Fashion-Athletic Sales Pick Up Speed

NEW YORK — Sales of fashion-driven athletic footwear in the European market have sprinted ahead of sportier sneaker styles, NPD Group Inc.’s latest market study revealed.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research company said Tuesday that annual 2007 European figures showed sales for leisure and classic styles — or low-performance athletic shoes designed mainly for style rather than sport — grew 2 percent. Meanwhile, sales of athletic footwear fell 5 percent.

Among the best-selling sneaker styles in Europe were the Adidas ADI Racer, Asics Whizzer, Converse All Star, Nike Sprint Brother/Sister and Nike Air Max series — all low-performance styles.

In the U.S., NPD is seeing a similar trend in the sneaker market, where sales of low-performance shoes showed a 12.7 percent increase in 2007.

“The long-term trend we see is that sport-inspired/fashion-focused shoes are taking over market share from more functional shoes,” Renaud Vaschalde, NPD European sports industry analyst, said in a written statement. “Clearly, this is a trend that is here to stay and will be a primary driver of growth in the European sport industry.”

The study also revealed that Internet sales in Europe over the past four years made up 8 percent of total footwear sales in 2007 compared with only 2 percent in 2002.

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