Young Americans are slipping into more comfortable shoes

June 21, 2018

From Serena Williams wearing sneakers to the royal wedding after-party to Maya Rudolph and Tiffany Haddish carrying their heels on stage at the Oscars, Americans are increasingly going comfy when it comes to their shoe choices. In fact, new research from Mintel reveals that the top two shoe types consumers are most likely to purchase are athletic shoes (65%) and casual shoes (53%), followed by dress shoes (34%).

And it seems younger consumers are finding they don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort as Mintel research shows they are also getting in on the comfortable shoe craze, with shoppers aged 18-34 the most likely (37%) age group to say they have purchased new shoes in order to get something more comfortable, compared to 32% of shoppers overall.

“Casual styles are among the most purchased shoes in America today, even among younger consumers. Young consumers aren’t solely choosing shoes for comfort, but also because comfortable shoes are now considered cool, with comfort and style increasingly being considered synonymous. In fact, we’re seeing a trickle down effect from the high end fashion world, which has been featuring more casual shoe styles. As a result, more mainstream brands and retailers have featured comfortable shoes like sneakers and slide sandals as part of their assortments, making comfort a cool trend. Additionally, the increased acceptance of less formal footwear choices is a reflection of the growing trends in casual fashion and relaxed dress codes, as well as flexible work situations,” said Alexis DeSalva, Retail and Apparel Analyst at Mintel.

Footwear sales hit their stride; online shoe shopping ramps up

76% of Americans say they have purchased footwear online, up from 57% in 2014.

The US footwear market has continued to enjoy positive sales growth as total sales of men’s and women’s footwear have grown 17% in the last five years to reach $63.2 billion in 2017. Mintel forecasts sales will grow another 2.9% to hit $65 billion this year. Women’s footwear (62% market share) grew 8.5% in the last two years, reaching $39.4 billion in sales in 2017, while men’s footwear (38% market share) grew 5.8% to reach $23.8 billion.

As the market remains positive, it seems the gap between online and in-store shopping is narrowing when it comes to splurging on a new pair of kicks. Today, 76% of Americans say they have purchased footwear online, up from 57% in 2014—a 33% increase in usage over the five year period. Meanwhile, as online shopping for footwear continues to rise, in-store shopping has slowed as 83% of consumers purchased footwear in-store in 2018, down from 89% in 2014.

“An optimistic outlook is in store for both segments of the footwear category, with consistent growth expected from both men’s and women’s shoes over the next five years. We find that consumers are generally becoming more comfortable with shopping online for footwear, despite the fact that in-store shopping has historically been preferred. Increased online activity now has consumers doing more browsing online, scrolling through social media and researching products, which could prompt them to make impulsive or unplanned purchases, and ultimately driving incremental sales. Utilizing services like ‘reserve online, try on in-store’ and features such as real-time, in-store inventory updates could help to reduce hesitation regarding shopping online and promote seamless shopping between both channels,” continued DeSalva.

Summer inspires women to shop for shoes

Finally, with the first day of summer (June 21) bringing in a new season, it seems women are looking to refresh their shoe collections. Three in ten (28%) women say they’ve purchased new shoes for the change of season, compared to 23% of shoppers overall. What’s more, women are also more likely to say they’ve purchased new shoes to treat themselves (46% vs 40% overall) and for a specific occasion (20% vs 15% overall).

“Whether it’s purchasing a new pair of sandals for a July 4th barbecue or buying new boots to kick off the cold winter months, women are feeling inspired to buy new shoes with the change of the season. Our research shows that women purchase shoes more impulsively than men and may need less persuading to splurge on a new pair. Marketing messages and campaigns that encourage women to ‘treat themselves’ could resonate, while men are more likely to be convinced by shoes that promote functionality and unique features,” concluded DeSalva.

Press copies of Mintel’s Men’s and Women’s Footwear US 2018 report and interviews with Alexis DeSalva, Retail and Apparel Analyst, are available on request from the press office.

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For the latest in consumer and industry news, top trends and market perspectives, stay tuned to Mintel News featuring commentary from Mintel’s team of global category analysts.

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