Fleet Feet, Inc. released its 2003 annual report last week, revealing results for the chain that were described as “solid, but not outstanding” by management, but would have been seen as strong for most other chains in the industry.

The running specialty franchiser now has 50 stores in 24 states that delivered $36 million in total sales for 2003, an 11% increase from 2002. Comparable store sales increased 5.8% for the year, a number Fleet Feet said was the lowest comp sales gain in five years. The company saw seven new stores open in 2003 after five openings in 2002. The stores that opened in 2002 saw a 50% increase in sales last year.

Perhaps the most impressive figure is the $540 per square foot generated, on average, by each of the stores. An average store generates $816,000 after its first year of operation.

Asics was Fleet Feet’s largest footwear vendor, representing 18% of the overall footwear business, a loss in share despite increasing sales 7.5% for the year.

Brooks, the fastest growing footwear vendor with a 31% increase in sales, Mizuno, showing a 27% increase, and Saucony, which had a 17% gain in footwear sales, all gained footwear share based on Fleet Feet’s 11.5% total increase in FW sales. New Balance rose 10% and Nike sales inched up just 1% for 2003.

On the apparel side, Nike grew the fastest with a 55% increase in sales for the year and captured the largest share with 24% of total apparel sales. adidas and Sugoi also gained apparel share with increases of 35% and 25%, respectively. Hind, which rose 16% for the year, Moving Comfort, up 6.3% for the year, and Brooks, rising 4.6%, all lost apparel share. Total Fleet Feet apparel sales increased 19.8% for the year.

The share results could be an indicator of things to come for 2004. In his Outlook for 2005, Fleet Feet CEO tom Raynor said that there will be a shake-out among the footwear vendors this year, with two losing “significant” share and three gaining share. He said three brands were “on the bubble” and could disappear from broad distribution in the Fleet Feet stores. He said one brand not currently widely distributed will have “huge gains in market share, sales, and distribution”.

Average store sales in 2004 are expected to be $950,000, with a “successful” store generating $1.5 million in sales for the year. Gross margins are forecast at 46% for the year. Footwear is expected to be 65% of total sales, apparel will generate 20% of sales, and accessories is forecast to be 15% of sales. Raynor said most of the accessories gains will come from partnerships with SuperFeet and SofSole and the implementation of the F.I.T. system.

Management expects that Fleet Feet stores with the F.I.T. system will produce $250,000 more revenue than stores without it.