Shoe Sales Down in August Despite Back-to-School Shopping & Tax-Free Days

Tax holidays and the back-to-school shopping catalyst weren’t much help to struggling retail sales in the month of August, according to the latest data.

The NPD Group Inc.’s newest footwear insights report says total U.S. footwear sales declined 2 percent, to $2.5 billion, during the period. The results are a disappointment, following a 5 percent rise in total U.S. footwear sales during the month of June, which may have falsely indicated better days were ahead.

Overall, sales declined most in women’s footwear, down 5 percent year-over-year in August, while men’s footwear revenues slipped 1 percent and children’s saw a modest gain of 2 percent.

By product category, U.S. fashion footwear sales fared the worst — falling 12 percent year-over-year, to $707.9 million. (Fashion footwear includes dress, casual, and evening shoes and slippers.)

Fashion athletic styles, however, remained a bright spot, according to Beth Goldstein, executive director and industry analyst at The NPD Group.

Fashion athletic sales sizzled along with the temperatures this August, at the expense of both the traditional fashion and performance categories,” Goldstein said. “In women’s, strappy sandals showed continued strength through late summer, and despite the heat, over-the-knee styles generated some early-fall buzz in women’s boots.”

Sales for performance footwear, which includes walking, running, crosstraining and basketball shoes, dropped 8 percent, to $1.05 billion. Running sneaker sales remained flat for the month, while crosstraining, basketball, and other performance shoes saw declines, according to the NPD Group. 

Leisure footwear sales were the standout category — gaining 22 percent year-over-year, to $786.7 million. The NPD Group said classic sneakers remained the driving force behind men’s, women’s and kids’ footwear, while sport slides and outdoor silhouettes such as hiking boots and sandals were also strong. (Leisure footwear includes work boots, casual athletic, outdoor sandal, sport slide and cold/all-weather boots.)

The NPD Group’s sports industry analyst Matt Powell said that he expects sales to come back stronger in September.

Word on the street is that back-to-school 2016 has been soft for the industry, and the data confirms that,” Powell said. “My expectation is that September will show the strongest growth of the back-to-school period.”


*The information in The NPD Group’s report comes from its monthly point-of-sale footwear database. It is collected from athletic specialty, sporting goods, chain store, department store and other channels.

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