Women Seeking New Footwear Brands, Styles

Although U.S. women’s footwear growth has been somewhat subdued during the past two years, there have been considerable changes in the brand landscape, attributed to the fact that women are more concerned not only with comfort and quality, but style over brand when shopping for footwear, according to Women’s Footwear Brand Focus Study 2014, the latest report from global information provider, The NPD Group.

Almost 60 percent of women say it is “how shoes look” that matters more than the brand, and that they are “willing to try new or lesser-​known footwear brands.” This attitude likely contributed to the success of the five newcomers on the list of top 15 women’s brands, who were not on the list two years ago, illustrating the extent of the brand landscape shift.*

Although the women’s footwear market remains fragmented and gaining share is a challenge, this poses a tremendous opportunity for new, lesser-​known, and established brands alike to win over female consumers, whose overall purchasing behavior is driven by feel and aesthetics rather than brand name,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group. “What’s ‘in’ one year might be ‘out’ the next, which means it’s as important as ever for retailers and manufacturers to assess their brands’ reputation and perceptions in the marketplace, understand their target consumers’ attitudes and shopping behaviors, and adjust their plan of action accordingly.”

Within the women’s footwear market, 60 percent of its growth over the past two years came from Millennials (ages 16–34), demonstrating the importance of Millennials for future growth.

Inside the Millennial Closet

Trendy and unique are key traits that Millennials seek in their footwear, with comfort and quality becoming increasingly important as they age. Women not only desire comfortable shoes that look appealing and are long-​lasting, but they also want their footwear to serve multiple purposes, with a reported 44 percent saying it is important for their shoes to be versatile.

Female consumers overall are looking for newness, fresh products that will generate excitement, and their interest in versatility poses a potentially valuable and innovative opportunity for footwear brands to expand their presence by playing in both the athletic and casual markets,” said Cohen. “Offering the right product, in the right place, and at the right time and price is key. The Millennials would be a strategic place to start, given the strong influence they have in the footwear market right now and down the road.”

About 20% of U.S. adults call themselves Fashionistas, according to AudienceSCAN.  These consumers are far more likely than average to be younger and female. Not surprisingly, most Fashionistas live in the city or suburbs. In the next year, this audience will over-​index for spending on other image-​enhancing products and services such as manicures or pedicures (36.4%) and dental procedures such as teeth whitening (36.7%).  Shoe retailers may be able to connect with this audience by using social media posts as 45.7% of these consumers have started an online search as a result of what they've seen on social networks.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.