NPD: Walking Performed Best in 2009

The athletic footwear market is making slight year-over-year improvements, with a portion of sales driven by toning footwear, according to a report by The NPD Group Inc.

The sports market showed a smaller decline in 2009 — 1.4 percent — compared with a decline of 3.2 percent in 2008. Fourth-quarter results were also improved, showing growth in casual athletic (up 2.3 percent) and walking categories (up 57 percent).

“In other areas of the fashion industry, women make up the lion’s share of the market, but not here,” Marshal Cohen, NPD chief industry analyst, said in a statement released Wednesday. “Much of the success in women’s can be attributed to toning and shaping footwear. In the men’s market, that is not so. The challenge is for brands to get men to pick up on this trend.”

The report also showed positive full-year increases for the casual athletic, hiking and walking categories, while the skate, running and basketball categories all declined.

When comparing change based on dollar volume sales, the women’s market was up 0.6 percent from 2008 to 2009, compared with the men’s market, which slipped 3 percent.

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