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Fashion Footwear Remains Below Pre-Pandemic Levels as Leisure Soars

The overall U.S. footwear market recorded double-digit growth in the second quarter compared to two years ago, according to data released by The NPD Group.

The leisure market led the way, climbing 31 percent on a two-year basis to $5.2 billion. Though men’s footwear accounts for the segment’s largest chunk, it was children’s that saw the greatest improvement, rising 41 percent to $1.1 billion. Women’s leisure footwear jumped 31 percent to $1.5 billion and men’s rose 27 percent to $2.5 billion.

“As consumers are returning to their pre-pandemic activities, they are sticking with comfortable, casual options,” Beth Goldstein, executive director and industry analyst, fashion footwear and accessories, NPD, said.

Goldstein highlighted sneakers, clogs—specifically Crocs—and slides, all of which, she said saw growth compared to last year and 2019. Outdoor and work/safety footwear also continued to perform well, she added.

The performance market, meanwhile, saw sales grow 23 percent to $2 billion. Women’s footwear, up 29 percent to $659 million, experienced the largest bump, followed by men’s, up 22 percent at $1.1 billion, and children’s, up 17 percent at $258 million.

“The pandemic-driven quest to get fit and stay healthy has continued as we emerge from the crisis,” Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor, sports at NPD, said.

Looking to the latter half of the year, Powell said NPD expects performance footwear—particularly walking, hiking and running shoes—to remain strong. According to NPD’s data, walking sales climbed more than 50 percent year-over-year in the second quarter. Hiking rose nearly 50 percent and running grew about a third.

Fashion footwear remains down compared to before the pandemic. The category—once larger than leisure—recorded $3.9 billion in U.S. sales, a 6 percent decline versus two years ago. The drop came despite children’s fashion footwear increasing 6 percent to $381 million. Men’s dropped the furthest, 8 percent to $841 million. Women’s slid 3 percent to $2.6 billion.

“Higher average prices are helping to mitigate dollar losses in the fashion category, but even so, dollar sales were down mid-single digits versus 2019 during the quarter, driven by the continued softness in dress, despite a rebound to 2020,” Goldstein said.