Casual and online are keywords driving US footwear market

The US footwear market continues to be driven by casual styles and it's also seeing a big impact from the shift to online shopping, a new report from The NPD Group shows.


Casual shoes are invading all aspects of the lives of US consumers and are key growth drivers


It said that the US footwear industry grew by 7% in the first half of this year with the biggest gains being for casual shoes and for sales made via webstores. 

The fact is that sneakers are continuing their rise to be the footwear of choice for so many consumers in the US, as well as globally. NPD said sport leisure was the fastest growing category, capturing 65% of dollar sales gains, as athleisure continued to “penetrate all facets of the footwear market.”

But while fashion footwear, which is still the largest category, grew a healthy 5% after two years of declines, that was also largely due to the comfort trend with shoes that have their origins in sport also making an impact here. Aside from sneakers, the top fashion items in the men’s market were sport slides while mules/clogs, fashion slides and strappy sandals were top for women, and sport slides and strappy sandals were the favourites for kids.

The researchers said that consumers today are no longer prepared to compromise on comfort and the industry needs to react to this. Beth Goldstein, NPD’s fashion footwear and accessories analyst, said: “With comfort in season year-round and the ‘athletic as fashion’ movement continuing to progress, comfort is here to stay. Brands and retailers must find ways to innovate and embrace this new norm.”

But, as mentioned, another trend was the move to buying shoes online and not at physical stores. NPD said e-tail accounted for 90% of the industry’s gains over the past year, with bricks and mortar stores clearly almost standing still. 

Men’s and women’s sport leisure categories, as well as women’s fashion drove the growth and 36% of e-shoppers have bought footwear online, an increase of two percentage points over the prior year. Additionally, and every bit as important, the average annual spend per buyer has grown by 5% to $308.

The company also said that the changes in the market are driving new opportunities for growth. A recent NPD survey found that respondents are particularly looking for footwear that’s lightweight (44%), breathable (43%), and odour-resistant (40%) in future purchases. 

Sustainability concerns are also becoming more important to many consumers, especially Millennials. Among adults, 27% have made some type of purchase specifically because of supporting a brand’s social position, and the figure rises to 36% among 18-34 year olds.

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