Feb 13, 2020 - Sports

The decline of the basketball shoe

Kendall Baker, author of Sports

Illustration:Aïda Amer/Axios

Basketball shoe sales are down for the fourth consecutive year, and the industry is being crushed by the athleisure wave.

By the numbers: Basketball shoe sales currently represent less than 5% of the athletic shoe market, a huge drop from their 13% market share in 2014, per research firm NPD.

  • Meanwhile, the athleisure industry grew 7% over a 12-month period in 2019.

Flashback: When Michael Jordan and Nike debuted the Air Jordan 1 in 1984, it revolutionized the sneaker industry and set off a decades-long frenzy around basketball shoes, which became collector's items for some and everyday shoes for others.

The state of play: "This is the culmination of the athleisure trend, where we are wearing athletic inspired footwear and apparel but we don't intend to use them for sport," NPD analyst Matt Powell told MarketWatch.

  • Another reason for the sales slump "can be as simple as what kind of pants people are wearing," says one UBS analyst, who suggests that big, bulky shoes don't look as good with a current fashion trend: tighter pants.

The bottom line: Endorsement deals with top NBA players are still crucial for footwear companies looking to reach new customers, but shifts in consumer taste indicate that they might not have the revenue-driving impact they once had.

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