Retailers Say Fashion Brands — Not Sneakers — Stood Out in Q3

Fashion brands are having a moment.

After two years of an athletic boom, occasion-based apparel and footwear is coming back in a major way, as people return to live events, meetings and offices. Retailers this past quarter have noticed the shift as well, with many calling out the success of fashion brands in their assortment.

“Customers continue to shop for occasions and return to the office and update their closets,” said Nordstrom president and chief brand officer Pete Nordstrom in a call with analysts on Tuesday. “We continue to see softness versus last year in categories previously accelerated by the pandemic, including home and active.”

Men’s and women’s apparel, shoes and designer were the strongest growth drivers for Nordstrom in Q3, as more people travelled to in-person events and offices for work.

Across the industry, fashion shoe sales in Q3 were up 7% to $3.5 billion, according to quarterly data from The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, which excludes DTC sales. By comparison leisure footwear sales were flat in Q3 at $5.2 billion and performance footwear was down 6% at $2.1 billion.

As consumers spend more on sandals and occasion-based footwear, fashion shoes continue to be the fastest growing segment in the shoe market this year in terms of sales, returning to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, NPD found. Despite the drop in athletic footwear sales, sneakers still have the largest share of the footwear business.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette also noted a softening in athletic products in Q3.

“Customers continue to return to in-person post-pandemic shopping experiences, and we’re searching for occasion-based product, including career in tailored sportswear, dresses and luggage rather than popular pandemic categories such as active, casual sportswear, sleepwear and soft home, that skew more heavily towards digital purchases,” Gennette said in a call with analysts.

Caleres this week said sales of athletic footwear dropped in its Famous Footwear business in Q3, while non athletic styles like loafers, flats and boots got a boost. This emphasis on occasion footwear also benefited the company’s owned brands, such as LifeStride, Scholl’s, Franco Sarto and Naturalizer, executives noted.

At Shoe Carnival, sales of non-athletic shoes were up 35.1% in Q3 over 2019. Athletic sales were up 4.4% versus 2019. Sales balance between athletic and non athletic was equally divided in the quarter, with more consumers opting for fashion footwear brands. The company expects this demand to continue through 2022.

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