There may be much collective hand-wringing over the prospect of a productive holiday season, but according to data from the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) and Emerson College Polling, shoes made many shoppers’ lists.
Forty-one percent of 1,158 American consumers tapped for a new survey said they were “very likely” to purchase footwear for themselves or as gifts this upcoming holiday season, while one-quarter said they were “somewhat likely” to do so.
The most avid shoe shoppers are Gen Z and millennials ages 18-39, 54 percent of whom said they planned to purchase footwear this fall. Another 37 percent of consumers ages 40-47, as well as consumers ages 50-64, reported the same sentiments. Only 15 percent of shoppers age 65 and older said they considered footwear a likely purchase.
The appetite for shoes during the winter months varies regionally, with 51 percent of shoppers in the Western U.S. saying they plan to buy shoes for themselves or loved ones. In the South, 47 percent said the same. However, shoppers in the Northeast and the Midwest are relatively unlikely to purchase, at 32 percent and 24 percent, respectively. According to Emerson and FDRA analysts, the overall percentage of respondents that reported being “very unlikely” to buy shoes this season increased by 3 percent since 2019.
Of the shoppers who do plan to spend their holiday wallet share on footwear products this year, the majority (53 percent) plan to spend between $100-$250, while one-third plan to shell out less than $100. Just 12 percent of shoppers are eyeing an outlay between $250-$500, while a mere 2 percent see their shoe purchases exceeding $500.
The amount of spend also trends regionally, with shoppers who said they plan to buy between $250-$500 worth of shoes living mostly in the West (40 percent) and South (39 percent). Pluralities of all age categories plan to spend in the $100-$250 range, except for 40-49 year olds, who were shown to be split between spending less than $100 (41 percent) and between $100-$250 (40 percent). Notably, one-quarter of Black shoppers reported plans to buy $250-$500 worth of footwear products, while 9 percent said they aimed to spend more than $500—higher than the overall average of all demographics combined.
Not surprisingly, more than two-fifths (43 percent) of shoppers said they were most likely to buy casual shoes this season, as many are still spending copious amounts of time at home, or, if they’re lucky, at small social gatherings. The opportunities to dress up are few and far between, evidenced by the fact that just 20 percent of shoppers plan to make fashion-based footwear purchases this season.
However, many homebound consumers appear to be working diligently on their fitness, with 36 percent saying they plan to purchase athletic shoes—most of them men (46 percent). Women plan to spend the bulk of their wallet share (46 percent) on casual shoes, while 30 percent said they would buy athletic shoes and 24 percent said they would buy dress shoes or boots.
And amid the challenges of an economic recession spurred by the pandemic, 41 percent of respondents cited shoe pricing and accompanying discounts as the most important factors influencing their purchasing decisions this fall. Almost one-third (32 percent) said their purchases would be spurred by need, with only 16 percent saying they would buy to add variety to their wardrobes. Another 10 percent of shoppers said they were shopping with a very specific shoe or brand in mind—perhaps waiting for a holiday deal after weeks or months of consideration.
The coronavirus crisis has also impacted the ways consumers plan to shop this season—that is to say, with social distancing at the forefront of their decision-making. A whopping 71 percent of shoppers plan to make their footwear purchases online this year, compared with 29 percent who said they would shop in store or use an omnichannel option like curbside pickup. In 2019, those numbers were split near evenly, with just over half (52 percent) of shoppers saying e-commerce would be their primary channel for shoe buying, and 48 percent planning to go the brick-and-mortar route.
Shoppers living in the Northeast and the South are more likely to shop in stores or use BOPIS options, at 35 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Just under one-quarter of shoppers in the Midwest and 19 percent of those in the Western U.S. plan to do the same.
The affinity for online shopping spans age ranges, with the majority of all generations responding that they plan to do their purchasing through the web. However, 45 percent of shoppers age 50-64 are most likely to head to the stores or use pickup options, beating out shoppers over 65 by just a hair, at 44 percent.
The most popular e-tailer for footwear purchases was Amazon, with 44 percent of the consumer vote, down 6 percent since 2019. One-fifth of shoppers said they plan to use a retailer’s website for browsing and buying, while 19 percent said they would head directly to a brand’s website to make their purchase. Ten percent of shoppers said they would use a footwear-specific site, like Zappos, while 8 percent said they would shop for shoes elsewhere online.
The majority of white shoppers (50 percent) indicated an affinity for Amazon over other channels. Hispanic and Latino consumers gravitated to brand-owned sites (28 percent) and shoe sites like Zappos (22 percent), while just one-fifth cited Amazon as their primary choice. Among Black shoppers, 34 percent said they preferred Amazon, while a close number (30 percent) said they preferred retailer e-commerce channels, like Nordstrom or Foot Locker, and 26 percent prefer to shop directly from brands.
Interestingly, while malls rank as the most comfortable in-shopping experience for shoppers inclined to visit the stores (36 percent), just 14 percent of shoppers said they would be comfortable visiting department stores. The second-largest contingent (21 percent) said they would not feel comfortable shopping in any stores, while the rest of respondents were split between strip malls (17 percent) and big-box stores like Target (13 percent).
Men reported being most comfortable in malls (42 percent) and strip malls (17 percent), while women indicated a more equitable split between malls (30 percent), department stores (21 percent) and strip malls (16 percent).
Respondents under the age of 50 were more comfortable shopping in malls than their older counterparts. The highest-ranking option for consumers age 50-64 was strip malls, at 25 percent, while the oldest group of shoppers—65 and older—fingered big-box stores as their preferred in-person shopping venue, at 28 percent.