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The State of the Outdoor and Athletic Footwear Markets Is Bleak

Outdoor Retailer made its Denver debut this week, the Colorado Convention Center was packed and there was a palpable energy inside the venue. But the state of the athletic and outdoor industries isn’t as healthy as it should be.

During the NPD Trend Breakfast on Friday, where athletic and outdoor industry experts Matt Powell and Julia Day broke down retail and consumer trends, the bleak state of the marketplaces was put on display.

According to Powell, NPD’s senior industry advisor for sports, footwear sales in the U.S. were up 2 percent in 2017 to $19.6 billion. But the expert did not attribute the bump to something positive, such as newness or innovation. Instead, he believes the extreme promotional environment of the marketplace was responsible.

“In our industry today, we do not have a must-have item,” Powell said.

Aside from the promotional environment, Powell stated the slowdown of footwear purchases by hispanic consumers had a tremendous negative impact on the marketplace. According to Powell, sales for this demographic were down 8 percent for the 12 months ending November 2017.

And the bad news did not stop with the athletic marketplace. Day, the executive director of business development for NPD, confirmed that that footwear sales in outdoor specialty retail doors were down 2.4 percent for the last 12 months.

Powell also stated that the health of brick-and-mortar retail is also abysmal, and that the industry could expect to see 12,000 store closures in 2018 and 9,000 in 2019.

“I’ve never found shopping to be more joyless than it is right now,” Powell said.

But there are few bright spots with athletic and outdoor footwear. During the presentation, Powell stated 27 percent of footwear is bought online, which equates to one of every four pairs, and online athletic footwear sales were up 9 percent in 2017.

Looking forward, Powell believes athletic and outdoor footwear sales will continue to decline, the promotional environment won’t go away and stores will continue to close.

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