The U.S. sports retail business was a bit of a mixed bag in the first quarter as early numbers from the public companies started to come in over the last two weeks. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Big 5 Sporting Goods both posted solid comp store sales gains in the mid-single-digits for the first quarter, while Hibbett Sporting Goods saw comps dip ever so slightly below the flat line for the period. Retailers benefited by gains in performance and higher price-point products in both footwear and apparel.

Based on recent POS retail sales data compiled by SportScanINFO for the retail first quarter through April, outdoor footwear sales rose in the mid-single-digits in the Sports Retailer sector, which includes sporting goods, athletic/urban specialty, sport specialty, and Internet/catalog retailers. This translates to a mid-single-digit comp sales decline, according to estimates by The SportsOneSource Group. The POS data indicates a low-single-digit total gain in sales for the approach category, while technical hiking boots increased more than 20% for the period. Hunting boots were a drag on the overall outdoor category, posting a high-single-digit decline on a comp store basis. The sandal category saw considerable strength in Q1, thanks in part to warmer temps earlier this year than last. Overall sandal sales were up in the mid-20’s, but sandals over $50 were up more than twice the average. The Crocs effect is felt in the $20 to $40 price-points, where sales nearly doubled for the period, while sales in the under-$20 range were cut in half, a trend that could be the result of consumers trading up from flip-flops.

In apparel, the SportScanINFO data indicates that the Sports Retailer sector posted growth in the low-teens, again benefiting from higher average unit retail prices and increased unit sales. Performance apparel, which includes all compression and moisture-management product, was up in the high-20’s for the period as the consumer opts for technical fabrications for their casual lifestyle. No where is the trend more evident than it is in t-shirts where sales of product under $15 were down more than 35%, while sales of t-shirts over $20 were up in triple-digits. In the shorts category, the consumer is moving to more of an outdoor look. While sales of all shorts were up in the mid-teens, sales in the hiking/outdoor/adventure category were up more than 40% for the quarter. Walking/casual shorts were down in the mid-teens.