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New Study: Basketball Footwear Sales Surge

According to a new study, basketball footwear continues to emerge as a major retail category, and promises to continue to gather strength during 2014.

Issued by the NPD Group, a global information services company, the study documented the rise of basketball sneakers as a category of footwear, which reached $3.3 billion in sales for 2013. The surge in sales has marched on unabated for the first two months of 2014, leaping 21 percent over the performance at the same time last year.

Men’s basketball footwear flew off the shelves, increasing 21 percent in 2013. While women’s basketball footwear actually dipped 15 percent, kids’ basketball sneakers rose an impressive 26 percent. Marsha Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group, said, “With the spotlight on basketball around this time of year due to the NBA All-Star Game leading up to the NCAA Tournament, January and February are key months for basketball footwear retailers to launch their new styles. Along with the already expected healthy momentum, some popular new launches drove sales up even further this year.”

Cohen also discussed the potential for sales growth for kids’ shoes. “The secondary markets are where the basketball shoe action is. The passion of the younger consumer reaching for basketball shoes has shifted away from the big city markets to more rural areas, driving the growth as the business goes mainstream.”

Nike and Under Armour are two retailers that seem particularly well-positioned to take advantage of the upward trends regarding basketball sneakers. Another report, “Activewear Survey–Dominant Players Gain Ground in Shopper Preference,” was issued by the Cowen Group, as part of the new Cowen Consumer Tracking Survey. According to the survey, while athletic apparel continues to gain consumer appeal, against the grain of generally sluggish apparel sales, Nike and Adidas will likely increase their market share as “smaller brands seem to be gaining very little traction.”

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Athletic apparel has become a highly prized sector of the apparel industry; the report describes it as a “rapidly growing, high margin, sub segment” that many retailers are “making an effort to penetrate.” Few seem to be able to match the momentum of Nike and Under Armour, though. Among the U.S. population, Nike “as first choice for activewear” leapt 42 percent in January 2014 from 38 percent in January 2013. Under Armour, for the same time periods, increased from 11 percent to 13 percent. Adidas’ market share decreased and Reebok managed to hold, but not extend, its ground.

In general, the U.S. retail environment and Chinese manufacturing industry for footwear was strong in 2013 and will continue to be in 2014. The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) released a special report on the economic health of the industry, entitled “ShoeStats 2013.” The report provides a summary view of the footwear industry for 2012, assessing both production  and consumption, U.S. imports and exports. The report contains some promising news, like that U.S. footwear consumption jumped by 4.9% to a record $72.4 billion. The AAFA attributes the brisk growth to a litany of factors, including “increased costs throughout the supply chain resulting in higher retail prices and consumers continuing their return to purchases of shoes at higher price-points as they continue to come out of the recession.”

China remains the dominant footwear maker for the U.S., making 80 percent of the shoes bought by Americans. However, U.S. footwear imports declined 2.7 percent in 2012. U.S. footwear employment expanded by 1.3% to 1.02 million workers, still below pre-recession levels. And, on average, every American spent $230 on about seven pairs of shoes.

Athletic apparel in general, and basketball sneakers in particular, have become lucrative retail categories. According to the NPD Group report, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta are the top U.S. cities for basketball sneakers’ sales.