Fashion footwear gained momentum heading into Q4, which leaves me with a positive outlook for the holiday season. The U.S. market grew six percent in Q3, driven mainly by the sport leisure category, but there has also been a turnaround in categories including sandals and, more recently, cold/all weather boots. Tied to my expectation that these styles will perform well, I believe that the brands and retailers that speak to the consumer priorities below will be successful this holiday.
Active and Comfort
Fashion sneakers have driven half of the fashion footwear market’s growth so far this year, and I expect this category to remain very important through holiday. But, its growth rate slowed in Q3, and heading into holiday boots seem primed to regain some share. In addition, while consumers will look to get dressed up for holiday festivities, comfort is the key word. Brands that are incorporating fashion along with athletic and comfort elements will win.
The Danish concept of hygge has fully taken hold in the U.S. Slipper sales were up double digits in Q3*, and I expect similar results for holiday as retailers promote loungewear and family pajamas. Cold weather and winter/snow boots will also benefit from this trend, even if the winter isn’t quite as cold and snowy as we’d like. And, even fashion items with a bit of fluffy detail will evoke those same feelings of comfort and coziness.
Versatility and Travel
Consumer confidence is at an 18-year high, which bodes well for retailers this holiday season. But, consumers are still making very deliberate decisions when it comes to spending their money. According to NPD’s annual Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey, around one-third of consumers plan to utilize consumer reviews to learn more about products this holiday season and/or plan to rely on recommendations from friends/family/co-workers. The value equation is top of mind, and retailers and brands that offer functional and versatile options such as waterproofing, indoor/outdoor wear, and/or multi-season use will be tapping into this need. Products marketed specifically to improve the travel experience (lightweight, multi-occasion wear) will stand out as well. Digitally native brands with strong social media presence are uniquely poised to attract consumer attention to these elements.
Year-to-date through September, 29 percent of fashion footwear sales have been generated online. I expect this penetration to increase by three to five percentage points during holiday as retailers such as Target and Amazon are upping their free shipping game, and others will likely follow-suit. Gifting programs such as GiftNow are rolling out and will make it easier to gift a specific footwear item by eliminating the risk of sending an unwanted item or wrong size. In addition, according to our Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey, almost one-in-four Millennials reported that they plan to use their smartphone most often to do their holiday shopping. This is convenience at its best, and will surely drive the online business this season.
Source: The NPD Group/Consumer Tracking Service
*Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service