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Hiking Shoe Sales Are Climbing Fast, Especially Online — and Merrell Is Leading the Charge

Sales of outdoor footwear climbed $299 million for the 12 months ending May 2021, The NPD Group Inc. senior sports industry adviser Matt Powell revealed yesterday during the Outdoor Retailer Summer show. The mark is a 19% increase over the same period in 2019.

Much of those sales came from e-commerce.

During NPD’s Outdoor Retail Trends and Consumer Insights presentation, Powell stated digital now accounts for more than one-third of athletic footwear revenue.

According to NPD data, for the 12 months ended May 2019, e-commerce made up 26% of athletic footwear sales. That number peaked at 41% for the same period in 2020, and then dipped slightly to 38% for the year ending May 2021.

“It’s really imperative now that every retailer have an e-commerce presence of some kind,” Powell said during the presentation. “You cannot ignore this phenomenon when it’s as large as it is.”

The industry insider offered an end-of-year prediction, doubling down on his digital stance.

“Those [online] numbers are holding up pretty well. We’ve taken a small step backwards, but I’m going to bet by the end of the year we are pretty much in line with the levels that we achieved in 2020,” Powell said.

One of the several outdoor categories with strong double-digit growth this year is hiking and trekking footwear. According to NPD data, for the 12 months ended May 2021, sales in that category grew 20% over the same mark in 2019, with an increase of $53 million.

NPD also shared the top-selling outdoor items in the U.S. based on dollars sold, tracking the athletic specialty retail, sporting goods, outdoor specialty and sports specialty e-commerce channels.

The data revealed Merrell had three of the top 10 best-selling hiking/trekking shoes for the 12 months ending May 2021, including the No. 1 seller: the Moab 2 Mid WP that had an average price of $128. The other Merrell styles in the top 10 include the Moab 2 WP Low ($116), which came in at No. 5, and the Moab 2 Vent ($95), coming in at No. 6.

Other boots topping the best-seller list are the Keen Targhee 3 Mid WP ($137), the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX ($150) and the Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid WP ($96).

Although Merrell has captured a substantial portion of the hiking market, controlling a 19% share, Powell said the brand was down 4 points on losses of 2%, versus 2019 volumes.

According to NPD, the brands that have gained the most share in hike were Columbia, Salomon and Skechers.

And there is still room to grow.

Powell doubled down on his stance that the greatest opportunity in hike is with female consumers, a point he publicly discussed in late July. During his presentation at OR, the insider shared NPD data that revealed women’s sales outpaced the market, up 24% for the year ending May 2021 over the same period in 2019.

Specific to hike, NPD data showed men’s hiking held 70% of the volume for the year ending May 2021, up 15% from 2019. As for women, although the volume was 26%, that represents a 37% jump from the 12 months ending May 2019.

“The women’s piece of the business is growing faster than the men’s, but there is a huge gap between the size of the men’s market and the size of the women’s market,” Powell said. “In my opinion, the women’s business ought to be as large as the men’s business.”

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