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NPD reports downturn in sales for sports apparel & footwear

Dec '08
Economic challenges are taking a toll on sales of athletic footwear and apparel, according to leading market research company The NPD Group, Inc. In the European Big Five market during the quarter ending September 2008, value sales declined 8% on apparel and 5% on footwear, the firm reported. Downturns were softer in the U.S. where athletic footwear was down only 1.5%, and the active apparel market posted a modest 0.7% gain for the three months ending in September.

While the European market was down overall, there were bright spots, NPD reported. While sales of sports apparel and footwear intended for casual use were down, sales of apparel and footwear intended for sport use saw increases. For footwear bought mostly for sport use, the European market scored a 5% increase in units for the quarter compared to a year ago. In apparel, for Tops intended for sport use, unit sales were up a robust 12%.

The trend for purchases not primarily for sport use tells a different story. Sales of athletic footwear declared by the consumer as mostly not intended for sport use were down 7% for the quarter compared to a year ago. The same is true for apparel; when focusing on sport style tops not purchased for sport use, unit sales were down 10%.

“Businessmen will not give up their Sunday jogging when the going gets tough,” said NPD sport industry expert Renaud Vaschalde. “If you look at sales related to sport use, the dynamic of consumption is still there, at least in units. On the other hand, if you look at the market intended for casual use, the story is quite different.”

Projecting the current trend for the last quarter of 2008, Vaschalde believes the Big 5 European sport footwear market will end up the year 2008 down around 5% in value and sport apparel will be down around 8%, as no change is expected in the short term, with most of the downward trend generated by continued lower sales on sport style footwear and sport style apparel for casual use.

NPD defines the Europe Big 5 Market as UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

U.S. - Downturn trends have been much softer in the athletic footwear market and apparel markets than for the larger economy as athletic footwear was down only 1.5% and the active apparel market posted a modest 0.7% gain for the three months ending in September.

In the U.S. also, there have been bright spots as athletic footwear sales to men and active apparel sales to women have continued to post solid gains over the same 3 month period.

Sales of athletic footwear to men 13+ used for “Casual/Everyday Use” were up 8.1% over the same three month period last year driven by a 10% climb in average sale price (from $42.32 up to $46.56). “Sport Use” athletic footwear sales were up with men 7.2% driven by an 8.5% increase in average sale price (from $44.75 to $48.57). All other age and gender groups were down over the same period.

Active Apparel sales posted a slight gain as sales to Men were down -4.6% while sales to Women were up 2.0%.

The NPD Group Inc

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