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These 2 Shoe Styles Stood Out in Footwear’s Painful Q3: NPD

In the second full quarter of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. footwear industry was still feeling the pain.

Total fashion footwear sales fell 28 percent year over year in the quarter, dipping from $2.8 billion to $2 billion, according to Q3 data from The NPD Group and Retail Tracking Service. Men’s sales dropped a slightly healthier 25 percent, the larger women’s market dropped 31 percent and children’s rose 6 percent.

The much larger leisure footwear market—whose total sales exceeded the fashion and performance categories combined—declined 1 percent from 2019’s third quarter, sliding from $4.04 billion to $4 billion. Both men’s and women’s leisure footwear rose 1 percent, but this was offset by children’s leisure footwear tumbling 8 percent.

Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories analyst at The NPD Group, identified slippers and clogs like uber-popular Crocs as the quarter’s standouts, noting that they align well with consumers’ home-based lives. “In addition, consumers began to snap up cold weather boots early, perhaps in anticipation of spending more time socializing outdoors this winter,” she said. These three areas, she predicted, will remain strong for holiday.

Talulah Willis, left, sports baby blue Crocs, while out and about with her sister Scout. NPD data says clogs were a standout footwear style during the third quarter.
Talulah Willis, left, sports baby blue Crocs, while out and about with her sister Scout. NPD data says clogs were a standout footwear style during the third quarter. Snorlax / MEGA TheMegaAgency.com

Total U.S. performance footwear sales did not experience nearly the drop that fashion footwear did, but still fell 9 percent over last year, dropping from $2 billion to $1.8 billion. Women’s footwear remained largely flat year over year, but men’s slipped 8 percent and children’s dropped down 24 percent.

“Athletic footwear sales were down in the mid-single digits for the quarter, as the impact of the delayed/virtual back-to-school was felt,” said Matt Powell, senior industry advisor, sports at The NPD Group. “There were a few bright spots, however. In particular, the early sales uptick for cold/all-weather boots and hiking shoes bodes well for holiday. My expectation for Q4 is that overall sales will continue to remain challenged.”

Goldstein also raised the unusual circumstances around back-to-school as a reason behind casual sneakers sales suffering. Still, she noted, “the category continued to gain share at the expense of fashion styles.”