Outdoor and Athletic Retail Is Struggling — but It Can Be Repaired 

Outdoor and athletic retail is struggling, and Matt Powell of The NPD Group Inc. illustrated this in a presentation today in Denver at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market showcase. However, the insider also shared suggestions with players in the industry on how to improve the shopping landscape.

“We have far too many stores in the United States, we have far too many stores selling the same stuff in the United States,” Powell said. “We need to go through this retail rationalization, It’s very painful, but we’ll be a stronger industry on the other side.”

And as stores close — including the 90 million square feet of now vacant retail space from bankruptcies in the first quarter of 2018 — a significant portion of its business goes to the internet. According to Powell, 28 percent of footwear sales in the 12 month period ending March 2018 were made online, and he believes the number could jump to as much as 50 percent in the next five years.

But brick-and-mortar stores are still important.

Powell explained during the presentation that 25 percent of all athletic shoes were purchased online, but 65 percent of the people who bought a pair online bought their next in a physical store.

To capitalize on the people still walking into stores, Powell said the experience needs to improve. And he personally didn’t pull any punches on how he feels when shopping today.

“For me, shopping has never been more joyless. There’s nothing fun about shopping anymore,” he said.

An emphasis, according to Powell, needs to be placed on immediacy and personal connections.

“We have to figure out how to take any friction out of the transaction, we get the customer through the cashier line as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said. “[And] people like to be reminded that they’re known in the store, people remember what they bought the last time they were there, they remember what they talked about. That kind of personal relationship means a ton.”

However, he warned against thinking the experience has to be the same for everyone, every time someone walks into a store.

“As a consumer, sometimes I want to be fawned over and sometimes I just want to get in and out,” Powell said. “Retailers need to be able to read that and make sure consumers are being treated how they want.”

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