Consumers May Be Dressing Up Again, But Fashion Footwear Is Still On the Decline

Despite consumers rallying to get dressed again after 18 months at home, fashion footwear is still on the decline.

According to The NPD Group’s U.S. Footwear Industry Sales report for Q2 2021, fashion footwear sales, totaling $3.9 billion, are down 6% compared to 2019’s $4.1 billion.

“Regarding dress, too much weight is being placed on the rebound to 2020. It’s being forgotten that dress has been on the decline for a number of years, and that the pandemic simply exaggerated that trend,” Beth Goldstein, executive director and industry analyst for fashion footwear & accessories, told FN.

However, Goldstein said there’s opportunity amid this rebound period as the world aims to get back to their lives pre-pandemic. “Clearly consumers have places to go again and they are/will be buying dress footwear for that, but it is unrealistic to think that this boost will sustain.”

What is gaining momentum this year is total leisure footwear sales, which are up 31% in Q2 compared with the same period in 2019. Men’s is the leading category, bringing in $2.5 billion, while women’s sales totaled $1.5 billion. Kids’ leisure sales came to $1.1 billion.

Goldstein predicts that leisure footwear will continue to grow in the short term before leveling off. She credits the return to back-to-school for the potential boost. Meanwhile, consumers are still sticking with comfortable, casual options such as sneakers, slides and clogs — driven by Crocs. (Crocs posted record second-quarter earnings early Thursday — with revenues up 93%, led by strength from the Americas.)

“Athleisure is the biggest piece of this, and after a softer back-to-school season last year, I expect a recovery beyond 2019 levels in this space. Also, we still see consumers prioritizing outdoor activities, which falls into this space.”

Performance shoe sales also continue to be on the uptick as running, hiking and outdoor activities remain a refuge for consumers who are looking to spend time outside, get healthy and prioritize mental health, among other reasons. Since COVID-19 hit, running has hit its stride, with the category seeing exponential growth. In Q2, sales totaled $2 billion compared with $1.6 billion in 2019.

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