Footwear Consumption Expected To Slow In 2011

The rate of increase in the consumption of footwear will decrease next year, said the American Apparel Footwear & Association in a new report.

While the U.S. consumption of footwear in 2010 jumped 14 percent, to 2.3 billion pairs, in 2010 over 2009, Nate Herman, AAFA’s VP for international trade, said the figure will revert to the mid-single digits in 2011.

“Part of the increase is due to pent-up demand, because nobody bought anything in 2009. It’s a one-time surge [and] the issue is whether the growth rate is sustainable,” Herman told FN.

“We’re not at the bottom we were at in 2009… but we still have a ways to go to get back to 2006 and 2007 levels,” he added.

And while China remains by far the dominant supplier of shoes stateside, other players such as Vietnam are growing their share of the pie.

“In 2010 you saw China continuing to increase its dominance, but in 2011 the numbers are showing people are starting to look elsewhere. For the first time in recent memory, U.S. footwear imports from China are declining slightly,” said Herman.

Firms are also exploring returning to places they haven’t been in many years, such as Cambodia, Bangladesh and even Malaysia. Herman added: “The report is a wakeup call for the industry. We’re so completely dependent on China but with their currency appreciating and labor rates going through the roof, this is not the best future.”

The good news: U.S. footwear manufacturers finally stemmed over a decade of decline in production, producing 14 percent more shoes in the U.S. in 2010.

Also logging a 14 percent rise is the number of U.S. imports, which hit 2.2 billion pairs in 2010. Meanwhile, the value of U.S. footwear consumption grew 6 percent to $63.9 billion.

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