NPD Report Reveals Shoppers Purchasing Priorities for Athletic Footwear, Active Apparel, and Sporting Goods

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Catering to consumer shopping priorities is the key to increasing customer engagement at retail stores, according to NPD’s “The Retail and Brand Landscape” report series.

Today retail and branding is more challenging, and learning how to engage today’s athletic consumer is even more so.

According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, when consumers are buying athletic footwear, active apparel, or sporting goods, they express varying priorities when it comes to choosing where they shop. While buyers of footwear and active apparel tended to target specific retailers they know and rely on when planning a shopping trip, those buying sporting goods had other, more cost-conscious, priorities.

According to data from NPD’s “The Retail and Brand Landscape” report series, the top priority for footwear purchasers was finding a retailer they knew and trusted (i.e., “is one of the first places I look”), apparel purchasers look to retailers that they felt reflected their own personal views on style and quality (i.e., “is a store for me”), while sporting goods shoppers tended to be more laissez-faire about their retailer of choice (i.e., “I was in the store anyway”) or they received a gift that brought them into the store (“I had a gift card for this retailer”).

“Today retail and branding is more challenging, and learning how to engage today’s athletic consumer is even more so,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD. “They are very educated about the products they choose, which leads to a greater need to understand them and what triggers them to purchase and remain loyal.”

The following chart shows the top five shopper priorities when choosing a retailer for each of the three product categories:

Sporting Goods:        
1. I was in the store/site anyway        
2. I had a gift card for this retailer        
3. Fun to shop        
4. I had a money-saving offer for this retailer    
5. Is growing in popularity    

Athletic/Outdoor Footwear:
1. Is one of the first places I look
2. Is a store for me
3. Carries the styles I want
4. Is growing in popularity
5. Carries products that fit my needs

Active Apparel:
1. Is a store for me
2. Carries products that fit my needs
3. Carries the styles I want
4. Is growing in popularity
5. Offers good value for the money

Shopper Engagement: The Road from Awareness to Loyal Usage

The ability of retailers to quickly convert consumers through the shopper-engagement process (i.e., from awareness to familiarity to consideration to purchase to loyal usage) differs greatly, according to the type of retail channel studied. “When it comes to sports and athletic products, it is clear that not all channels are equal,” according to Cohen. “Depending on the retail channel shopped, different trigger points are critical for converting shoppers to buyers and ultimately to loyalists.”

For example, among Walmart, Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy Sports, Kmart, and Sears shoppers, Walmart ranked highest in awareness and familiarity in all three product categories (98 percent), while Academy Sports led the pack in converting more first-time purchasers to loyal ongoing customers (35 percent). Among this set of six retailers, the average consumer conversion rates were as follows:

Engagement Step / Conversion Rate (Avg.)
Awareness / 79%
Familiar /    65%
Consider / 40%
Purchase    / 14%
Loyal Usage / 3%

“Consumer priorities are the foundation of the overall shopper-engagement process, which varies widely depending on the retailer,” Cohen said. “A particular retailer’s ability to dovetail their particular strengths with their target customers’ priorities is the key to converting more of their casual browsers into loyal, ongoing buyers.”

Methodology: Information in “The Retail and Brand Landscape” report series is based on a nationally representative survey of more than 15,000 consumers, per industry sector, from The NPD Group's online consumer panel. Consumers reviewed approximately 60 retailers and 75 to 100 brands in each industry sector. This report series is available for the following sectors: total apparel, total footwear, active apparel, athletic footwear, auto, computers and computer accessories (quarterly), home textiles/housewares, home appliances/home improvement, jeans, consumer technology, toys, and TVs.

About The NPD Group, Inc.

The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 2,000 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps our clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, entertainment, fashion, food, home and office, sports, technology, toys, video games, and wireless. For more information, contact us, visit, or follow us Twitter at

Lee Graham     
The NPD Group
(212) 333-4983    


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