By Matt Powell, Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor – Sports, The NPD Group

As expected, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a material impact on first quarter results for the U.S. athletic footwear and activewear businesses.

For Q1 2020, athletic footwear dollar sales declined in the mid-teens. The men’s and women’s markets were down in the mid-teens while kids declined in the high teens. Month by month, January sales grew  by about 10% driven by some brands releasing more limited edition shoes to help compensate for their Q4 numbers. February was down in the low single digits as the NBA All-Star Game failed to lift the declining performance basketball business. And March was down much further, by 40%, as the pandemic hit hard in the U.S.

At the channel level, athletic specialty/sporting goods stores and shoe chains both saw declines in the high teens, while moderate department stores dropped in the mid-teens and premium department stores were down in the mid-singles.

Looking at specific categories, those pertaining to spring sports were the hardest hit as most of these sports have been cancelled or postponed – baseball, soccer, and golf shoe sales declined an average of 30%. Performance basketball and sport lifestyle each declined in the mid-teens. While anecdotally the word on the street is that more people are running today as they can’t or won’t go to fitness clubs, the data shows that running footwear sales also dropped in the mid-teens. While skate shoes were among the top growing segments pre-pandemic, they were also hard hit in Q1 with sales declining by 20%.

In terms of brands, Nike brand footwear sales declined in the high teens, Brand Jordan was down in the low teens, and Converse dropped by more than 30%. Adidas, Skechers, ASICS, and Vans declined in the teens, Under Armour was down about 25%, and Fila declined by nearly half. On the bright side, Brooks had a mid-single digit increase and Puma improved in the low singles.

Here are the top-selling athletic footwear styles for Q1 in dollar rank order:  Nike Air Force 1 Low, Nike Air Max 270, Nike Air VaporMax Plus, Nike Revolution 5, Nike Air Max 97, Jordan XIII, Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit 3, Adidas NMD R1, Jordan I Retro High OG, and Nike Air Max 90.

Activewear sales also declined in the mid-teens for Q1, with the men’s and women’s markets down in the mid-teens and kids’ dropping by more than 20%.

Premium and mid-tier department stores and athletic specialty/sporting goods all declined in the high teens.

Looking at category highlights, sweatpants—the official work from home uniform—grew sales in the low singles. All other main categories experienced declines including other pants and shorts, sweatshirts,  knit shirts, outerwear tops, socks, bras, and swimwear.

From a brand perspective, Champion grew in the high singles and Hanes posted a mid-single digit increase. The aggregate of all private brands experienced a small decline. Adidas dropped by about 25%, Under Armour by about 20%, and Nike activewear was down in the mid-teens, as Fruit of the Loom had a low single-digit decline.

In the shorter term, I’ll be watching closely to see if the stimulus checks have a positive impact on athletic footwear and/or activewear sales.

Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service/ January-March 2020
Note: This data does not include direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales.