Sport Leisure Shoes Expected to Drive Footwear Sales Growth, According to NPD Group

Sport leisure footwear is having more than a moment. According to The Future of Footwear, a new report from The NPD Group, which forecasts growth and declines across key categories, footwear sales in the U.S. are forecasted to increase through 2021 due to strong growth of sport leisure looks.

The segment — dominated by athletic-inspired casual sneakers, which also includes sport slides and skate shoes — is expected to surpass fashion as the largest footwear category in 2020.

According to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, in the 12 months ending August 2019, sport leisure footwear grew 7%, while fashion declined 5% and performance footwear sales were down 7%.

“I expect that in the upcoming years, more brands will effectively respond to the shift away from performance and fashion footwear to focus on what has become the new norm: athleisure footwear,” said Matt Powell, NPD’s senior industry advisor of sports. “The nature of fitness in the U.S. has changed, and this has been a major contributor to footwear market shifts. Consumers are committed to a healthy lifestyle, but that commitment is lighthearted. They no longer define themselves by their sports activities. As a result, consumers are looking for shoes that are less technical and, instead, more versatile and every day.”

Sport leisure’s growth is poised to be driven by running- and basketball-inspired styles — looks with a performance-based heritage that are intended for style as opposed to sports. The men’s market is expected to lead the sales growth in sport leisure, with a heavy contribution from kids.

Fashion, on the other hand, is forecast to decline through 2020 but rebound slightly in 2021 due to growth in comfort-oriented silhouettes such as slides, slippers, and drivers and loafers. Sport-inspired trends will have a negative impact on the thong, flip-flop and ballerina segments.

“As consumers continue to prioritize athleisure and [de-emphasize] dress, comfort and function will be as important as aesthetics in leading the fashion category back on the plus side,” according to Beth Goldstein, NPD’s executive director and fashion footwear and accessories analyst. “While sport leisure will continue to grow at fashion’s expense, consumers will seek options outside of sneakers. As a result, active-inspired fashion silhouettes, particularly those with lower and thicker heel options and added comfort features, will help the category in the years ahead.”

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