Kayla Marci

September 23, 2020

How to step up your footwear game to drive sales

New arrivals for footwear may be down, but the category is still expected to grow. Understand the state of the footwear market with these five charts.

As consumers spend more time indoors, retailers are pulling back on new season assortments with fall shoe arrivals down 34% YoY. Yet, the category is still expected to blossom – according to Allied Market Research, the footwear market will reach $530.3 billion globally in the next seven years.

To capture this future market share, retailers need to rely less on their inventory levels and arm themselves with data, focusing on driving sales with the right trends and pricing. With the power of market intelligence, we dive into the footwear sector’s performance amidst the new normal, unearthing nuggets of data to help you act now and plan ahead.  

Footwear not your thing? This analysis can be applied to whatever category you manage. Get in touch with a retail expert to help you now.

The category is shrinking but there’s pockets of opportunity 

As the industry reels from the effects of the pandemic, arrivals remain below 2019 levels. Restrictions have caused people to stay home and WFH has resulted in footwear being one of the hardest hit categories in terms of newness. In the US and UK mass market combined, arrivals since July have dropped 34% YoY, causing this fall’s assortments to look different from last. 

Most notably, boot deliveries have been pulled back with this subcategory equaling 30% of fall footwear drops compared to 37% in 2019. Shoes also saw a significant reduction as retailers phased out pump styles to casualize this new era of workwear. Despite this, investment in loafers held YoY while mules, SS2020’s standout style, saw a slight increase. 

With comfort dressing prioritized, retailers focused on their slipper and sneaker buys while sandals made up an unseasonably high proportion of fall lines to date.

footwear market

Seasonality is blurred

Surely no one is paying full price for sandals as temperatures and cozy new boot styles drop right? Wrong. For a while, consumers have shifted to a see-now-buy-now mindset making product seasonality less relevant. This makes it all the more challenging to nail your product phasing, especially as high-end labels opt to launch seasonless collections, setting the tone for mass market designs. 

Using market intelligence, retailers can pinpoint demand for footwear styles, shedding light on which trends are ramping up or cooling off. The below chart shows full priced sandal styles selling out of 100% of their corresponding SKUs each month online, indicating there is still interest even as the weather turns with consumers looking for styles to wear around the house or on last-minute getaways as cheap deals crop up to encourage travel. Diving into the data confirms the majority of styles selling out recently have been flats and other casual comfortable looks with a sporty aesthetic – think footbed styles and sliders.

footwear market

Sneakers are selling out faster than ever before

Unsurprisingly, sneakers continue to be the cash cow of the footwear industry. The demand for athletic and comfort styles has been buoyed by the rise of home workouts and the complimentary loungewear trend. The sell-through speed of sneakers across various market sectors has increased rapidly. Prada is a retailer of note with the sell-out success of its collection with adidas earlier this year, further relaying the importance of generating hype through collaborations and capsule collections.  

footwear market

Pricing has evolved

If your business is more margin-orientated over achieving quick sell-through rates, then the below chart is for you.

footwear market

Firstly, sneaker pricing is more accessible YoY across both markets, helping boost sell out times. We’ve talked about luxury brands overall are dropping footwear prices as handbags become more expensive to pad out margins amidst the pandemic. 

Here we can see exactly where each sector is putting their faith in footwear trends with mass market brands raising ankle boots and loafers’ prices vs. high-end designers backing mules and sliders. This further demonstrates why the bubble up/trickle down model is outdated. Both markets can capitalize simultaneously on a trend, either through accessibility or differentiation of price point.

Heels have been dropping off since before COVID

As the world pressed pause on events, retailers struggled to promote more formal wear products. However, COVID isn’t entirely to blame for the phasing out of high heels in the mass market. As you can see, heeled footwear has been declining since this time last year and unable to compete with the prowess of casual footwear styles. Currently, there are 44% less heeled footwear styles arriving new for fall this year vs. last, with a once-prominent workwear silhouette bearing the brunt of markdowns.

footwear market

The most discounted shoe style right now?

Pumps. No surprises there with consumers’ current penchant for sweatpants. This style also saw a YoY price increase in both the luxury and mass market. Retailers over-anticipated on this one, with 66% of products currently discounted by an average of 50% off. 

What should already be in your fall 2020 range 

Replacing the stiletto-shaped hole in consumers’ lives, loafers have emerged as the go-to work style. Emulating house slippers’ comfort while elevating cozy loungewear-as-office-attire, this classic shape has experienced a 9% increase in sellouts YoY since July.

With fewer boot styles in the market, retailers need to understand what trends are working to promote accordingly and have the right data to back it up. Utility-inspired silhouettes favored by influencers are a standout shape with lace-up styles and chunky lug soles seeing success across mass market assortments. Longer, slouchy styles are also top performers at retailers such as Steve Madden and Bershka, while Western influences and croc-embossed styles can be adapted as risk-free investments. 

Nature and fitness will remain a key theme throughout the year, meaning athletic styles will show no signs of slowing down. As consumers seek more outdoor activities to enhance wellness during this time, running and hiking influences remain essential to incorporate into sandals, sneakers and boots. 

Got EDITED access? Check out what’s new for fall 2020 footwear

What to expect for next spring 

Tough boot styles may be dominating footwear buys, but that doesn’t mean traditionally feminine styles are written off for the future. Looking at the recent Pre-Spring and Spring 2021 runways, here are the most commercial styles to get into for next season ASAP.

footwear market
Christian Siriano Spring 2021

Neutrals and ice-cream pastels 

Traditional femininity underpinned the color scheme throughout some of the biggest Spring 2021 shows with soft hues commanding presence on the recent New York runway circuit. Following their trend status for SS2020, prominent colors include lilac, baby pink, pistachio and powder blue, offset by neutrals as a palette cleanser. 

Heeled mules

If you’re going to have one heeled shape in your spring 2021 buys, make it the mule. Coined the shoe of SS2020, this style continued its reign. The luxury market has already raised the price on its fall 2020 styles to capitalize on its success. Square toes were the standout silhouette at Bottega Veneta and Simon Miller, while Versace’s chain embellishment added elevated detailing. 

Contemporary ballet flats

Could spring 2021 spell a revival of the ballet flat? With the global obsession of comfort combined with the square-toe iterations backed by Zara and Mango, the timing seems right. Currently, gathered and elasticated styles have cropped up at Sharon Wauchob at LFW and Marina Moscone at NYFW, making a strong case for the classic style to carry over to next spring. 

Sporty aesthetics

The nostalgia enhanced by chunky sneakers isn’t going anywhere with color-blocked and retro shapes presented during NYFW. Giving further longevity to hiking influences, comfort and functionality continued to define sandals and sliders with treaded soles, buckle and velcro fastenings noted at Anna Sui and Jason Wu. 

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