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High heel sales fall as women shift to comfort

Jun 22, 2018 United States
High heel sales fall as women shift to comfort
Women are shifting their demand to more comfortable sneakers, as last year’s 37% increase in US women’s leisure sneaker sales suggests. Meanwhile, high heel sales are going down
With women empowerment being the new hot topic and workplaces getting more casual, women seem to be shifting their footwear preferences from stiletto heels to more comfortable options.

Regardless of the reasons, and if one looks at the numbers first, there seems to be little doubt about the importance of the trend, as more people wear comfortable shoes and sneakers. US-based market research company NPD Group Inc.’s Retail Tracking Service reports that 2017 has seen US high heels sales decrease by 12%, whereas sales of women’s sneakers have seen a 37% spike.

A variety of explanations


The main motivation is certainly the demand for comfort. On the one hand, comfort is trending, as can be attested by stars wearing flats and sneakers to red carpets. On the other hand, women are feeling more and more empowered. Connie Wang, a senior features writer for Refinery29, a digital media company focusing on millennial women, commented on this stating: “I think that empowerment looks differently to many different women. For some women, they feel more like themselves in a pair of flats and I think we've reached a tipping point in society where that's finally more than okay to do at the office.”

Indeed, another reason that is frequently cited as bringing about this new quest for more comfortable shoes is the changing societal norms. Dress code at the office is getting more relaxed, “people are dressing for comfort and function” explains Katie Smith, director of retail analysis at Edited, a company providing real-time retail data.

Furthermore, the growing health awareness and the spreading “fitness craze” have lead athletic footwear to grow by 2% in the U.S. last year, generating nearly 20 billion US dollars in sales, according to NPD. Adidas and Nike drove almost half the growth in the segment.

What is for sure, is that lack of high heels choices is not a possible cause for this change, seeing as US retail inventory for this type of shoe increased by 28% in 2017, Edited reports. However, the vast amount of sneaker options has certainly aided greatly their growth in popularity.

Overall, this is not a burn-your-heels kind of moment. Women still own and love high heels. Nevertheless, they are using them less often and mainly for special occasion. In fact, the sneakers trend shows few signs of abating, and NPD expects sales to continue growing in the double digits for the next few years.

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