How Consumer Demand for Comfort Is Driving Fashion Footwear Sales

On the heels of a robust holiday shopping season, retailers are looking to continue their momentum into 2019.

According to a new report from The NPD Group Inc., growth in the U.S. fashion footwear market remains stable, but it will likely come at a slower pace than last year.

In 2018, the market research firm shared that fashion footwear — which it defines as dress, casual, and evening shoes and slippers — saw its strongest performance in recent years, with sales striking above $60 billion. Beth Goldstein, executive director and industry analyst of fashion accessories and footwear, attributes the numbers to strength in the sport leisure category as well as a rebound in the sandals and boots departments.

“Comfort became almost synonymous with fashion,” she said. “Brands that carefully consider their product’s end use and tailor to comfort, versatility and accessibility will succeed. This may seem extreme, especially for fashion categories, but consumers are placing value on these features and benefits.”

It’s no surprise consumers are increasingly demanding function and versatility. In the last several years, athleisure has continued to gain traction among fashion leaders, A-listers and style influencers.

Nike and Adidas still boast loyal fans and strong online traffic, boosted by millennial shoppers. The streetwear market has expanded, partly thanks to social media and the resurgence of logo-heavy ’90s fashion. And the Fila Disruptor 2, for instance, was named FN’s 2018 Shoe of the Year through a combination of comfort, durability and a uniquely chunky silhouette.

“Sport leisure footwear sales will continue to climb, but as the pace of the increase slows, fashion footwear brands have the opportunity to take back some share by incorporating the comfort and style elements that drove consumers to love their athleisure,” Goldstein added. (Sport leisure footwear is defined by NPD as inclusive of sport lifestyle sneakers, skate and sport slides.)

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