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Bolstered by Retro Designs, US Athletic Footwear Industry Up 8% in 2015

2015 was a strong year for the athletic footwear category, which continued to grow thanks to collective nostalgia for retro styles, as well as the rise of casual athletic footwear.

The U.S. athletic footwear industry grew by 8 percent in 2015, generating $17.2 billion and marking one of the best performances the industry has had in a number of years, according to global information company The NPD Group. Unit sales grew by 3 percent and average selling price by 5 percent, to $61.15.

“While there was tremendous volatility at the category level, the overall strength of the industry was clearly evident in 2015,” said Matt Powell, vice president and sports industry analyst for the NPD Group. “Performance footwear, particularly running and basketball, cooled off in 2015 and we saw a rise in the more casual and retro styles. This will be an important trend to watch in 2016. The hiking shoe category has also been, and should remain, strong as we continue to see the merging of outdoor and athletic.”

So-called “classic” footwear lead the way for the entire athletic category, boasting a 30% year-on-year increase in sales, representing about $3.5 billion in revenue. This growth was driven by retro basketball and retro running shoes. The Classics trend was evident among all consumers, as the category showed substantial sales increases among men (+26 percent), women (+69 percent), and children (+29 percent) alike. Meanwhile hiking, walking, cross-training and running shoes rounded out the top five categories with biggest year-on-year growth.

Coinciding with the holiday season, athletic footwear sales peak in December. The final month of 2015 was one of the best in terms of sales growth for athletic footwear. Total dollar sales grew 13 percent, unit sales by 10 percent, and average selling price by 3 percent compared to December 2014. Classics experienced the strongest growth during this time as well, with a 63 percent rise in dollar sales.

“I expect to see the positive momentum we saw from athletic footwear throughout 2015 continue in 2016,” said Powell. “The athleisure trend has helped the acceleration of growth, as has social fitness, which will continue to shape the sports business as class-based fitness activities and other shared experiences will dominate the industry. Brands and retailers must integrate this trend into their plans. It will be necessary for them to capitalize on social fitness in order to grow in the months ahead.”