4 Ways Shoe Companies Can Drive Sales This Year & Beyond

The shoe industry is on the upswing again, according to The NPD Group Inc., and there are some solid strategies shoe companies can employ to drive business for the rest of 2018 and beyond.

Beth Goldstein, NPD’s executive director and industry analyst, kicked off FN Platform today with some cheerful news. At a morning seminar, she revealed that sales are up 4 percent year over year, thanks to the robust economy and strong consumer confidence. Casual and athleisure looks continue to lead the way.

Not surprisingly, the online channel continues to snap up more market share and drive overall growth. But while consumers are clicking in, they’re also boosting business at branded stores.

Meanwhile, the critically important millennial consumer is driving two-thirds of the increases. Interestingly, the Hispanic segment is fueling that segment, a reversal from the past two years. (Following the 2016 presidential election, there was some evidence that Hispanic shoppers were holding back as they weighed how President Donald Trump’s policies would impact them and their families.)

While the millennial stats are good news, the fickle Gen Z consumer is a more complicated story. This group is often choosing to dish out dollars for tech, travel and education over shoes and clothes.

NPD’s Beth Goldstein (L) and Lori Monaco.
CREDIT: Jim Decker

While consumer behavior is always tricky to predict, Goldstein outlined four important things companies should focus on now.

Play up comfort: “‘Comfort’ is no longer a dirty word, and the definition is changing,” Goldstein said. The comfort momentum isn’t going away, so brands and retailers must do more to embrace the movement.

Plan for unpredictability: As seasonless styles become more popular and weather patterns change the way people shop, brands should rethink their offerings. “They can take advantage to reach more consumers,” Goldstein said.

Innovation is key: While tried-and-true sellers are still a huge part of business for many names like Adidas and Birkenstock, the industry must emphasize newness to accelerate growth.

Sustainability and social issues are top of mind: “Figure out how you can participate,” Goldstein told the crowd. Shoppers, particularly the younger generation, are supporting companies that align with their beliefs. NPD stats show that 27 percent of adults said they supported a brand because of its social positions.

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