Since the coronavirus pandemic started, the footwear industry has seen sales declines across all categories. In total, fashion footwear sales fell 24% in Q1 compared to the same time last year, according to U.S. footwear data and insights from The NPD Group. In addition, both U.S. in-store and online sales fell in March over 2019, by 50% and 15%, respectively.
But digital is clearly gaining ground. While brick-and-mortar stores were still open in January and February, the percent of total fashion footwear sales generated online was 28%. In March, as physical locations started closing, that percentage rose to 39%.
Shoe brands’ direct-to-consumer sites have gained the most share online, according to NPD. And though sales have been down for department stores, they did earn some share of the online footwear market in March.
Going forward, digital share of the market is expected to continue to increase due to the current situation.
“We can expect that online penetration will become even higher, on account of a few factors,” Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories analyst at NPD, explained. “In addition to April being a full month of quarantine and store closures, discounting and promotional activity accelerated quickly once retailers shut their doors, helping to drive sales.”
For designer Fabrizio Viti, who heads his namesake label while also designing shoes for Louis Vuitton, the industry’s resilience doesn’t come as a surprise. “I’m optimistic,” he told FN. “I think I learned that from my mother and family who went through the war. You have to be positive.” He said the want for quality product and a sense of escapism during this time is not farfetched. And though there has been a sharp decrease in orders for fall ’20 from wholesale partners, he said, April proved to be the strongest month for his direct-to-consumer business since launching in January 2019.
As brick-and-mortar stores begin its reopening processes, safety concerns and restrictions present potential for longer-term online shopping habits, NPD’s Goldstein concluded.