- Forty-three percent of women and 30% of men said they had deprioritized footwear purchases due to inflation-related concerns, according to a recent survey conducted by global consulting firm AlixPartners.
- A majority of consumers are also currently considering cost more than brand loyalty, with 60% saying they’d switch footwear brands and 80% saying they'd switch retailers to save money.
- Seventy-seven percent of people polled chose to shop for shoes in-store in the last 12 months. But 56% of respondents said they’ve also bought shoes online. That’s up 20 percentage points from last year.
A chief takeaway from this snapshot of customer behavior is that to attract consumers, shoe producers – who are facing higher costs to produce and transport products – need to focus on putting more flexibility and cost control into their operations and supply chains.
“Having a rigorous operational strategy and then actually executing it is more critical than ever now,” said Raj Konanahalli, a managing director in the consumer products practice at firm AlixPartners.
Demographics influence consumer behavior on footwear. The survey found between a third to more than half of the people polled planned to deprioritize shoe purchases due to inflation. Here’s how many people said yes based on their age:
- 18-24: 37%
- 25-34: 32%
- 35-44: 35%
- 45-54: 41%
- 55-64: 48%
- 65 and up: 54%
Within the athletic shoe segment, 52% of women and 43% of men said they’d switch stores to find a better price. For non-athletic shoes, the ability to buy online with either home delivery or curbside pickup, along with getting a more comfortable pair of shoes were the top three reasons that consumers might buy an unknown brand.
Asked to name the top three reasons for shopping online versus at a physical store, 39% of people aged 55 to 64 said ease of shopping was their top reason out of five options. Forty-three percent of people age 64 and older also cited ease of shopping as the top reason they chose to buy online. For 35% of respondents between 18 and 24 and 39% of respondents 45 to 54, however, the main reason to shop online is greater product selection.
And 89% of online shoe customers now expect free shipping and free returns, according to AlixPartners. Other top reasons for buying online include the ease of online shopping and home delivery, along with access to a larger product selection.
Other recent consumer surveys seem to support the trends that AlixPartners found. The company’s online survey polled 1,069 adults in October, and they released the report last month.
A survey this summer by PowerReviews found that 74% of all spending on footwear occurs online. And a survey from Morning Consult, also from this summer, found that 85% of U.S. respondents said rising inflation changed their shopping habits.
Walmart, the Nike store, and the Adidas store were the top three choices for people buying athletic shoes in person. Famous Footwear was the fourth most popular choice for survey respondents. Macy's and DSW tied for the fifth most popular in-person destination for footwear. The Nike store and Walmart saw the largest gains versus last year’s survey at 14% and 13% respectively.
For online purchases, Amazon leads, with 66% of those surveyed saying they bought footwear from the dominant online retailer. Amazon gained 15% versus last year’s survey. Nike, Adidas, Walmart and DSW rounded out the top five online retailers.
“The entire footwear industry is experiencing the impact not only of inflation but of a dramatically changed consumer,” Bryan Eshelman, a managing director in the retail practice at AlixPartners, said in a statement.
Indeed, inflation has affected sales in every product category. This summer, 62% of U.S. respondents to a Morning Consult survey said they were somewhat or very worried about inflation’s impact on apparel and shoe prices.
“As the vast majority of all retail transactions start online, retailers and footwear companies alike need to become what we call ‘digital-first,’ meaning to think and behave digitally even if most sales are ultimately transacted through stores,” Eshelman continued. “That’s the only way companies can keep up with today’s super-empowered, but also increasingly cost-conscious, consumer.”
Spending on shoes surged nearly 30% to a record high of $100.7 billion in 2021, according to the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America.