US Footwear Sales Are Blowing Past Pre-Pandemic Levels — Here’s Why

U.S. footwear sales are on a definite upswing. According to The NPD Group, revenues grew by 28%, from January through September compared to last year, and increased by 8% versus 2019.

Powered by pent-up demand amid the pandemic and rising average selling prices, U.S. revenues are expected to be 16% ahead of 2019 levels by 2023.

Leading the charge is the performance-and outdoor-footwear category, which is set outperform the growth in the overall footwear market, based on Retail Tracking Service data from NPD.

“After years of continuous declines, the next two years are looking up for performance footwear,” said Matt Powell, sports industry advisor at NPD. “Running will be the key area here, as I expect we’ll see performance-running shoes return as streetwear. It has been nine years since these shoes were viewed as a fashion trend, and today it will require brands and retailers to rethink the cadence and content of their footwear releases.”

It’s no surprise that running, walking, and hiking shoes are fueling this growth after experiencing major booms since COVID-19 hit.

Powell added that performance footwear will stay steady, at rates slightly higher than before the pandemic, and unit sales will increase. Revenue and unit sales for hiking shoes are also projected to continue a healthy annual rise through 2023.

Meanwhile, fashion footwear is still lagging behind. Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories analyst at NPD, said: “That doesn’t mean that pumps, oxfords and loafers won’t return to some level of growth over the next few years. With the return to offices and events happening more gradually than initially anticipated, the retail rebound for these silhouettes will be more elongated.”

She noted, however, that fashion styles offering casual and comfort features will make a full recovery and return to pre-pandemic revenue levels by 2023.

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