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Athletic Footwear Sales Reach $3 Billion During Back-to-School Season

Consumers’ love for sport and the outdoors is boding well for athletic and outdoor footwear brands. The NPD Group said athletic and outdoor footwear sales reached $3 billion during the 14-week selling period ending Sept. 20, 2014—a 5 percent increase from the same period in 2013.

In particular, during the first three weeks of September (Sept. 1-27) athletic footwear dollar sales grew 9 percent compared to 2013, indicating that back-to-school shopping is being pushed further down the calendar year. Basketball footwear contributed nearly a quarter of total athletic sales, and saw the most category growth spiking 48 percent from last year, NPD reported.

NPD Group chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen said retailers can learn from the late surge of footwear sales and called it an example of how consumers are in the “need now, buy now mindset.” He added, “Basketball shoe sales in particular are a great example of just how different the consumer shops today, and how the sneaker culture has shifted over the past couple of years.”

The robust pace at which footwear sales are growing has set a positive tone for fall shopping. With cold weather approaching most of the country—and with the chilling memories of last winter’s record low temperatures not too far in the past—expect to see demand for winter footwear to run high.

Between Labor Day (Sept. 1) and the first day of fall (Sept. 23), NPD Group found that dollar growth for winter and snow boots increased 24 percent from $870,000 in 2013 to $1.1 million in 2014. During the same period, $3.1 million worth of rain boot sales were made, up from $2.5 million in 2013. Hiking boot sales increased 18 percent, raking in $8.3 million in 2014, compared to $7.1 million the year prior.

Cohen said, “This considerable jump in outdoor footwear sales over the past year can largely be attributed to the fact that consumers today, more than ever before, are looking to buy footwear that does more than just go for a hike or plow through snow, but is functional for their casual and outdoor lifestyle.” He added, “Designers today are appealing to consumers by doing precisely that: offering practical weather and season-specific footwear that is also fashionable, and can be worn outdoors as well as in the workplace.”