever before which helped to create this sense of calm in a storm of deal hunting. Black Friday spread continued with some retailers, like Best Buy, starting their Black Friday promotions as early as November 1st. Online retailers, like Amazon, also got in the action well before Cyber Monday. Staggered opening times helped to eliminate some of the chaos, allowing the 20 percent of consumers who shopped Black Friday weekend to casually, and strategically, go from one store to another. New digital maps offered guidance to those items, and in-aisle checkouts made for a modern, speedy, and efficiently painless shopping process. Rather than relying on the element of surprise, retailers shared deals ahead of time, and offered larger quantities of door-buster product. Perhaps the biggest shift came from stores stepping up their online game, giving consumers more shopping alternatives.

The focus of the weekend has also changed. Shoppers and promotions were both focused more on self-gifting items like smart home and robotic vacuums than more personal gift items. Fewer shopping bags pointed to in-store shopping followed by mobile purchasing – avoiding the need to cash-and-carry, especially large items.

New trends emerging.

NPD’s Checkout data revealed that 2017’s peak holiday shopping occurred from noon to 4:00pm on Black Friday. Similar to last year, it was a slow start Thursday night, but by Friday at noon the malls were packed with shoppers. Last year, we saw surges on Thursday at 6:00pm, and on Saturday from noon to 2:00pm. Some of this year’s surges lasted longer, depending on where you were.

Thursday night went to Best Buy, Walmart, and Target. Once the peak hit on Friday, the malls were bustling and store traffic reached an all-time high at outlet centers across the east coast. In some cases, parking lots filled beyond capacity, and the sides of the highway became an alternate parking option. In the 20 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen it so packed.

Apple, Pandora, and Adidas were among the busiest stores. Athletic/active apparel inspired stores, and apparel chain stores with aggressive discounts fared well overall. Mall based mass merchants, like Kohl’s, Target, and Walmart had a great range of successes in electronics, small appliances, toys, and select apparel. Best Buy did great with efficient offerings, toys, and self-gifting consumers.

Positive signs, but still room for improvement.

All in all, this was a great Black Friday. Consumers came out in droves and retailers stepped up efforts around inventory and servicing. Consumers still seemed excited about last year’s product innovations, and pricing was not as high as many predicted. All of this sets a healthy tone and good momentum for the holiday season. But, retailers can still do a better job of using technology in stores to create the endless aisle. They have the opportunity to provide more innovation, in the product and how it is sold.

Black Friday was a huge success for retail this year, making it clear that stores are not dead. Rather, stores have entered a transformation that will strengthen their ability to compete. The biggest challenge will be to extend this excitement beyond the holiday shopping season.


2. Stephen Baker – There is so much more to holiday shopping for Tech than just Black Friday

Stephen Baker
Vice President, Industry Advisor, Technology and Mobile

There is so much more to holiday shopping for Tech than just Black Friday.

“It’s the end of the world (Black Friday) as we know it, and I feel fine.” With apologies to REM, I think this sums up this weekend nicely.

We have been rapidly moving towards this point over the last few years – in fact, check out my quote in a 2010 TWICE article. We are at a point where the focus on Black Friday is totally misplaced. Over the last 8 years the fastest growing week for the tech industry has been Cyber Week, which represented almost 16 percent of sales in 2017, up from 12 percent in 2010. Thanksgiving week is key as well, steadily representing about 22 percent of all sales over that same time period, despite the growth in Cyber Week volumes. Consumers really have, as I said eight years ago, adopted their shopping patterns over to the reality of today’s retail – they now seem to view the intersection of retail and online seamlessly. We observed that trend over this year’s holiday shopping weekend, with seemingly diminished crowds on Thanksgiving evening and on Black Friday morning, followed by rapidly mounting traffic as Friday wore on. These shopping patterns prove that consumers will shop in stores when the time and product is right, but will also take advantage of the many blessings afforded to them by at-home shopping at any time of day.

This holiday is likely to be a continuation of the strong momentum we have seen all year in the tech market. TVs, as they always do, will lead the way. But, once again, we would expect to see the most popular deals drive consumers into higher price-points and bigger screen sizes this year. The other segment to call out for 2018 is smart home, and not just the smart speaker giveaway fest sponsored by Google and Amazon, but the myriad of products and prices afforded on all the next level of Smart Home goods, from locks and doorbells to cameras and lighting. The rapid expansion of these products into adjacent channels – from mass merchants and discounters like Kohl’s, to sporting goods and hardware stores – helped to make smart home products the most widely available technology products this Thanksgiving week.

We remain enthusiastic about the holiday season for the tech industry, and believe our three percent revenue growth goal is not only reachable, but also likely to be exceeded.

3. Matt Powell – Black Friday was a blend of bland and bold for Sports

Matt Powell
Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor, Sports

Black Friday was a blend of bland and bold for Sports.

After what was the most promotional holiday ever in 2017, as expected, holiday 2018 looks like it will eclipse last year.

With no true hot item or look, and with major brand drivers in a soft patch, brands and retailer must promote to drive sales. The brands were particularly aggressive this year at the expense of their wholesale partners. On the retail side, Dick’s took the bold stance of 25 percent off the entire store.

Traffic was very weak to start off the day, as Black Friday creep moved sales to earlier in the month. Clearly the ease of shopping on the internet precluded consumers from having to get up early and stand in lines. Parking lots filled up later in the day, but it did not appear that many were actually buying. The longest line I saw was at Starbucks.

Many of the Black Friday shoe releases were uninspiring, with brands still trying to force performance footwear on an athleisure market. However, there were a couple of bright spots for the sport industry. Fashion outerwear and fashion cold weather boots seemed to be moving well, as they had been for the last eight weeks.

All in, a lackluster start to what will likely be a lackluster holiday for sports retail.

4. Juli Lennett – Black Friday is as much about options as it is about bargains

Juli Lennett
Senior Vice President, Industry Advisor, Toys

Black Friday is as much about options as it is about bargains.

I admit it. I do not like shopping and I especially don’t like shopping on Black Friday. I don’t like hunting for a parking spot, I don’t like crowds, and I hate waiting in line. Patience is not my virtue. This Black Friday was a bit different – it was my job to go shopping on Black Friday. I didn’t actually have to buy anything, just observe, so I wouldn’t be forced to wait in any long lines. Overall the experience wasn’t as bad as I anticipated and, in fact, I enjoyed most of it. And, if I was going to spend time stalking people so I could take their parking spot, and immerse myself in wall-to-wall people, then I was going to take advantage of some Black Friday deals.

The two things that really stuck out for me this year were the timing of the crowds and the shopper experience.

My experience was that the serious bargain hunters did their most important shopping (for themselves) when the stores opened on Thanksgiving. But after a few hours, those hunters had gone home—they had swooped in and swooped out. They knew exactly what they wanted. Another large group of shoppers seem to have shopped online to get their favorite deals but then took advantage of in-store pick-up on Black Friday—there were long lines for BOPUS. The rest of the shoppers casually drifted into stores throughout the day on Black Friday, but not too early, and continued shopping until the stores closed.

In terms of the shopper experience, I was very impressed with the effort from most of the retailers to create a positive in-store shopping experience. From providing apps with maps to find exactly what you were looking for, to providing plenty of courteous, helpful, and cheerful staff on the floor ready to service customers.

However, there are still two areas where retailers could improve. First, get buyers out the door more quickly with multiple checkout options—arm employees with devices to check-out shoppers in the section where they shop, or provide self-checkout. Buyers who thought the lines were too long abandoned their items, or even full carts, in the stores – not good for the retailer or consumer. Second, if the item is out of stock, make it easy for shoppers to buy the item while they are in the store and eager to make a purchase. If the answer the shopper gets is to “go online”, chances are the shopper will find a better price online and buy it from your competitor.

If we do this again next year, I’ll need a more comfortable pair of shoes.


5. Joe Derochowski – The spirit of Black Friday has expanded

Joe Derochowski
Executive Director, Home, Appliances

The spirit of Black Friday has expanded.

I am preparing for the day when my kids ask “Is there really a Santa Claus?”, armed with the response that Christmas is “something bigger, it is about the spirit of the season”. Black Friday used to be a single day filled with early morning shopping frenzy and busy traffic all day where consumers were pining to purchase items at bargain prices. Similar to my impending Santa Claus question, today, Black Friday is about something bigger, it’s about bargain shopping spread over multiple days and shopping platforms.

The mad rush has moved from Friday morning to Thursday night, at least for those retailers who were open on Thursday. While store managers said that Friday was busier than last year, Store managers and employees all talked about how Thursday night was “crazy” – it was busier than Friday. There was an evident scramble on Friday to deal with the stock outs and refresh the look of the merchandise. On the other hand, similar to recent years, there were no lines early Friday morning – other than a few people looking for deals on TV’s. The shopping really looked like any other Friday, with huge traffic flows from 11:00am to 4:00pm. Many consumers said they started much of their shopping on Wednesday because they could access the Black Friday deals that early.

Retailers have also done a much better job of integrating online shopping with in-store. The online promotions are reflecting the same promotions seen in the circular and in the store. This makes for a more seamless consumer shopping experience, but does pose some operational challenges for store employees looking to maintain the parallels amidst the mad rush of shoppers.

The door-busting categories for the early shopper seem to be led by TV’s and computers. At Menards, the drivers were dog beds, quilts, and step ladders. The home categories that received the most promotion were the categories that have been hot all year – Instant Pot, air fryers, coffeemakers, cookware, Dyson stick vacuums, upright vacuums, iRobot and Ecovac robotic vacuums, and electric toothbrushes. I expect to see these categories leading the sales for this week.

The majority of consumers have mixed feelings, but those who are the true ‘treasure hunters’ do miss the Black Friday bustle of years past. While Black Friday, the day, is no more, in-store traffic showed that consumers embraced the spirit of the day on Friday and the days preceding. All indications are this should be a good Holiday season, with both consumers and retailers emerging as winners.

6. David Portalatin – Black Friday is for leftovers

David Portalatin
Vice President, Industry Advisor, Food

Black Friday is for leftovers

I’ve never paid much attention to Black Friday before. As NPD’s Food Industry Advisor, my focus has always been on the big meal. I look at the way grocery retailers and food manufacturers collaborate to provide convenient yet authentic meal solutions for the vast majority of American’s who either feasted at home or prepared a dish to take to someone else’s home on Thanksgiving day. As far as Black Friday dining goes – many of us are too stuffed, and gorging on leftovers, to eat out at a restaurant.

In fact, on any given day in America, 13 percent of our meals are sourced from a restaurant. On Black Friday, that number is 12.4 percent. In other words, for restaurants, Black Friday is much like any other day. Many observers who are rightly awed at the throngs amassing at retail storefronts reasonably assume that adjacent eateries and mall food courts must pick up some customer traffic. It’s a reasonable assumption, albeit an incorrect one. Long Black Friday lines at Starbucks, or a crowded independent full-service establishment, are likely to exist on any other day.

For Black Friday shoppers, the pursuit of the elusive deal and beating the crowd to the next door buster takes priority over stopping to eat. After all, there are leftovers aplenty waiting at home!

Now, Valentine’s day…..let’s talk restaurants then!

This is a snapshot of our advisors’ Black Friday 2018 observations across apparel, appliances, food consumption, foodservice, home, retail, sports, technology, and toys. Follow #NPDHoliday to see what they are observing throughout the holiday shopping season. For more in-depth perspectives across our other industries, visit our Holiday Insights page.


November 13, 2018

Sneakernomics: U.S. Team Sports Equipment Q3 Recap

After what was a solid first half of 2018 for the U.S. team sports equipment market, sales slowed in the third quarter. This does not portend well for holiday season sales.

Baseball was one of the hottest stories to open the year, as new youth baseball bat regulations forced families to buy new bats for their children. Sales of composite bats grew by more than half in the first six months. In the third quarter, however, that demand fell off and baseball sales went flat. We can expect to give back those first half gains next year.

Golf was another strong story in the first half; however, sales for Q3 were essentially flat. This was fueled by a decline in golf club sales, and flat performance for golf balls. The excitement over new releases has worn off. Callaway and Titleist sales grew nicely for Q3, but most of the other brands did not.

Soccer equipment sales rose during the World Cup, but fell off again immediately after it ended. This has been a very typical pattern during World Cup years. Soccer sales grew in the mid-single digits for Q3. Again, the industry will return those gains next year.

Sales of basketballs and backboards slowed even further in Q3 than in the first half, with sales down in the low teens. Basketball participation continues to decline as do sales of performance basketball shoes.

Participation was also likely a factor in the weak football numbers; Q3 sales were down in the mid-single digits for football equipment.

Universal protective gear experienced low single-digit growth for the quarter. I believe retailers are missing a great opportunity to leverage parents’ concerns over injuries. Protective gear should be part of every sports equipment purchase.

In terms of how major brands fared in Q3, Wilson equipment sales declined in the low singles. Spalding sales were down in the mid-teens on account of the weak basketball results. Nike equipment declined in the mid-teens and Under Armour in the high teens, while Adidas grew by more than 20 percent. Adidas showed particular strength in soccer, due to the World Cup. Rawlings and Franklin both grew by about 10 percent, and Shock Doctor improved in the low singles.

These mixed results signal a challenged fourth quarter. Brands and retailers must be creative to capture some wins for Holiday 2018.


November 7, 2018

Sneakernomics: Holiday 2018 Predictions for Sports Retail

Sneakernomics: Holiday 2018 Predictions for Sports Retail

This holiday season will see some challenges for the overall U.S. sports retail environment. But, there are still some bright spots that I anticipate will be areas of growth for the market this season.   

Starting with the not-so-great news, athletic footwear sales in the U.S. were down for August and September compared to these same months last year. At the moment, I see no catalyst to drive overall sales back into the positive column for holiday. Performance footwear continues to struggle, now into its fourth year, and I do not expect this to change during the holiday period. Brands continue to push performance shoes on consumers who have clearly said they are not interested. The sport leisure category was soft in September, on account of a sales decline for sport lifestyle footwear; gains in the running inspired and casual athletic segments could not quite offset the decline in basketball inspired products.

Adidas sales went negative for September and I anticipate this will remain so for the balance of the year. Nike, Brand Jordan, and Converse sales were down for the month as well. Without growth from these major brands, the athletic footwear market cannot grow.

The top-selling shoe for the last two years, Nike Tanjun, also posted a decline for September. At this point, I do not believe there is a replacement for this shoe and the industry is lacking a hot item that can lift it. This void will put pressure on the entire market.

On the other hand, there are some bright spots for the athletic footwear industry, one of which has been the success of smaller brands. Vans, Puma, Reebok, Fila, and Brooks are all outperforming the market. Small is the new big, and I expect these brands will be popular and perform well this holiday. Another bright spot is the women’s business. As the industry has vastly underserved women, the women’s footwear market remains our greatest failure, but it is also our greatest opportunity.  

In terms of activewear, or athletic apparel, sales were up slightly for Q3 and flat for August and September. I expect we will see a similar outcome for the holiday period.

Cold weather products sold well in Q3 as the inventories are very clean and fresh. However, the long range weather forecast is for a period of warm and dry weather, which will hold back any real gains for the category during Q4.

Just as in athletic footwear, smaller brands are succeeding in the activewear market. These are the ones we should look out for this season. 

I expect the sports marketplace across both footwear and apparel to remain very promotional for Holiday 2018, as it has been for most of 2018 and last holiday season. If brands and retailers want to win with consumers this holiday, they must be careful to not sacrifice quality. Now more than ever, the sports industry needs a hot item.

Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service


October 29, 2018

Sneakernomics: Athletic Footwear and Activewear Q3 Results

The U.S. athletic footwear industry grew its dollar sales a healthy 4 percent in the third quarter of 2018, which I am pleased to report was better than I had anticipated. The sport lifestyle segment contributed the most dollars gained, while performance footwear continued to struggle.

Women’s athletic footwear outperformed the rest of the market, with sales up in the high single-digits, and this was driven by stellar Vans sales. Men’s sales grew in the low single-digits, as the performance categories were all soft, while kids’ sales were up slightly for the quarter.

The athletic specialty/sporting goods channel experienced a low single-digit gain, but was dramatically outpaced by the other channels. Premium department stores grew in the high singles, while mid-tier department stores improved in the mid-single digits. Shoe chains grew in the mid-single digits as well.

In terms of categories, performance footwear continued its negative trend, which has now entered its fourth year. With declines seen in key segments including basketball, training, running, and hiking, there is no evidence that performance-as-fashion will make a comeback any time soon.

Sport lifestyle, the largest athletic footwear category, grew its sales by 8 percent. Cold/all weather boots had a solid beginning to the fall/winter season, with sales up 16 percent, driven by brands including Koolaburra, UGG, and Sorel. Skate shoe sales increased by 45 percent, driven by Vans, and sports slides were up 12 percent.

Looking at brand highlights, Nike, Adidas, and Skechers grew their sales for the quarter, as did Brooks, Vans, and Timberland. Nike, Inc. sales were flat on account of declines from Brand Jordan and Converse, and Under Armour also experienced a decline. The Q3 top-selling athletic footwear styles, based on dollar sales were: Nike Tanjun, Nike Air Max 270, Converse Chuck Taylor Low, Vans Ward, Nike Revolution 4, Nike Air Huarache, Nike Flex Contact, Jordan X, Adidas NMD R1, and Nike Flex Experience RN 7.

September, in particular, showed some surprises, especially as we step into the holiday season. With September sales decelerating for big brands including Nike, Adidas, and Skechers, I expect this will pose some weakness to holiday sales for the athletic footwear industry. In addition, the top-selling shoe for the last two years, Nike Tanjun, saw a sales decline in September, with no replacement in sight. Vans’ growth, while still robust, slowed in the last month. Echoing my sentiment that ‘small is the new big,’ I expect this theme to continue to hold true during the holiday season, which I believe will be an interesting one this year. 

As I expected, activewear sales were up slightly for Q3. Weather was a factor as the warm and dry conditions slowed cold weather gains. This early trend does not bode well for holiday, as brands are already being quite promotional.

Contrary to footwear, women’s activewear sales were quite soft, while men’s and kids showed solid growth.

Looking at channel performance, both premium and mid-tier department stores saw mid-single digit growth, and athletic specialty/sporting goods had a low single-digit decline.

One encouraging note was the early strength in outerwear, driven by retro track jackets and wind shirts. Cold weather outerwear categories are clean and fresh, which provided a nice lift to the market. Other segments that grew were sweatshirts, also fueled by the retro trend, and active bottoms. Sports bras declined in the mid-single digits, as the verticals took share from the core brands. Socks and swimwear were both negative as well.

In terms of brands, “Private Label” was the largest brand and one of the fastest growing. Both Adidas and Nike grew, largely on the retro trend, as did Patagonia, The North Face, Columbia, and PrAna. Under Armour, which has no retro product, experienced a sales decline. In addition, Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, and Champion saw growth as well.


September 17, 2018

Sneakernomics: Purpose-Driven Brands

There are plenty of examples of people talking at length about how today’s young consumer demands that brands take visible stands on social issues. Renowned author Simon Sinek said it best: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

But how does a brand decide which causes to support and what position to take? I believe that brands (and retailers) must look inside themselves and discover what their purpose is; they need to answer the “why they do it” question.

There is a relatively new movement afoot called “purpose-driven brands,” when brands and retailers connect their purpose with the purpose of their consumers. A purpose-driven brand consciously conducts its business according to its purpose.

Customers want to know what a brand stands for and what motivates their decisions. Consumers want brands to align with their values.

Of all the industries that adopted this common sense approach to marketing, the Sports and Recreation industry was arguably one of the first to target the purpose-driven consumer.

So many examples come to mind. Some companies appeal to a larger consumer market simply by focusing on their core customer; Carhartt’s hardworking apparel for hardworking men and women, and Yeti’s outdoor coolers for serious outdoor enthusiasts come to mind. Other companies market themselves as environmentally-friendly, charitable, or take an all-encompassing approach. Patagonia has been a purpose-driven company since the beginning; its stated mission: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Merrell has two sections on its website pertaining to purpose. One is “What Matters Most,” and the other is, “Causes We Support.”

VF Corporation (owners of Vans, The North Face, and Timberland) positions itself as a “Purpose-led, performance-driven and value-creating organization,” striving to “improve people’s lives and make the world a better place.” From its corporate website: “We don’t just make the world’s best apparel and footwear; we power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and our planet. This is our Purpose. It’s why we come to work every day.”

These types of purpose statements inform every company’s decision and initiative. Consumers have a clear view of what drives these brands.

Once a brand or retailer has created their purpose, they then need to communicate that purpose clearly and consistently both inside and outside the company. And, more importantly, they need to act on these principles every day. Brands can use their purpose in marketing to communicate to the public. A brand’s purpose builds a relationship with the community.

Brands and retailers must look beyond their basic functions to discover their true purpose – they should look inside to discover “The right thing to do.” The products that are made and sold must reflect the purpose of the company. In short, brands must walk the walk. It’s not enough to just say that a brand supports a cause; every company action must reflect their purpose.

Consumers’ purchases will continue to be driven by their values. Successful purpose-driven brands will reflect and act on those values.


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