NPD Report Reveals Shoppers Purchasing Priorities for Athletic Footwear, Active Apparel, and Sporting Goods

Catering to consumer shopping priorities is the key to increasing customer engagement at retail stores, according to NPD’s “The Retail and Brand Landscape” report series.

Port Washington, NY, May 30, 2012 – According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, when consumers are buying athletic footwear, active apparel, or sporting goods, they express varying priorities when it comes to choosing where they shop. While buyers of footwear and active apparel tended to target specific retailers they know and rely on when planning a shopping trip, those buying sporting goods had other, more cost-conscious, priorities.

According to data from NPD’s “The Retail and Brand Landscape” report series, the top priority for footwear purchasers was finding a retailer they knew and trusted (i.e., “is one of the first places I look”), apparel purchasers look to retailers that they felt reflected their own personal views on style and quality (i.e., “is a store for me”), while sporting goods shoppers tended to be more laissez-faire about their retailer of choice (i.e., “I was in the store anyway”) or they received a gift that brought them into the store (“I had a gift card for this retailer”).

“Today retail and branding is more challenging, and learning how to engage today’s athletic consumer is even more so,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD. “They are very educated about the products they choose, which leads to a greater need to understand them and what triggers them to purchase and remain loyal.”

The following chart shows the top five shopper priorities when choosing a retailer for each of the three product categories:

Sporting Goods Athletic/Outdoor Footwear Active Apparel
I was in the store/site anyway Is one of the first places I look Is a store for me
I had a gift card for this retailer Is a store for me Carries products that fit my needs
Fun to shop Carries the styles I want Carries the styles I want
I had a money-saving offer for this retailer Is growing in popularity Is growing in popularity
Is growing in popularity Carries products that fit my needs Offers good value for the money

Shopper Engagement: The Road from Awareness to Loyal Usage

The ability of retailers to quickly convert consumers through the shopper-engagement process (i.e., from awareness to familiarity to consideration to purchase to loyal usage) differs greatly, according to the type of retail channel studied. “When it comes to sports and athletic products, it is clear that not all channels are equal,” according to Cohen. “Depending on the retail channel shopped, different trigger points are critical for converting shoppers to buyers and ultimately to loyalists.”

For example, among Walmart, Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy Sports, Kmart, and Sears shoppers, Walmart ranked highest in awareness and familiarity in all three product categories (98 percent), while Academy Sports led the pack in converting more first-time purchasers to loyal ongoing customers (35 percent). Among this set of six retailers, the average consumer conversion rates were as follows:

Engagement Step Conversion Rate (Avg.)
Awareness 79%
Familiar 65%
Consider 40%
Purchase 14%
Loyal Usage 3%

“Consumer priorities are the foundation of the overall shopper-engagement process, which varies widely depending on the retailer,” Cohen said. “A particular retailer’s ability to dovetail their particular strengths with their target customers’ priorities is the key to converting more of their casual browsers into loyal, ongoing buyers.”

Methodology: Information in “The Retail and Brand Landscape” report series is based on a nationally representative survey of more than 15,000 consumers, per industry sector, from The NPD Group's online consumer panel. Consumers reviewed approximately 60 retailers and 75 to 100 brands in each industry sector. This report series is available for the following sectors: total apparel, total footwear, active apparel, athletic footwear, auto, computers and computer accessories (quarterly), home textiles/housewares, home appliances/home improvement, jeans, consumer technology, toys, and TVs.

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