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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


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.


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.


Sports
Insights


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.


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.



Sports
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts


June 13, 2018

Sneakernomics: Team Sports Equipment Recap

The February through April 2018 period (compared to the same three month timeframe in 2017) was a solid one for the U.S. team sports equipment industry. Sales grew in the mid-single digits, as the new baseball bat regulations drove baseball sales growth in the mid-teens. Composite bats improved by nearly half and pulled all the other categories up with it. These gains will be difficult to offset next year.

In composite bats, Rawlings more than doubled sales. Louisville Slugger grew in the high teens while DeMarini had a decline. Market share leader Easton grew by more than half.

Golf equipment also performed well, likely driven by the peak in Baby Boomer retirements, with sales up in the low teens. Golf club sales grew in the low teens, indicating new entrants, while ball sales only grew in the high singles, likely dampened by the decline in golf rounds played in April.

April posted the coldest temperatures in two decades, which put a damper on spring sports (with the exception of baseball). Soccer equipment sales were flat, while lacrosse had a mid-single digit decline. Field hockey had a surprising mid-teens increase. Tennis declined in the low singles.

Basketball equipment sales declined in the low teens, in line with weak basketball shoe sales.

Combat and wrestling-related sales grew in the low teens.

Protective gear, a standout category in 2017, slowed to a low single-digit increase.

Looking at team sports equipment brands, Callaway grew by a third, taking share from those who have exited the golf business. TaylorMade grew in the high singles, and Titleist in the high teens.

Rawlings grew by nearly a third and Easton by nearly half.

Spalding and Wilson both posted declines.

My expectation is that golf sales will flatten out as we move through the year, and baseball will hold up until the new bats are replaced, while the rest of team sports equipment market will be challenged.


May 31, 2018

Sneakernomics: The State of the U.S. Activewear Market

Activewear sales in the U.S. from February through April 2018 were essentially flat, as the proliferation of fashion brands emulating performance wear continues to take its toll.

Women’s activewear sales declined in the low single-digits, with particular weakness in active bottoms and bras. Kids’ activewear was flat, while the men’s market was a bright spot – sales grew in the low singles driven by sweatshirts and active bottoms.

As we saw in footwear, premium department stores grew in the mid-teens, while mid-tier grew in the mid singles. Athletic specialty/sporting goods had a low single digit decline. Department stores now capture more activewear sales than the true sports channels.

Sales of activewear bottoms, the largest category, were flat, as weakness in women’s offset gains in men’s. Sweatshirts improved in the low teens while outerwear tops grew in the mid-singles.

Knit shirts and socks declined in the low singles, as did bras. Swimwear got off to a slow start with a low single-digit decline.

The aggregation of all retailers’ private brands was again the largest “brand” and grew a whopping 20 percent during these three months. Retailers will continue to seek refuge here from the highly promotional environment.

Nike brand had a mid-single digit increase, while Under Armour posted a low teens decline. adidas activewear sales grew more than 40 percent.

Hanes grew while Fruit of the Loom declined. Champion had a 40 percent sales increase.

Columbia saw a decline while The North face improved in the low singles. Patagonia had an outstanding performance, with sales up about half.

Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, February-April 2018



May 31, 2018

Sneakernomics: The State of the U.S. Athletic Footwear Market

The sports retail environment continues to be challenged in the U.S., as sales have essentially flatlined since the banner year of 2015.

Athletic footwear dollar sales from February through April 2018 grew in the low single-digits, with unit sales also up in the low singles and average selling price flat. Two factors drove the increase; first, February had a very easy comparison as February 2017 had the worst performance in all the years I’ve been doing research on the industry. Second, the 53rd week fiscal shift replaced a small week in 2017 with a larger one. My expectations remain muted for the rest of the year.

Women’s athletic footwear led the wearer segments, with sales up in the high single-digits. adidas, Brooks, and Vans had strong increases in the women’s market, while Nike and Under Armour both posted declines. I expect that women’s athletic footwear will continue to outpace men’s and kids (both these segments grew in the low singles).

The premium department store channel grew its sales in the mid-teens, while shoe chains improved in the high singles. Mid-tier department stores increased in the mid-singles while athletic specialty/sporting goods had a decline. All of the energy is happening in the department stores today as the athleisure trend remains in full force.

Sport lifestyle, the largest athletic footwear category, grew in the high single digits. Nike and adidas grew in the mid-teens while Brand Jordan and Converse posted declines. Skate improved by more than 40 percent, as Vans grew by half. Sport slides grew more than 20 percent. Again, the athleisure trend is driving these categories.

We are soon to begin the fourth year of soft sales for performance footwear. Performance basketball declined in the mid-singles, even as Nike basketball grew. Considering how much marketing dollars brands devoted to the performance category beginning this year, this result is disappointing. Performance running declined in the mid-singles as new initiatives from many brands did not move the needle, but Brooks continues to stand out as a top performer in running. Training and hiking footwear sales also declined, as the trend away from “performance as fashion” continued.

Nike brand sales grew in the low singles thanks to solid growth in the sport lifestyle category, though performance running struggled. Converse sales were down in the mid-teens. adidas had a mid-teens sales gain. Its trend has definitely cooled from the torrid pace of the last two years. Skechers athletic grew in the mid-singles. Under Armour and Asics both posted declines, while Brooks and Vans had strong increases. Non-core sneaker brands like Steve Madden, Ecco, Roxy, and UGG all had nice increases. Again, the athleisure trend is carrying these brands.

Looking at the top-selling items based on dollar sales, none of these shoes are true performance products, again illustrating the fashion shift away from performance. For the first time in many months, no adidas shoes made the top ten list, as adidas continues to diversify its portfolio. The top sellers were: Nike Tanjun, Jordan XI Low, Jordan 1  High OG, Nike Air Max 270, Nike Air Huarache, Converse All Star Low, Nike Revolution 4, Jordan IX Mid, Nike Air Force 1 Low, and Nike Flex Contact.

Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, February-April 2018



May 21, 2018

Sneakernomics: Legalized Gambling and Sports Retail

The recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States which allows states to regulate gambling on sports will have an impact on the sports retail business.

The leagues in the U.S. are constantly searching for new revenue streams. The big cash cow, TV rights, has likely reached its peak as some leagues have seen viewership fall in favor of much less lucrative social media platforms.

The last two major unrealized revenue streams for the leagues are legalized gambling and ads on jerseys. We have seen the NBA successfully introduce ads on jerseys. No one was smote from above. Over time, I expect ads on jerseys will be an even greater thing, as the ads take over a larger amount of the jersey. Sleeves will return as that will allow more space for ads. The big money has yet to flow, but it will. Global soccer shows potential here.

My belief is that leagues will support gambling on games as long as they get a cut. I expect several states will quickly enact gambling statutes in time for the NFL season this fall. Look for one of the states that has already voted for gambling to take the lead here and create a template for others.

There will likely be great hue and cry over the morality of gambling, but states are as strapped for new sources of revenue just as leagues are. Gambling will come with fancy trappings, but it will come. (As a local wag once told me while standing in front of a New Orleans casino: “We don’t have gambling here; we have gaming.”)

Las Vegas takes a hit here as bettors will no longer have to travel there to wager. We can expect the sin in “Sin City” to expand to offset these losses.

It will be fun to watch the fantasy leagues (who have long claimed fantasy was not gambling) try to get a piece of this business.

The NBA will take the lead here as the NFL dithers about “integrity” issues. Maybe the NFL can use these proceeds to pay off the CTE claims. I love the idea that the leagues will support “integrity fees” and get their cut of the bets. Leagues will likely charge for “league sanctioned data and content” as another way to grab some revenue.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said “everybody who owns a top-four professional sports team just basically saw the value of their team double, at least.”

Legalized gambling may be the final lever to get the NCAA to pay its indentured servants who bring in vast amounts of income to the coaches, athletic directors, and schools.

I’m also looking forward to the time when Paddy Power Betfair is a household name.

Marginal teams and marginal players will get a lift here as they make great betting targets, much like we have seen in fantasy sports. It remains to be seen if legalized betting creates an increase in fan wear worn as streetwear.

In addition to the sports retail environment, it will be interesting to observe how this decision will impact sports ratings, which I expect will go up.


May 10, 2018

Sneakernomics: Social Responsibility in Sports Retail

For some time now, there has been an investment approach around environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. Studies have shown investing in companies that score highly on these characteristics outperform the market. The indexes used measure environmental uses and policies, corporate diversity, racial and gender diversification among executives and governing bodies, as well as human rights policies. Companies with a high score on sustainability and ethical performance tend to outperform those with low scores.

This concept of ESG is spilling over into consumer behavior, driven by Gen Z. Sports retailers and brands must pay attention to this critical change.

Gen Z is the most connected generation. They have never known a world without a smartphone. Consequently, they rely on social media for connection, communication, and commerce. They are likely to use social media to seek the opinions of their peers, not just on what is in fashion but to learn about the ethics of the brands and retailers they are considering.

They are also the most diverse generation, meaning it’s likely that as Gen Z consumers get older, they will gravitate towards brands and retailers that are more diverse, and will be more likely to withhold their business from those that are not.

Gen Z is progressive and political. They will not sit idly and hope that circumstances change. This generation is one that will likely push for change and respond more positively to those brands and retailers that follow suit.

As a generation that is out to change the world, Gen Z demands that brands take visible stands on social issues like diversity. According to a recent Forbes article, human rights is the primary cause for Gen Z, and equality is non-negotiable. Brands can no longer claim to be apolitical, and what they stand for must be transparent. If Gen Z disagrees with a company’s values, they will take their business elsewhere.

Gen Z also seeks meaning in their work, products, and brands. They value relationships above all else. This makes them both tolerant and respectful. Gen Z will demand that same tolerance and respect from their brands and retailers.

Gen Z understands that companies have a role in improving the world. They will demand that the brands and retailers invoke that role. Those that do not will lose their attention.



May 2, 2018

Sneakernomics: Managing the Marketplace

One of the most difficult tasks in sports retail is managing the marketplace, especially with hot items. Brands that do this effectively have a steadier growth pattern and higher profits.

A retailer’s job is to buy what’s hot and trending in the market. Retailers want to buy as much of what’s hot as they can. If they buy too much, the retailer typically leans back on the brand for help.

Today’s retail metrics are driven as much by liquidation rates as by growth. As long as an item maintains an acceptable sell through rate, the retailer is happy. A low liquidation rate will trigger markdown optimization programs which will suggest price action. Sometimes an item is a slow seller simply because the retailer has stocked too great a quantity.

With the advent of these markdown optimization tools, too often retailers grow impatient around introducing new products and brands. Often if a new product does not immediately meet the accepted sell through, retailers abandon the new initiative. It is incumbent on the brand to manage the retailers’ expectations. Retailers need patience when evaluating the success of new items and brands.

Brands see the entire marketplace. They know how much of an item is sold in it and therefore must control the marketplace. Brands must use sales and velocity data to make sure an item does not get either overheated or oversaturated. NPD can help frame the market for new or emerging items, and help the brand to understand the market potential.

The fastest way to kill a hot item is to allow too much of it to be sold into the market. Retailers will lose their interest and push for price action. The sports industry is littered with items that died due to oversupply. Once an item is killed off due to oversaturation, it can take years to build back the credibility and demand.

It is an important lesson that the last sale is often the least profitable. Brands that try to squeeze every last sale out of an item will often be disappointed in the profitability of the late sales.

Scarcity remains an effective tool in building consumer interest and retail confidence. No one ever went broke from selling an item out too fast.

Brands that effectively manage the marketplace will attain steady growth and healthy profit.


April 12, 2018

Sneakernomics: Are You Experienced?

A lot has been written about improving the customer “experience” in sports retail. No one would argue the importance of great customer experience. But experience can mean different things to different people, and even different things to the same person depending on circumstances. Let’s explore the different kinds of customer experience and how sports retailers can respond.

Retail must be easy. The transaction experience must be as stress-free and frictionless as possible. Once a purchase decision is made, get the product and customer out of the store as quickly and simply as possible. Lines at the register or multi-step checkouts are not conducive to a great experience.

Retail must be personal. “Brand Me” is your customer’s favorite brand. Well curated assortments are critical to serving “Brand Me.” Personalization through special offers and loyalty programs leverage the retailer’s best customers. Elevated and knowledgeable service adds to the personalization.

Retail must surprise and delight. Part of a memorable experience is discovering the unexpected. Retailers must feature newness, and the newest products must tell great stories. Today’s consumer wants unique products, made by unique brands, and sold in unique retailers. Private label, if well executed, can be a component here.

Retail must offer value. Like it or not, the price equation is firmly part of the retail experience today. Price has never been more important to the consumer. At the same time, value also means getting the most for your money. Understanding this balance is key.

Retail must be flexible. Not all of the same characteristics apply to every encounter. Sometimes consumers just want to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, while sometimes they want to be pampered. Not every new initiative works. Astute retailers will test and respond.

The retail experience has never been more complicated, or more important. The successful retailers will be those who offer the greatest experience.


April 3, 2018

Sneakernomics: Team Sports Equipment Year in Review

Overall for 2017, U.S. team sports equipment sales declined in the single digits, but below the surface it was a mixed bag, with notable pockets of growth.

Baseball equipment sales for the full 12 months were down in the low singles; however, a solid increase in sales during Q4, as new regulation compliant bats hit the market, was a bright spot for the category. The strength in bats carried the other baseball categories with it. This baseball boost helped the team sports equipment market as a whole for the quarter, with Q4 sales up in the low-single digits and closing the year on an optimistic note. I expect the positive baseball trend to continue through springtime, and provide a nice lift for the market as we move through 2018.

Basketball sales fared well, growing in the low single digits for the year, as participation continued to improve. Racquet sports also grew in the low singles, as Baby Boomers are looking for an easy entry and inexpensive fitness activity.

Soccer had a challenging year, with sales down in the low teens. With 2018 being a World Cup year, I expect sales to bounce back.

Sales of American football equipment were down in the low singles, as parental concerns about injury weighed on the sport.

On the other hand, heightened safety concerns have been a boon for protective gear sales, which grew in the mid-teens for 2017. Parents are spending more on ways to keep their kids safe from injuries and concussions while playing sports, and this will continue to be a growth opportunity for the equipment market. Protective gear should be a major thrust for every sports retailer. There are three protective gear makers in the winners column for 2017: Shock Doctor, McDavid, and Battle.

In terms of brand highlights, Rawlings had a good year, even in the face of the changeover due to the baseball bat regulation. Easton could not quite overcome the switch in bat regulations, but I expect it will have a better 2018. Everlast grew on interest in mixed martial arts.

Overall, I expect the team sports equipment business will remain challenged for 2018 as participation continues to slide in a number of sports, but leveraging the growth areas and unlocking new opportunities in the activities that can use fresh attention, will likely boost sales in the months ahead.


March 15, 2018

Sneakernomics: What the Sports Industry Can Learn from Beauty

Of the 20+ industries NPD tracks, one of the fastest growing in 2017 was the beauty industry. Sales in the U.S. were up a robust 6 percent compared the tepid, low single-digit growth in the sports industry.

I asked my colleague Larissa Jensen, NPD’s beauty industry analyst, for some thoughts on why beauty has done so well, in hopes of learning some lessons that may be applied to improving the sports business.

Here are the top five trends Larissa identified as driving the beauty industry’s successes today, and where I see the applications for sports retail:

Natural/Wellness – Natural brands are outpacing the growth of all beauty categories in the U.S. (makeup, skincare, and fragrance). In skincare specifically, natural brands are the largest brand type and made up half of the category’s dollar volume gains in 2017. In fragrance, natural brands make up only 1 percent of sales, but grew 8X faster than the category.

The sports industry has always had a strong connection to sustainability. Perhaps a renewed focus on this goal and a greater understanding of Gen Z’s interest in “clean living” could benefit sales. Brands that share the values of their consumers will win in 2018.

Indie Brands – Legacy brands are looking for ways to remain relevant in today’s market. In skincare, brands outside the top 20 make up the majority share of dollars; they are growing the fastest and gaining the most share points. But more generally, smaller brands are winning in beauty because:

  • They are nimble and able to react to trends more quickly.
  • They look to consumers, not other brands, for inspiration on what to launch.
  • They have a clear focus and a targeted market.

I’ve written on several occasions that “small is the new big” in sports. Today’s consumer wants unique products, sold by unique retailers, made by unique brands. Mega brands must come up with ways to “act small.” Brands and retailers that try to be all things to all people will struggle. Curated assortments, clearly defined muses or niches, and fresh retail approaches will be the keys to success in 2018. No brand or retailer has gone out of business by listening more closely to their consumers.

Social Media – This is the biggest driver in makeup as it provides the biggest impact via social sharing; it’s easy to see a ‘before and after’ effect. The top 10 brands in makeup are often the most buzzed about brands on social platforms. Influencers play a big role here, and we have seen in our data how influencer collaborations typically generate more sales than the more traditional celebrity collaborations. 

“Rent-a-celebrity” is starting to play itself out of sports. Athletic endorsers no longer produce significant retail results. Paid celebrities are viewed by the consumer as phony, but honest, unpaid influencers continue to have sway in the market. Peers remain the most important influencers. Brands that can harness this trend will win.

Experiential Retail – Brick-and-mortar still holds the largest share of sales, and brands need to win here to win overall. Strong online sales alone will not drive growth. Specialty stores are where consumers shop more often, enticing consumers with unique brand and product offerings in a fun retail environment. Also, we have seen an influx of pop-up and pop-in stores in high volume cities including NY, LA, and San Francisco, which allow manufacturers to immerse the consumer in their brand experience, and provide Instagrammable photo ops for consumers to share on social media.

Retailers need to “surprise and delight” their customers. Retail stores that look the same, visit over visit, are uninspiring. Products, brands, and retailers must tell exciting and provocative stories to attract consumers and get them returning to their stores.

Beauty specialty stores are particularly hot right now. Some feature a “mass to class” product lineup, and offer sampling add-ons, and hair and nail services. Consumers can spend hours in these stores and share that experience with their friends. Sports retailers must think about how they can replicate this kind of experience.

Dotcom – This area of the beauty market has seen double-digit growth since NPD began tracking it. At the highest level it’s about convenience across all categories, but the dynamics of online differ by category. In fragrance, where penetration is the lowest, it’s about replenishment. In skincare, where online penetration is highest, it’s about easy access to online reviews, providing consumers the confidence to purchase this more complicated and higher price-point category. In makeup, replenishment and experimentation (new launches) play a role in the gains. Online only brands (like Kylie Cosmetics and ColourPop – before it went into Sephora) draw lots of excitement through social media and their limited edition strategy, leveraging the “fear of missing out” (FOMO) trend.

Footwear is one of the highest e-commerce penetrated categories. Yet, it seems that the sports industry’s online approach is purely transactional, rather than relationship building as we see in beauty. The big challenge is how to get customers to visit websites often, not just to shop but to build a relationship with the retailer or brand, as the beauty industry has done.

There are many important teachings for the sports industry to learn from beauty. In today’s retail landscape, industries cannot live strictly in their silos, but must see the bigger pictures and learn from each other. Retailers and brands that take a more progressive approach can expect success in the future.


February 27, 2018

Sneakernomics: Sports Retail in the Internet Age, Part 2

In my previous blog, I wrote about the ways in which retailers can revolutionize the in-store environment to survive the internet age. Shopping must be an experience for today’s consumer, but each consumer has a different definition of “experience.” So, how do retailers strike the right chord? 

Retailers must develop their own “muse,” or an iconic customer that represents the core of their business. In creating their muse, retailers must target and tailor the experience to their core customer. Brands and products that do not line up with this muse must be exorcised. Retailers must challenge their thinking periodically on their muse, but they must always have a “north star” to lead them.

Once the muse has been created, retailers must curate their assortments to be focused on this muse and its tangents. Their brands must illustrate a clear point of view in their product assortments.

Not every brand will survive this contraction. Retailers must pick the brands they think will be winners and elevate them. Brands that are predicted to win in the future must be nurtured and over emphasized. This does not necessarily mean dropping brands not designated as winners, but retailers must wean themselves off these brands. Remember, brands and retailers no longer create trends; the consumer is in charge now. Brands and retailers must feed these trends.

In addition, consumers want to know where a retailer stands on key social issues, and this must be reflected. Retailers must take positions on social issues that are important to their core customer, even if it risks alienating others.

Loyalty programs are also beneficial, but then again must be tailored to the muse. Retailers should not waste consumers’ time with meaningless features and too many communications.

To tie everything together, retail must be omnipresent – available to consumers whenever, wherever, and however they want. Retailers must have one common pricing, one common inventory, and one common message. Anything short of that is failure.

By blending the experience with core values, retailers can improve every aspect of the physical store, which is a must if they are to survive the internet age.


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