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Comfort & Convenience Are Two Musts for Fashion Brands to Compete With Sneakers

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A shelf of discounted shoes, including

There’s room for optimism for the footwear industry, though success will require strategic changes. That was the message this morning at a presentation by The NPD Group Inc., which shared sales data from the holiday season and full-year 2017.

Beth Goldstein, industry analyst and executive director of NPD, pointed out that overall, sales numbers rebounded during the holidays, offsetting months of slow declines. Some of the strongest-performing product categories were women’s apparel, toys, consumer technology and sneakers.

Footwear, in particular, saw a 1 percent gain in sales during the holidays compared with the prior season. The demand for sport lifestyle sneakers continued to dominate among men, women and children. Other strong shoe categories have been skate sneakers and cold-weather casual boots. Conversely, the dress, running and casual shoe segments were the worst-performers.

Goldstein noted that for full-year 2017, total footwear sales dipped 1 percent to finish out at $66.7 billion. “We’re hopeful that this is signaling a leveling-off for the shoe industry and a return to growth,” she said.

To foster sales gains, she urged brands to pay close attention to three trends that are of great importance to consumers right now: comfort, convenience and curation.

Comfort: “It is not just an added benefit; it is a necessity to today’s shopper,” said Goldstein, adding that the active leisure market isn’t showing any signs of waning, so fashion brands should take note.

Convenience: This applies to both the shopping experience (making it easier, faster and more pleasant) as well as to product design. “The consumer is excited about things that multitask. They want products that do more,” said Goldstein.

Curation: Customers are overwhelmed by choice, so they appreciate a streamlined assortment that focuses on the best product options. Direct-to-consumer labels like Allbirds are doing a good job at executing a targeted message. So established brands need to sharpen their stories and hone their identities.

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