Holiday 2008 proved to be just as disappointing for many in the retail sphere as everyone worried beforehand. Though anecdotal evidence from much of specialty retail held slightly better results than the general market, conditions were tough all over, leading to an early markdown cadence and a consumer that has quickly become spoiled by 70 percent-off and steeper discounts. However, there were bright spots in the gloom for Holiday as retailers found consumers still ready to spend on Electronics. Running Footwear grew in pockets, but signs of the possible slowing of this previously hot category could be on the horizon.

For Holiday 2008, sales of Sport Footwear were just below flat at retail as a whole. However, Sports Retailers faired slightly worse, down mid-single-digits in dollars due to a low-teens decline at mall specialty. Full line sporting goods was up mid-single-digits, while sport specialty was up in the low-20s for the period that extended from the last week in November through the first week of January.

Running Footwear sales performed better than the overall market, just above flat for the period in dollars with a low-single-digits improvement in average selling prices. However, even that modest growth came largely from fashion-oriented product. Performance Running sales declined in the mid-teens for the Holiday period due to a strong double-digits decline at mall specialty. Fashion Running, on the other hand, grew in the mid-teens in dollars on double-digits growth in all channels.

In Performance Running, Nike and New Balance lost share to Asics, Saucony, Brooks and Mizuno. Avia and Adidas also saw healthy share growth for the Holiday period. Asics actually took over the leading market share position at Sport Retail for Holiday from Nike.

On a product category basis, only Fashion Running and Stability product sales increased over last year’s Holiday period. Stability sales increased in the high-20s as wider assortments at mall specialty helped to spark sales. Average selling prices were marginally up for the category for the period. All other subcategories of running product, Trail Running, Cushioning and Motion Control, saw sales decline compared to Holiday last year.

In Electronics, Heart Rate Monitors sold particularly well, up in the high-20s for Holiday. This category has benefited from consumers demanding more detailed information and statistics on their run to maximize its effectiveness. However, though Heart Rate Monitors were up, Pedometers were down, likely suffering as more consumers sought out Nike+ product as a replacement.

Though sales were generally tough throughout Holiday, anecdotal results from the floor had the first week of January off to a much better start. The only issue is that the boost can be very easily attributable to a shift in calendar that saw consumers more or less have the week off from work between Christmas and New Years, whereas last year they only had a couple of days. Regardless, 2009 is shaping up to be a year in which every dollar in the till at days’ end represents a battle won. Maximizing those dollars is of utmost importance. Smart buying and smarter selling will win the day for the quarters ahead.