Though not as popular a spectator sport as baseball or football in the U.S. , soccer is becoming increasingly important to U.S. apparel and footwear retailers, who are seeing sales of soccer cleats and clothing outperform those of other sports, according to global information company The NPD Group.
Retail sales of soccer footwear grew by 14 percent in the 12 months ending March 31 this year, compared to 2 percent growth in the prior year period. By segment, men’s grew the most, at 20 percent, while women’s and children’s each rose by 8 percent.
Apparel sales had an even bigger jump, surging by 57 percent in the year ending March, up from flat growth in the year-ago period. Men’s apparel gained 85 percent, while children’s gained 46 percent and women’s rose 12 percent.
The soccer cleat business in the U.S. is largely confined to children’s and young adult sizes, and are worn for participation in the sport, while the growth in apparel is more about fan wear.
“With sports participation in decline in the U.S., it is encouraging to see a category like soccer growing,” said Matt Powell, sports industry analyst, The NPD Group. “The 2014 World Cup spurred a big jump in interest in soccer, both as a spectator sport and in terms of participation. While excitement typically builds since it comes only every four years, this past year’s World Cup drew record audiences to the games on TV. With this level of heightened interest, the soccer category is one to keep an eye on.”
According to NPD’s research, soccer has gained popularity across genders and age groups. While growth of sales for apparel and footwear in other sports categories have been mixed, soccer is on the plus-side across the board.
Provided the recent news about corruption FIFA, soccer’s governing body, doesn’t taint the sport too much, this growth is almost sure to continue in the U.S.
“With Generation Z the most diverse generation ever, it is logical to expect an increase in an international sport like soccer,” NPD’s Powell said.