Smaller running brands such as On, Hoka, Puma and Reebok surged in Q4, driving gains in the performance footwear category.
That’s according to the NPD Group Inc., which shared its footwear sales data and insights for the fourth quarter with FN.
According to the report, U.S. sales for performance footwear grew 12% to $1.8 billion compared to $1.6 billion in 2019. Athletic brands focused on running, hiking, and walking “were among the biggest winners” in Q4, explained Matt Powell, senior industry advisor for sports at the NPD Group, in the report. However, certain factors impeded growth for the category in the quarter as well.
“Oversupply in 2021, supply chain issues, and a lack of newness in the market all were factors that hurt the overall U.S. athletic footwear business in the fourth quarter,” said Powell.
Major brands like Nike and Adidas that rely on China and Vietnam for production were hit hard when lockdowns and factory shutdowns swept through both regions over the summer. These shutdowns hurt overall unit production and in some cases, caused product shortages in certain markets.
U.S. leisure footwear sales grew modestly at 2% to $5.6 billion compared to $5.5 billion in 2019.
“The biggest reason for the slowdown in the leisure footwear category was on account of the weaker trend put up by big brands including Nike, Jordan, and Adidas,” Powell said.
Higher selling prices from inflation helped balance out fewer unit sales overall, leading to an overall growth in the U.S. footwear market in Q4. In December, footwear prices grew 6% year over year. This marked the ninth consecutive month of year over year increases and the fourth highest year over year growth in more than 32 years, according to the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA). For the full year, footwear grew 3.7%, the biggest annual increase in 32 years.
Fashion footwear sales declined in Q4 to $4.5 billion, down 4% from $4.7 billion in 2019, with fewer sales in the women’s category driving the decline.
“As consumers planned for more gatherings and activities, the fashion footwear segment accounted for most of the growth versus the 2020 holiday period,” said Beth Goldstein NPD’s fashion footwear and accessories analyst.
Goldstein added that sales of “dressier silhouettes” were below 2019 levels, with consumers continuing to gravitate towards casual and comfortable options like sneakers, slippers and clogs. According to NPD data, Crocs were the sixth best-selling footwear brand in Q4, up from nineteenth in Q4 of 2019.
NPD’s recent Future of Footwear study found that over 50% of consumers wear casual sneakers to work away from home, compared to less than 20% who wear dress shoes, suggesting that casual will continue to dominate sales while dressier styles might be slower to come back.