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Sneakernomics: Third Quarter Sales Results for US Athletic Footwear and Apparel

After an unseasonably warm and very promotional September, the U.S. athletic footwear market eked out a gain in the third quarter of 2017, with dollar sales up 2 percent.

Overall, women’s athletic footwear sales grew nicely, with sales up 6 percent, while both men’s and children’s sales were flat.

Once again, the performance category struggled while sport leisure had a strong increase. Sport leisure, the largest category, grew its sales in the mid-teens, fueled by the modern runner trend. Though performance running continues to be challenged and new product introductions have had little impact, lifestyle running shoes are performing favorably; running inspired footwear sales grew by more than 40 percent in Q3.

The decline in performance basketball moderated in Q3, with sales down in the high single-digits for the quarter. American football, baseball, and soccer footwear also experienced declines during these months.

The warm weather impact was evident in several categories. Cold weather boots and hiking shoes both experienced declines, while sandals and slides both posted gains.

Looking at some brand highlights, Adidas’ sales trend moderated from the previous trend, but still grew by nearly half. Adidas was strong in the sport leisure category, but also ran counter to trend with increases in basketball and running. While most major technical running brands posted declines, Brooks’ sales grew double-digits for the quarter.

Nike brand sales were down in the low single-digits, with particular weakness in performance running. Brand Jordan sales declined in the mid-single digits and lost 80 basis points in share. Converse sales were down in the low teens, as share contracted. Nike, Inc. sales declined in the mid singles for the quarter and donated 270 basis points in share; nevertheless, its styles continue to dominate the list of top-selling items. For Q3, those were Nike Tanjun, Chuck Taylor Low, Nike Air Huarache, Jordan V, and Nike Revolution 3.

Looking at some of the major cold weather brands, Columbia footwear sales gained in the low teens, and Timberland sales were flat. Keen, Merrell, and The North Face all declined.

Looking at activewear, the warm September weather and heavy promotional environment also helped activewear to close the quarter positively. Dollar sales were up 3 percent.

Men’s activewear sales were down by 1 percent, while women’s grew by 7 percent and kids by 6 percent.

National chains and department stores both posted high single-digit gains. Combined, these channels now generate more sales than the athletic specialty/sporting goods channel.

Looking at category highlights, sweatshirts were the star for Q3, with sales up over 20 percent. No doubt that the heavy promotional environment helped drive this category. Nike sweatshirts grew by nearly half. Outerwear sales also fared well in Q3, up 4 percent, with particular strength stemming from smaller brands. Active bottom sales grew by 3 percent, while knit shirt sales declined 2 percent.

Private label remains a big story, and retailers continue to drive this initiative as they must find ways to stay above the promotional fray.

Looking at some of the major brands, Patagoina, Adidas, Under Armour, and Nike all grew their sales in the activewear space.

With the final quarter of the year underway, I’ve published my outlook for the holiday season. If you haven’t yet seen it, you can check it out here.


This article is written by The NPD Group’s Vice President, Industry Analyst-Sports Matt Powell. Read more of Powell’s industry insight on his blog, Sneakernomics.

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