Comfort-Driven Footwear Is Driving Sales in 2018, Says Study

There continues to be lots of debate in the world of politics, but when it comes to footwear, it appears Americans are united in their preferences.

According to The NPD Group Inc.’s Consumer Tracking Service report for January to June, the U.S. footwear industry’s growth continues to be driven by casuals and online shopping, contributing to a 7 percent increase for the industry in the first half of 2018.

Sport leisure was the fastest-growing category, capturing 65 percent of dollar sales gains as athleisure looks continue to penetrate all facets of the footwear market. In its Retail Tracking Service report for January to June 2018, fashion, which it notes remains the largest category, grew 5 percent after two years of declines, due in large part to the comfort trend. Aside from sneakers, the top fashion silhouettes in the men’s market were sport slides and mules or clogs, fashion slides and strappy sandals for women, and sport slides and strappy sandals for kids.

“‘Comfort’ is no longer a bad word,” said Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories analyst for NPD. “In fact, consumers today are reluctant to compromise on comfort, and the definition is evolving. 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.”

Consumers’ increasingly buying online has also contributed to growth, according to NPD. E-commerce accounted for 90 percent of the industry’s gains over the past year. Men’s and women’s sport leisure categories, as well as women’s fashion, are driving growth, noted the group’s Consumer Tracking Service for the 12 months through June 2018.

NPD’s Checkout E-commerce Tracking noted that 36 percent of online shoppers have bought shoes online, an increase of 2 percentage points over the prior year. Additionally, the average annual spend per buyer has grown 5 percent to $308.

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