NPD: Sport leisure footwear dominates as athleisure rules the runway

Performance and training footwear is so yesterday.

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%. The 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,” said Matt Powell, senior industry advisor, sports, The NPD Group. “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.”

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.

“I often get asked whether the bubble around leisure will burst anytime soon, and the answer is no,” Powell said. “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.”

The fastest-growing segments of the market were running inspired (up 39%) and casual athletic (up 24%) footwear. On the performance side, running shoe sales declined by 7%, and training sales were down 15%.