Executive Retail Insights: The NPD Group’s Matt Powell (March 2015)

Executive Retail Insights: The NPD Group’s Matt Powell (March 2015)

This month, FDRA interviewed Matt Powell on continued growth in athletic footwear sales as well as the breakout “Athleisure” market. Powell is the Vice President of Industry Analysis for The NPD Group, covering the sports, outdoor, and recreation marketplace, offering his industry expertise on retail sales and consumer trends across apparel, footwear, and equipment for categories such as running, outdoor, paddlesports, fitness, and cycling. He has over 40 years of experience in the business, and writes Sneakernomics, a blog on Forbes.com.

FDRA: We have seen a sustained boom in athletic footwear sales the last few years, what can we attribute to this growth?  Is innovative footwear or great marketing driving this growth or both?

Powell: It always starts with great product.  We are in a golden age for product right now.  The casualization of dress has helped, along with Millennials growing up wearing nothing but sneakers.

FDRA: What are some of the consistent top brands you see in the marketplace, and what are they doing to stand out from the pack?

Powell: Nike is head and shoulders above anyone in terms of great product and compelling marketing.  Brooks has won because of its relentless (but lighthearted) focus on true runners.  Skechers has a tremendous product engine and truly understands its consumer.

FDRA: What are some up-and-coming brands that might breakout over the next year?

Powell: I really like what Hoka One One is doing.

FDRA: What about retailers?  FDRA tracks weekly sales data for our sales survey from retailers like Foot Locker and Famous Footwear, and they continue to deliver week after week.  What are they, and other successful retailers, doing in store and online that really connects with Americans looking to purchase athletic footwear?

Powell: With Nike and Jordan as hot as they are, retailers who over index with these brands will win.

FDRA: There has been a rise in ‘lifestyle’ footwear sales, and more and more companies are looking for continued growth in that segment.  What do you see – is this move to, what you have termed, ‘Athleisure’ products and marketing a fad or something we can really expect sales to continue to grow over the next five years?

Powell: As Athleisure has swept the nation, with functional products worn as streetwear, so too have sneakers.  “Lifestyle” is “Athleisure” for shoes. I see this trend continuing

FDRA: What about the athletic footwear market in five years – what will overall sales look like by 2020?

Powell: I expect to continue to see annual mid-single digit increases in athletic footwear for the near term.

FDRA: FDRA’s innovation summit on May 7th is focusing on innovations changing the way we produce, ship and sell shoes.  What do you see today that is very innovative in terms of new athletic shoes, new marketing, and new retail technologies that are helping convert browsers into buyers? 

Powell: Sustainable manufacturing is key.  We’ll see more “on-shoring” as labor cost increases in Asia and labor steps are taken out of manufacturing.  Conventional media marketing is a huge waste of ad dollars; it’s all about digital.  Physical stores will not see much growth; it’s all about ecommerce.

FDRA: We know you travel around the county a great deal and pound pavement at a lot of footwear trade shows and retail stores.  What’s your go-to comfort footwear when you’re traveling?  

Powell: I wear a lot of Sperry Gold Cup.  Most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn.  Just bought a pair of Cole Haan Lunars-another great shoe.