According to the NPD Group, overall athletic footwear sales in the first six weeks of the back-to-school season, ending August 14, 2021, grew by 20 percent versus 2020 and in the high-single-digits versus 2019.

“There is no doubt that the child tax credit checks and a meaningful growth in wages contributed to strong sales,” said Matt Powell, VP, senior industry advisor, sports, the NPD Group.

  • Kids’ footwear sales improved by almost 40 percent during this time, as the delayed and often virtual 2020 school year altered consumption patterns;
  • Women’s athletic footwear continued strong, up almost 30 percent versus 2020 and increasing 21 percent over 2019;
  • Nike and Adidas continued to cede share in women’s athletic footwear;
  • The men’s market was the “laggard,” with sales rising versus 2020; and
  • The men’s athletic footwear category struggled to offset the flooding of last year’s limited-edition shoes.

NPD said the ongoing comeback of performance running shoes continued during the first half of the back-to-school season, with sales growing by about one-third versus last year, with walking shoes growing almost 60 percent.

  • Growth in hiking shoes was softer, up in the high-single-digits compared to 2020; however, the category was one of the few to grow in 2020;
  • Sales of basketball shoes increased this year but declined by nearly 20 percent compared to 2019; and
  • The sport lifestyle category, casual, athletic-inspired sneakers, increased in the mid-teens versus 2020. Skate footwear grew by more than 45 percent.

By footwear brands:

  • Nike grew though it underperformed the market;
  • Jordan sales were negative during the first half of the back-to-school season;
  • Converse sales nearly doubled due to strong women’s results;
  • Nike ceded more than 500 basis points in share for the first half of the back-to-school season versus 2020. Its shares were flat over 2019;
  • Adidas sales grew in the high-teens;
  • Skechers sales were up about 50 percent;
  • Vans sales nearly doubled;
  • Under Armour, Brooks, and Asics each rose by more than one-third;
  • Puma improved by nearly 75 percent;
  • Reebok sales grew more than 50 percent; and
  • On passed Hoka One One in sales, its business grew four-fold.

“I expect the second half of this year’s back-to-school season 2021 will be positive though more challenged than in the first half. Last year’s strong September results will temper growth,” said Powell.