The U.S. athletic footwear industry grew by 2% in 2017, generating $19.6 billion in sales, according to global information company The NPD Group. Unit sales also grew by 2% and average selling price remained flat, at $58.16.
The women’s market grew the fastest, with sales up 5% over 2016. Men’s footwear, the largest segment of the market, grew its sales by 1%, as did the kid’s market.
“This was one of the most promotional years in decades for the athletic footwear industry. While promotions helped drive sales in 2017 and the product mix kept the average selling price flat, it was a double-edged sword for the industry, as its performance was not as healthy as in more recent years,” says Matt Powell, senior industry advisor, sports at The NPD Group. “Brands and retailers need to change their course of action to achieve long-term growth. Adopting solutions in their marketing and product development will give the industry an important boost in 2018, and set it on the right track moving forward.”
Continuing its growth relative to the performance category, sport leisure is now the largest category in athletic footwear. Sport leisure captured $9.6 billion in sales in 2017 and grew 17%, while performance sales declined 10% to $7.4 billion, a rate that has accelerated for the last two years. The fastest-growing segments of the market were running inspired (+39%) and casual athletic (+24%) footwear. On the performance side, running shoe sales declined by 7%, and training sales were down 15%.
Nike/Brand Jordan, Adidas, Skechers, Under Armour, and New Balance were the top-selling brands based on dollar sales in 2017. Adidas was the fastest-growing player in the market overall, growing its sales by over 50%. While the list of top 10 selling shoes was dominated by Nike and Brand Jordan, Adidas had two shoes on the list this year—Superstar and Tubular Shadow.
“I often get asked whether the bubble around leisure will burst anytime soon, and the answer is no. There is not a single performance shoe in the top ten list for 2017, which illustrates the sportswear fashion cycle we are in. Athleisure rules the runway, and the line between what is an athletic shoe and a casual shoe continues to blur. Brands and retailers must continue to feed this trend,” said Powell.
Looking at quarterly performance, the industry’s sales generated during the third (Q3) and fourth (Q4) quarters of the year were almost the same, as both coincide with key seasons for the industry: back-to-school and holiday. Impacted by price promotions, the fourth quarter of 2017 grew 4% compared to that same period in 2016.