According to The NPD Group, Inc a leading market research company, the athletic footwear market is starting to show signs of shifting momentum.
Overall the athletic footwear market declined less in 2009 than it did in 2008. In 2009 athletic footwear sales posted a 1.4 percent decline and in 2008 sales were down 3.2 percent.
Looking at the gender breakouts the women's market finished in positive territory up 0.6 percent while the men's market posted a 3 percent decline.
“In other areas of the fashion industry women make up the lion's share of the market, but not here,” observed Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. “Much of the success in women's can be attributed to toning and shaping footwear. In the men's market that is not so. The challenge is for brands to get men to pick up on this trend. Not the toning and shaping trend necessarily but they may just jump on the comfort and wellness bandwagon.”
Fourth quarter results in the athletic footwear market, showed growth. Some categories of note are: casual athletic, +2.3 percent; hiking, +9.2 percent; and walking +57 percent which was driven by sales of toning and shaping footwear.
“Fourth quarter results, here again, show the consumer's focus on footwear for holiday and for the third consecutive year,” said Cohen. “The footwear industry as a whole doesn't think of itself as a holiday business but these results indicate they might want to rethink their position.”
Taking a look at the categories in athletic footwear that have traditionally been the top performers by dollar share is evidence of continued challenges. In particular, the two stalwarts of the athletic footwear market, basketball and running, continue to post declines. The declines suffered in basketball can be attributed to the decline in the sales of classics.
“The number one reason people don't participate in a sport is motivation, or lack thereof. And the lack of innovative product reduces consumer's motivation to purchase,” said Cohen. “The brands that understand and play the motivation card in two ways and can ultimately win this race.”
Additionally, the sales of active apparel have dropped 4 percent as have the sales of sport use apparel (-5.5 percent).
“I see this as an additional indicator that the market needs to convince consumers that there are new, exciting, and innovative products awaiting their purchases,” observed Cohen. “Beyond the need to just get better, the industry needs to understand that if you give consumers something they can relate to, something that they need as well as make them understand that the product is indeed new and unique consumers will buy, even in challenging times.”