Feet First

Everything wears out eventually, including shoes. Apparently unwilling to dye their shoes the latest color or have the soles or heels patched one more time, women grew total dollar sales of their footwear in the United States by 4 percent in 2012, according to the NPD Group Inc.’s consumer tracking service.

Total U.S. footwear dollar sales in 2012, which includes athletic and fashion footwear, grew 3 percent in 2012 with total dollar sales of $54 billion, the NPD Group reports. Closing in on women’s footwear growth was that of children’s, whose total footwear dollar sales grew by 3.8 percent. Men’s lagged behind at 2.4 percent.

“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,” says Marshal Cohen, the NPD Group’s chief industry analyst. “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 ‘frugality fatigue’ phenomenon we have been watching. It seems to have materialized for footwear in 2012 as women finally stepped into new shoes.”

Total fashion footwear-only sales were flat in 2012, due to the lack of growth in men’s and children’s. Conversely, women had a healthy year in fashion footwear-only dollar volume, which increased 2.2 percent compared to 2011. Although shoe sales grew, boot sales were soft. The majority of sales of women’s fashion footwear were in-store, but website purchases increased more than 7 percent in 2012, NPD reported.

“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,” Cohen says. “The women’s footwear market continues to be a huge growth opportunity for many retailers.

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