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The Sneaker Trend Shows No End in Sight

It’s an athleisure world and we’re just living in it.

A new report by L2 confirms the beating fashion footwear has taken from the casualization of consumer preferences, the demand for comfort and a desire for healthier lifestyles.

U.S. sales of high heels dropped 12 percent last year, while sales for women’s sneakers increased 37 percent to $2.3 billion, according to NPD Group. And footwear brands and retailers—both fashion and performance—are working to capitalize on the escalating sneaker trend.

Stuart Weitzman, Miu Miu and Gucci share turf with Nike, Adidas and Puma on Bloomingdale’s new shoe floor, which opened at its New York City flagship earlier this month. Selfridges in London opened a sneaker emporium dedicated to women’s product in February, and Nike introduced Unlaced, a digital and retail concept focused on women’s sneakers. Unlaced is part of Nike’s plan to grow its $6.6 billion women’s business to $11 billion by 2020.

Even traditional sandal brands like Birkenstock and Jack Rogers are lacing up. Brands at Sole Commerce in New York City earlier this year, presented Fall ’18 collections that ran deep with slip-on sneakers, novelty hi-tops and elevated leather kicks.

Overall, sport is outpacing traditional apparel and footwear. Revenue for the performance and sports-inspired category increased 10 percent over the decade, compared to 4 percent growth of apparel and footwear revenue overall, according to L2.

The performance and athleisure sector hasn’t escaped retail’s woes entirely, however. L2 said growth in the sector is “constrained by weak gains via wholesale retail channels, and brands have had to contend with the resulting structural shift, prompting a concerted focus on growth via direct-to-consumer e-commerce.”

Despite retail’s pressures, Adidas is schooling the industry on how a brand can successfully grow sales across distribution channels.

The retailer surpassed competitors Nike and Under Armour with double-digit growth across channels last year, with particularly strong support from owned e-commerce properties, L2 reported. Adidas’ investments in enhancing brick-and-mortar experiences and ramping up its digital marketing strategy have also paid off.

Adidas has become a hype machine—a must-have quality for any sneaker brand. L2 said the brand “excels at the fundamentals of social and digital marketing while signaling innovation and driving buzz via flashier tactics.”