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Stream of Sneaker Sales May Be Slowing to a Trickle, NPD Says

While many retailers struggled to keep athletic footwear on the shelves this year, the sneaker boom appears to be quieting.

Stores may see shoppers slowing their consumption of many sneaker styles during the holiday season, NPD’s third-quarter Retail Tracking Service data indicated. Between July and September, the revenue growth rate for these products lost some momentum, according to NPD vice president and senior industry advisor for sports Matt Powell. With a 15 percent increase from the same 2020 and 2019 periods, Q3’s athletic footwear sales paled in comparison to the more than 33 percent growth seen in the year’s first half.

“Sport leisure footwear slowed materially in Q3 compared to the first half trend, as brands that flooded the market with limited edition shoes last year could not offset those results this year,” Powell said, referring to high-profile collabs and exclusive drops from brands like Nike and Reebok. Sales of performance footwear like running shoes, by contrast, improved by 25 percent. Women’s athletic shoes saw growth in the high teens quarter-over-quarter, while men’s revenue grew by high single digits.

Walking and skate shoes also saw 20 percent increases in Q3 year over year, though hiking shoes grew by mid-single digits, suggesting that many consumers are maintaining their active-lifestyle habits. Casual, athletic-inspired sneakers saw high single-digit growth compared to the same period last year, trailing the overall market, and basketball shoes followed a similar trend.

Children’s athletic styles, however, saw strong demand during back-to-school season. Revenue grew 20 percent during the third quarter compared to 2020, with many kids heading back to classrooms after a year of virtual learning.

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Nike’s revenues grew by mid-single digits in the past quarter—though Jordan Brand saw a high-single digit decline. Converse grew more than 50 percent year over year, with the women’s business doubling. Overall, Nike gave up 350 basis points in share during Q3, Powell said.

Competitor Adidas saw modest improvement, with growth in the mid-teens. Skechers, Brooks and Under Armour eclipsed both Nike and Adidas with near-30 percent sales upticks, and New Balance, Saucony and Asics also saw 20 percent bumps. Sales of Vans’ casual slip ons and skate shoes grew by about 33 percent.

Calling Puma’s third quarter “outstanding,” Powell said that the company saw revenue up by more than half. Other standouts include Reebok, which grew by about two-thirds, while Hoka One One’s sales nearly doubled. Tripling its sales, Switzerland’s On Running “is on track to surpass Hoka in market share in 2022,” Powell said.

The top-selling individual footwear styles belong almost exclusively to Nike, though Adidas and Brooks made an appearance as well. Ranked in order of performance, the Nike Air Max 270, Nike Air Max Excee, Nike Air Max 90, Nike Revolution 5, Nike Air Force 1 ’07 Low, Nike Court Vision Low, Adidas NMD R1, Nike Flex Runner, Nike Air Vapormax 2021 FK, and Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 were Q3’s top sellers.

Shoe specialty chains captured the greatest wallet share, with revenue up nearly 30 percent in Q3. Premium department stores grew their athletic footwear sales by 20 percent. Mid-tier and value stores saw growth in the mid-teens, while athletic specialty and sporting goods stores grew by just single digits.

Athletic apparel sales grew at a higher rate than athletic footwear, seeing 20 percent year-over-year growth in Q3, but Powell noted a slowdown in sales during September. Kids’ products grew by almost 25 percent. By contrast, women’s athletic apparel sales climbed by just single digits, with Nike, Adidas and Under Armour losing ground.

While overall sales of athletic footwear and apparel have seen much more modest growth than previous quarters, Beth Goldstein, NPD’s fashion footwear and accessories analyst, said that shoppers aren’t necessarily refocusing on other categories yet. “With the return to offices and events more gradual than expected, fashion footwear continues to recover slowly, remaining about 8 percent below 2019 revenue levels and 13 percent below in unit sales,” she said. Unit declines have been somewhat offset by higher average selling prices—the likely result of added supply chain and shipping costs on goods of all kinds.

Staple items remained consumer favorites between July and September, she said. “In Q3 mules and clogs (Crocs) and casual-comfort sandals were the bright spots, while the dressier categories continued to struggle.”

“While I don’t expect the market to fully turn around during the holiday season, the fact that consumers will likely have more opportunity to celebrate this year should help the fashion market,” she added. What’s more, as job growth continues into the new year, work, occupational and safety footwear are likely to continue to see strong sell-through, she added.