In-Store Shopping Is Making a Comeback, FDRA Survey Says

Consumers are getting more comfortable heading out to stores again, according to the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America’s latest survey.

In partnership with Emerson College Polling, FDRA interviewed 785 shoppers about their footwear buying preferences. Though digital dominated during the pandemic restrictions — and services like curbside pickup remain prevalent — almost half of the consumers polled said they now look forward to visiting a physical store for their purchases.

More specifically, 45% of people surveyed said they plan on shopping in store, 44% plan to buy online (with product shipped to their home) and 11% expect to buy online for in-store or curbside pickup.

The trends vary slightly per region: In the Western region, 53% of respondents said they plan to buy shoes at physical retail locations. But in the Northeast, for example, 50% of survey participants said they would shop online.

Age played a factor as well, with 63% of shoe shoppers over the age of 50 looking to shop in-person, compared to the 56% of shoppers under 50 who said they would be more likely to focus on digital.

As COVID-19 vaccine roll-outs continue across the country, the FDRA survey said 39% of respondents plan to shop at local stores, such as DSW or Famous Footwear, while 27% plan to hit big-box retailers, including Target, and 15% are focusing on department stores.

However, digital — which now accounts for half of overall sales at retailers like Nordstrom — continues to drive much of the heat for retailers.

The survey found that only 34% of respondents plan to purchase nearly 100% of their shoes in-store after the pandemic. About a quarter of those surveyed said 60% of their shopping will be online, and 40% in-store. And approximately 20% said nearly all of their shoe purchases will be online going forward.

According to new data from Coresight Research, consumer spending on footwear and apparel saw year-over-year growth of 0.8% in the first month of this year, compared with “deep declines” in December 2020. It marked the first month of year-over-year gains since February of last year — just before the coronavirus outbreak struck the United States. For shoes, specifically, spending rose by 3.8% in January, versus drops of 6.4% in December and 5% in November.

Last month, consumers spent less on purchases across the board. Data from the Census Bureau showed that shoppers largely avoided department stores, which saw a decrease of 8.4% in retail sales. However, experts have suggested that President Joe Biden’s newest $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package — gives the retail industry reason for optimism heading into the months ahead.

Now, as more people resume normal routines and go back to the office this spring and summer, the FDRA survey found that a majority (52%) of those polled said they were very likely to shop, while 22% said that they are not likely to shop at all.

Despite a strong case for the return of high heels, sneakers and casual shoes still rank as the most popular style choice this spring, scoring with more than 50% of likely shoe buyers. Running or gym shoes were the next most-popular choice with 32%, followed by work shoes, and fashion-focused shoes at 5%.

For more insights, check out the full survey here.

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