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Athletic Footwear Sales Slowed in Q4: NPD

U.S. athletic footwear sales growth fell into the mid-single-digits in the fourth quarter as Nike and Jordan both saw declines of about 10 percent and Adidas posted only a low single-digit increase, according to NPD vice president and senior industry advisor for sports Matt Powell.

The category rose 15 percent in the third quarter, NPD’s early data showed. As the economy lapped the pandemic’s early days in the first half of last year, sales were up more than 33 percent. Powell dubbed 2021 a “year of disruption for the U.S. athletic footwear market.”

“Annual revenue grew by about 20%, versus 2020, but poor execution, supply chain delays, the end of stimulus payments, and a lack of newness in the market all hurt the business in the fourth quarter,” Powell wrote in a note published by the NPD Group Friday.

Men’s athletic footwear sales grew in the high teens as women’s and kids climbed nearly 25 percent. Nike and Adidas ceded share in the women’s business, Powell said.

Shoe chains led the way by retail channel, with sales up more than one-third. The premium channel improved 25 percent and mid-tier/value stores and athletic specialty/sporting goods outlets grew in the mid-teens.

Nike brand sales ended the year up in the low teens while Jordan’s growth was limited to the mid-single digits—“well off the industry pace,” Powell noted. The two brands ceded more than 300 basis points in share, according to NPD’s data.

Adidas, the second-ranked athletic footwear brand of 2021, experienced a 20 percent bump in athletic footwear sales. Skechers, Brooks, Vans and Converse all saw sales grow about 40 percent, while Puma and Reebok grew more than 50 percent.

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Performance running had “an outstanding 2021,” Powell said, with total sales up more than 25 percent. Skating and hiking categories reportedly grew at a similar rate. Walking improved by one third.

Though both brands saw slowing growth in the fourth quarter, sales at Hoka One One doubled and the newly public On grew by more than 165 percent in the full year. Powell said he expects On’s revenue will surpass Hoka’s this year.

The return to in-person learning boosted several scholastic sport footwear categories, including basketball, which was up in the high teens, and soccer. Sport lifestyle, meanwhile, grew in the high teens “largely due to weak performance from Nike and Jordan,” Powell noted.

Nike dominated 2021’s top 10 athletic sneakers, with Nike Air Max 270, Nike Air Force 1 ’07 Low and Nike Air Max Excee taking the top three spots, in revenue rank order. Adidas, Jordan and Brooks each saw a single silhouette make the list.

Though activewear sales slowed down in the fourth quarter, the category still easily outpaced the overall athletic footwear market, growing about 30 percent in 2021, according to NPD data. Women’s sales grew about 25 percent, a little behind pace, as Nike and Under Armour “ceded share” and private labels gained, Powell said.

Both department stores and athletic specialty/sporting goods outlets saw revenue improve by 30 percent, in line with the overall category. Nike, Adidas and Under Armour reportedly underperformed, to the benefit of brands like Puma and Reebok. Hanes and Fruit of the Loom also lagged the total market, while Champion grew by “nearly half.” Sales of outerwear tops grew in the low teens, while knit shirts, sweatshirts, pants, underwear, bras and socks all performed in line with the market. Shorts outperformed.