By Beth Goldstein
The U.S. fashion footwear market has been steadily growing at rate near 3% throughout 2019, higher than the rates at which the apparel and accessories markets have grown. While the industry continues to weather (pun intended) challenges like shifting consumer priorities, store closures, and uncertainty around tariffs, low-single digit growth can continue through the 2019 holiday season.
It’s still all about athleisure
Although fashion — including shoes, boots, sandals, slippers — remains the largest category year-to-date based on dollar sales, it was surpassed by sport leisure in Q3. The Future of Footwear report forecasts that sport leisure will overtake fashion to become the largest footwear category in 2020, and the market is still on track to fulfill this projection. Fashion may re-emerge on top for Holiday in terms of sales volume, while casual sneakers and skate shoes within sport leisure will lead the category to high single/low double-digit growth rates this season.
Comfort is cool
It won’t be all holiday blues for fashion footwear. Hot brands and items like Crocs clogs, Dr. Marten’s boots, and Birkenstock sandals are driving sales this year. In addition to the comfort element, these products have been extremely popular with younger consumers as they gravitate towards more utilitarian and gender neutral styles. I expect that these items will perform well during the holiday season and will help the fashion category offset losses in other areas like dress shoes.
‘Tis the season for creature comforts
While the performance of cold/all weather boots and slippers is tied to weather, there is an aspirational “winter wonderland” aspect to these products. Brands and retailers that play off of this in their marketing can minimize risk if the outside temperatures don’t cooperate. These categories have benefited from an infusion of fashion and some athletic inspiration. It also helps that the function itself has become fashionable. Both performed well during Holiday 2018, which may cause growth rates to slow overall. Thanksgiving Weekend and Cyber Week will be especially important here.
Consumers embrace purposeful purchasing
According to The NPD Group’s 2019 Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey, 30% of respondents stated they are “more likely to purchase from companies that support causes important to me” this holiday season. Social and environmental causes have quickly come to the forefront in fashion, and consumers have more choices than ever to shop responsibly this holiday.
Multi-brand retailers like Nordstrom and Zappos have launched searchable platforms that curate sustainable, responsibly sourced, and charitable products. Resellers are touting the sustainability benefits of shopping secondhand. Direct-to-consumer brands with sustainability and social consciousness at their core are heavily leveraging digital channels to connect with their consumers and promote improved gift giving.
Beth Goldstein is an executive director and industry analyst at The NPD Group.