By Matt Powell
The third week of March was a real turning point in the evolving story of U.S. athletic footwear sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As sneaker retailers closed their doors, whether voluntarily or under lockdown, sales began to fall. In the week ending March 21, athletic footwear sales were down by 65% compared to the same week last year, with all the major and hottest brands facing declines. Sport lifestyle and skate, the categories that were trending the best before the pandemic, also each declined by more than 60%.
The hardest hit categories were those tied to youth spring sports. Across the nation, scholastic spring sports have been cancelled or postponed. American football, soccer, and baseball shoes all experienced sales declines of more than 90%. This does not bode well for the parallel sports equipment categories and retailers who sell such products.
While articles are reporting that more people are running outside since they can’t/won’t go to the gym to work out, thus far NPD data does not show any lifts in running shoe sales. In the week ending March 21, running shoe sales were down by nearly 70%. Performance basketball shoes saw declines of more than 70%.
As long as the majority of physical stores remain shuttered, I cannot expect these athletic footwear trends to abate. While some sales have likely shifted online and given a boost to retailers’ and brands’ e-commerce businesses, this is still not sizable enough to compensate and reverse these trends. I will continue to keep a pulse on the athletic footwear and broader sporting goods markets for you in the weeks ahead.
Matt Powell is VP, senior industry advisor, sports.