U.S. Footwear Industry Growth Continues to be Comfort-Driven, Reports NPD

Checkout E-commerce Insights Show More Consumers are Shopping Online

Port Washington, NY, August 30, 2018 – The U.S. footwear industry grew by 7 percent in the first half of 2018, according to The NPD Group.[1]  Growth was driven by gains in casual footwear and online shopping.

Sport leisure was the fastest growing category, capturing 65 percent of dollar sales gains, as athleisure continues to penetrate all facets of the footwear market.1 Fashion, which is still the largest category, grew a healthy 5 percent after two years of declines, largely due to the comfort trend. Aside from sneakers, the top fashion silhouettes in the men’s market were sport slides and mules/clogs, fashion slides and strappy sandals for women, and sport slides and strappy sandals for kids.[2] 

“‘Comfort’ is no longer a bad word. In fact, consumers today are reluctant to compromise on comfort and the definition is evolving,” said Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories analyst, The NPD Group. “With comfort in season year-round and the ‘athletic as fashion’ movement continuing to progress, comfort is here to stay. Brands and retailers must find ways to innovate and embrace this new norm.”

Helping to fuel growth, more consumers are buying footwear online. E-commerce accounted for 90 percent of the industry’s gains over the past year. Men’s and women’s sport leisure categories, as well as women’s fashion are driving the growth.[3] NPD’s Checkout E-commerce information reveals that 36 percent of online shoppers have purchased footwear online, an increase of two percentage points over the prior year. Additionally, the average annual spend per buyer has grown by 5 percent, to $308.

As comfort-oriented silhouettes drive sales and more consumers are purchasing footwear online, additional growth opportunities are also coming to the fore. A recent NPD survey found that respondents are particularly looking for footwear that is lightweight (44 percent), breathable (43 percent), and odor resistant (40 percent) in their future footwear purchases. Social responsibility and sustainability concerns are becoming anther platform for innovation and fueling change in the industry, with Millennials leading the pack. Among adults, 27 percent have made some type of purchase specifically because of supporting a brand’s social position, and the figure jumps to 36 percent among 18-34 year olds. [4]   

“Brands must be innovative and have a social and eco-consciousness to succeed in the future. Consumers that will soon make up their largest customer base care about these issues. Brands must play in this space and over-communicate their positioning to win over consumers in a footwear market that is both growing and transitioning,” said Goldstein.


Checkout delivers the most comprehensive view of consumer purchase behavior for general merchandise categories, across all retailers over time, to help you understand how to adjust your marketing to fuel growth. Checkout E-commerce offers the most complete and accurate view of the online channel – 600+ e-commerce retailers including Amazon, Walmart, top industry specific retailers, direct-to-consumer and emerging players. Information is collected from more than 3 million consumers, through data provided by our partner Rakuten Intelligence and NPD’s own proprietary receipt-harvesting mobile phone app.

[1] Source: The NPD Group/ Consumer Tracking Service, January-June 2018

[2] Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, January-June 2018

[3] Source: The NPD Group/ Consumer Tracking Service, 12 months ending June 2018

[4] Source: The NPD Group/ May 2018 Omnibus

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