With a 5% year-over-year growth rate, U.S. shoe sales are faring better than other segments of retail. But Amazon, which saw shoe sales rise 35% last year, threatens to upend that market, too, according to research from e-commerce data measurement firm One Click Retail.
The tricky fit of shoes has helped keep shoppers in stores for those purchases, but Amazon-owned Zappos — with free shipping, free returns and good customer service — has helped ease online shoe shopping, according to Nathan Rigby, a partner at One Click Retail who leads sales and marketing. “Zappos single-handedly built consumer trust in online shoe sales and was so successful that Amazon spent $1.2 billion to buy the company in 2009,” he noted in a report emailed to Retail Dive.
Last week Amazon unveiled “The Fix,” new private label line of handbags and shoes available only to Prime members. The e-commerce giant is also piloting Prime Wardrobe, where shoppers can order items, shipped free, and pay only for the ones they keep.
The shoe market is officially in flux, and Amazon, once again, is unsettling it.
Stalwart Payless, a disruptor itself back in the day thanks to its lower prices and self-service model, earlier this year filed for bankruptcy and is shuttering hundreds of stores, potentially ceding much of its business to Amazon’s growing effort. Nike in June confirmed it would establish direct sales via Amazon, threatening brick-and-mortar retailers like Foot Locker, the number one seller of Nike brand shoes in the U.S., according to One Click Retail.
But even before its The Fix launch and the Nike decision, Amazon’s shoe sales grew 18% during the first two quarters of this year, according to One Click Retail. “For a long time, shoes were one of those things people hesitated to buy online,” Rigby wrote. “Every brand (and sometimes even individual models) has slightly different fits, so no matter how confident you were in your shoe size, you would still want to try them on before you buy. But then Zappos came along and changed everything.”
Adidas, which has seen its fortunes improve since being knocked out of the number two spot (behind Nike) by Under Armour in the athletic shoe space, owes a lot to Amazon. The brand has reclaimed that position, thanks in part to a pivot to streetwear and aggressive marketing. It’s also seen five variations of its Women’s Superstar Foundation Casual Sneaker appearing in the six fastest-growing items on Amazon, ranging from 480% to 890% growth, according to the One Click report.
But newcomers are also thriving on Amazon: Two companies founded in the 21st century, Keen and Crocs, are among the top sellers in the Comfort and Outdoor categories, One Click Retail said.
The back-to-school season will likely only further kick up Amazon’s shoe game, Rigby said, adding that shoe brands should be paying attention. “In light of the e-commerce giant’s renewed focus on shoes and fashion, now is the time for brands to update their Amazon strategy to make the most out of the fastest-growing sales channel in the industry,” he said in his report.