Women’s Footwear High Stepped Back in 2012

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Shoes 2012Port Washington, NY–Women stepped up their footwear sales in 2012, helping total U.S. footwear sales to rise 3% to $54 billion, according to The NPD Group, Inc., the global information company.

In fact, dollar sales of women’s footwear lead the way with a 4% increase. (Men’s footwear rose 2.4%; children’s up 3.8%)

“For the last couple of years, men gave women a run for their money at retail with growth in sales of men’s footwear consistently outpacing growth in women’s,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “I believe this is testament to the newness of products offered by retailers that did in fact get the consumer to respond. I think this also goes back to the ‘Frugal Fatigue’ phenomenon we have been watching. It seems to have materialized for footwear in 2012 as women finally stepped into new shoes.”

Breaking out fashion footwear only, sales were flat due to small growth in men’s and children’s. But women’s fashion footwear posted a healthy year with a 2.2% increase in dollar sales compared to 2011. Of the three top categories in fashion footwear, shoe sales were the strongest, up 7%. Sandals also grew 6.9%. But boot business was off, falling 3.2% in dollar volume.

“Looking at the women’s market numbers it becomes evident to me that it was the heritage branded products that had the most impact and helped grow the business,” said Cohen. “The women’s footwear market continues to be a huge growth opportunity for brands and retailers.”

Where shoe sales occurred also exhibited a change last year. While in store sales account for the largest portion of retail sales, online purchases continue to grow, up more than 7% in 2012.

“These method of purchase results demonstrate that the consumer’s pursuit of convenience has become more valuable,”  Cohen said, “Online shoppers have the ability to research products, and their features (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and they get that convenient factor of shopping at home. They also will know if the product is in stock and ready to be shipped without the need to jump through hoops.”

Despite a slow recovering economy, women are still updating their wardrobes so retailers need to be ready with interesting new merchandise.

“After all, you can go just so long with wearing the same shoes and expecting them to be comfortable,” added Cohen. “Look for this need cycle to continue into spring and, as long as retailers showcase new merchandise worthy of the consumers investment, women will continue to update their footwear collection.”

Athletic Footwear Grows, Too

Segmenting out athletic footwear sales, NPD reported that total U.S. athletic footwear* increased 4% to $13.8 billion in 2012. Total unit sales were fairly flat, and the growth in dollar sales was driven by the increase in the average selling price.

Athletic footwear categories cross training, basketball, classics, and running shoes, grew in both dollar and unit sales in 2012, compared to 2011.

“Today’s consumer typically will search for a deal while shopping for athletic footwear, but there are exceptions to that rule. When it comes to buying a new and innovative pair of shoes, consumers will spend more,” said Cohen.

While the men’s wearer segment continues to be the largest revenue driver in the athletic footwear industry, (representing 51% of the total market and up 6% in dollar sales), it’s the children’s wearer segment that saw the fastest dollar growth rate in 2012.

Even though sales of total women’s athletic footwear declined, positive growth was found in the sales of women’ s cross training (+30%) and running shoes (+12%).

“The casual cold weather boot, which drove the women’s athletic footwear category two years ago, continued to decline in popularity in 2012,” said Cohen. “The industry is now focused on lightweight running shoes, which is good news for the women’s market since they continue to purchase them. In 2013, we will see new styles and colors pop up to lure consumers, but especially the women in hopes to drive that part of the market up.”

*The NPD Group/Retail POS Tracking Service: Athletic Specialty/Sporting Goods, National Chain, Shoe Chain, and Department Stores


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