During a normal holiday season, the retail sector would be licking its chops in anticipation of the prolonged feast served up by American consumers. However, these are not normal times, and this is not a normal holiday season. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen to that, and it could leave the sportswear sector — like many Americans — all dressed up with nowhere to go.
NPD Vice President and Senior Sports Industry Advisor Matt Powell notes that October has been a “mixed bag of results” for the sportswear industry. NPD data shows that overall footwear sales were down in the low teens.
October was a mixed bag of results. The industry needed a strong October to build some momentum going into what will be a challenging holiday.
The shift to a later Prime event was not great for sport footwear, with sales down in the low teens.
— Matt Powell (@NPDMattPowell) November 25, 2020
Despite lower overall sales in October, big brands Nike (NKE), Adidas (ADDYY), and Under Armour (UA) did see some gains. The Swoosh brand had an excellent month, according to Powell, with sales up in the high teens. However, the Nike-owned Jordan brand did give back some of its Q2 gains with a mid-teens decline. Nike-owned Converse also saw declines. German brand Adidas saw sales growth in the high single digits and for Baltimore-based Under Armour sales were up 20% in the month.
Despite the increase in sales for the three major brands Powell advises caution and recommends not reading too much into the October gains.
“October was really an outlier. There were many more limited release shoes than a typical October. Brands were very aggressive on pricing around Prime Days. So. no, I do not think the October result is sustainable. Brands and retailers will have trouble offsetting the releases from last year’s holiday, as social distancing rules will prevent crowds.”
Powell wrote in October that he expects a challenging holiday season for the sports retail business.
However, Powell does see some potential bright spots for the 2020 holiday season, particularly when it comes to running shoes. Powell expects them to outperform the market due to the increased workout routines of socially distant Americans. Powell also believes hiking and cold/all-weather boots will perform well for the same reasons.
Despite this, the NPD vice president expects athletic footwear sales to decline in the low single-digits in Q4.
“There are far too many new variables, and too many unpredictable influences bubbling up for me to presume otherwise. It is clear that we are in a very slow recovery from the COVID-19 recession,” he said.
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.