How Outdoor Shoe Brands Can Sell More To Women

Reef Shoe Spring 2016 Collection
A spring '16 women's bootie from Reef.
Jennie Bell.

The outdoor and athletic industries are doing a better job of catering to women, but they still have a long way to go. That was the message yesterday from The NPD Group’s sports and leisure analyst, Matt Powell, at a special presentation at the Outdoor Retailer trade show.

Powell shared with the packed audience some stats from NPD showing that outdoor footwear and apparel have very good penetration with the female consumer — better, in fact, than athletic companies.

That somewhat flies in the face of traditional views of the outdoor world being strictly a place for tough guys. And in a recent article in Footwear News, several top footwear execs pointed out that women are just as active in outdoor activities and should be a key focus for brands and retailers.

In his presentation, Powell lamented the fact that there is currently no national retailer that can speak to the female audience. “Lululemon is really great but not on a national scale,” he said. “Dick’s Sporting Goods just launched a women’s concept called Chelsea Collective with footwear and apparel. It has potential, but I think they’re missing out by not having gear.”

Metallic Reptile Birkenstock Sandals Spring 2016 Spring ’16 women’s crisscross sandals in metallic reptile from Birkenstock. Jennie Bell.

To connect with female shoppers, Powell says there are a few important things to know about their  behavior, including the fact that they are social shoppers and rely heavily on recommendations from peers. Also, they value aesthetics as much as performance. “The product has got to perform, be versatile and look cute,” he said, adding that the best brands find a way to solve their customer’s problems.

And for millennial women, in particular, it’s important to build trust. “You have to encourage a dialogue, which means you listen and don’t talk,” Powell said. “You can’t dictate to young women what they need or should want. They already know. Ask for feedback and let them tell you.”