Those of you who have seen my presentations know that I use the occasional emoji in trying to make some of my points, channeling the primary communication style of my five-year-old daughter and pre-teen nieces. So, you can imagine that I was very excited when I recently read about Florie Hutchinson, a Palo Alto-based public relations specialist, who worked with a graphic designer to submit a royal-blue ballet flat to the Unicode Consortium, the governing body that approves new emojis.*
Fed up with the lack of emojis for sensible women’s shoes (all three of the current options have high heels), Florie decided that something had to be done, and her timing could not be better. Women are prioritizing comfort. The term “comfort footwear” hasn’t traditionally conjured up the most fashionable image, but the stigma is diminishing, and the comfort segment has turned around, driven by brands such as Clarks, Bzees, Dr. Scholl’s, Birkenstock, and Ecco.**
In addition, the definition of comfort has broadened. According to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, the top growing women’s silhouettes in the U.S. year-to-date through September include more comfortable options such as sneakers, slides, mules, and casual strappy sandals with low and mid heels. Even in areas in which dress footwear is growing, such as fashion boots, the growth is driven by block heels that offer more stability and support. And at the footwear trade shows this past summer, comfort was the number one feature that fashion footwear executives were talking about.
While I’m all for making our shoe-related text messages a bit more realistic and a little less wince-producing, had I been consulted, I might have suggested a more trend-right submission like one of the styles I mentioned above. Ballet flats remain a staple in women’s closets, but dollar sales have steadily declined since peaking in 2014. Over the past 12 months, U.S. sales dropped by 11 percent. But, it does look like Florie isn’t the only fan of the ballet flat out there. Sales are still growing in a handful of U.S. markets, including Macon, GA; Albuquerque- Santa Fe, NM; and West Palm Beach, FL.*** That might tell us where the new emoji, if approved, will be used most.
*Source: The Cut, “Meet the Woman Fighting for the Sensible-Shoe Emjoi” (October 2017)
**Source: The NPD Group / Retail Tracking Service, 3 months ending September 2017
***Source: The NPD Group / Retail Tracking Service, 12 months ending September 2017