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NPD: How Athleisure and Performance Footwear Fared in Q2 Sales

As sales of fashion and performance footwear slid in the second quarter of 2019, athleisure and lifestyle silhouettes have continued to grow, according to a new report from The NPD Group—signaling continued strength for the dominant category.

Leisure and lifestyle beat out fashion and performance in footwear once again during Q2, boasting $3.3 billion in sales from April to June, NPD’s retail tracking service reported. The category also logged the highest growth, 6 percent over the comparable period last year, resonating especially well with women and children.

“The growth rate in sport lifestyle footwear slowed, as brands have struggled to keep up with consumer demand for fresh looks, yet the category still remains the strongest in footwear sales for now,” said Matt Powell, a senior industry advisor for NPD. “Small brands continued to outpace larger brands. Performance footwear continued its four-year decline. For the most part, brands that emphasize lifestyle saw stronger numbers than those that focus on performance.”

Both fashion and performance footwear fell by four percentage points over their totals a year ago, although fashion footwear’s $3.2 billion in sales nearly doubled the $1.6 billion earned by performance footwear and nearly beat out leisure as the largest category in Q2.

According to Beth Goldstein, NPD’s fashion footwear and accessories analyst, this may have been due to the significant headwinds the category saw during the quarter.

“Warmer temperatures and pre-Easter promotions jumpstarted spring business in April, but this was short-lived. Sandals, including pool slides—which have had two strong years—struggled during the second quarter of 2019, although the category did gain back a bit of ground among women in June,” Goldstein added.

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“Strappy sandals with espadrille and/or athletic bottoms represented a bright spot in the category. Across genders, sport lifestyle sneakers continued to drive sales, as athleisure footwear remains popular,” Goldstein continued. “Consumers also remained motivated by comfort and versatility; chunkier looks stood out, and the flip-flopping weather drove increased demand for more transitional styles.”

Powell also identified the top-selling styles during the first half of the year, lead by Nike’s Air Max 270 and Tanjun, followed by Jordan’s 6 Rings, the Nike Air Force 1 and Jordan VI. Although dominated by Nike, the list was notable for containing only one performance style, the Nike Revolution 4 running shoe, and eight athleisure styles—along with one skate shoe.

Although Nike’s dominance stood out, Powell said that the brand’s inability to replace its best-selling styles from 2018 hurt retailers throughout the quarter, with shoe chain sales declining in the low single-digits. Mid-tier department stores also suffered, falling in the high single-digits, while athletic and sporting goods stores grew in the low single-digits.

Powell said the first half of the year was challenging for most sports brands, pushed even further due to smaller tax returns, a late Easter and unseasonal weather. Still, the analyst sees no light at the end of the tunnel for performance footwear, not while market share is continually gobbled up by athleisure styles.

“There is no indication that performance footwear is coming back in fashion anytime soon,” Powell tweeted out on Wednesday. “Athleisure still seems to reign supreme.”