2020’s Biggest Footwear Industry Predictions: A Gen Z Takeover, Breaking With Gender Norms & More

As consumer priorities shift, the footwear industry needs to continue to make adjustments heading into 2020. On Wednesday in Las Vegas at FN Platform, The NPD Group’s Beth Goldstein explained where expectations lie ahead for the year.

For instance, Generation Z is now nearly “equal in volume,” Goldstein says, compared to millennials and they’re driving over half of consumer spend growth. With that, comes an emphasis on a no-rules approach to fashion.

“Gender norms are changing and we are seeing that in products such as Crocs, Vans, Dr. Martens, Birkenstocks. They are easy and gender neutral,” said Goldstein. “Gen Z is much more open to this fluidity, so brands that traditionally market to gender will face that challenge.”

She added that “purposeful purchasing,” another trend driven by the younger consumer, will shape the industry in 2020. This means that sustainability, social concern and cultivating a cause will be top of mind for brands and a key factor for consumers when purchasing.

Plus, the growth is already there. During the holiday season, about 25% of 25 to 34 year olds and nearly 30% of 18 to 24 year olds felt giving gifts that “give back” was of more importance than in the previous year, according to research by NPD.

Shopping habits will, of course, be another aspect to watch. Goldstein said that a decade ago 12% of footwear sales derived from e-commerce. Now, it’s 30%, but she doesn’t expect a major uptick in 2020.

“Online is leveling off as store growth outpaced online growth in 2019,” she said. “Consumers will be looking for next-level convenience. Online, it’s not enough.” Goldstein added that retail is evolving to be much more relevant and about ease.

Despite impact from the government shutdown, tax changes and trade uncertainty last year, there was 2% growth in footwear. Women’s was the biggest category where sports leisure continued to drive the market, taking share from both the fashion and performance footwear markets.

As far as trends go, fashion sneakers drove two-thirds of the growth in women’s fashion in 2019; top brands fueling the growth include Nike, Ugg, Steve Madden, Vans, Clarks and Birkenstock.

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