How Crocs Are Helping Bring Shoe Industry Sales Back From the Brink

Footwear is continuing its comeback.

A new study shows that, in some categories, U.S. shoe sales in the second quarter of 2021 have already far outpaced sales in the same period from 2019, or before the pandemic wreaked havoc on the footwear industry.

Both leisure styles and performance shoes are exceeding 2019 figures, while the fashion footwear category is on track to meet numbers set in 2019. All the while, fashion’s much-touted prediction that women would rush back to high heels after the pandemic appears to be somewhat of a bust, as The NPD Group says that consumers are remaining steadfast to comfortable styles, like Crocs.

Leisure category sales in the second quarter reached $5.2 billion across the men’s, women’s and kids’ categories — all of which showed gains. The category reached $3.9 billion in the same period from 2019. This category includes items like hiking boots, sports slides, fishing and water shoes — all activities that have seen a big boost during the pandemic. As reported by WWD, this larger cultural shift toward outdoor life in the U.S. is expected to far outlast pandemic times.

Performance footwear is also excelling. The category reached $2 billion in sales across the U.S. this past quarter, compared with $1.6 billion logged in the same period of 2019. Men’s, women’s and children’s categories all grew over 2019 levels. Performance footwear includes styles used directly for contact and cardio sports like tennis, running and soccer.

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Matt Powell, NPD’s vice president and senior industry adviser for sports, said of the increases: “The pandemic-driven quest to get fit and stay healthy has continued as we emerge from the crisis. We expect that performance footwear — especially running, hiking and walking shoes — will remain strong through the balance of the year.”

Fashion footwear, the shoe category to take the biggest hit during the pandemic when shoppers had few places to go or show off, is now only a total of 6 percent under 2019 sales. The category achieved $3.9 billion in sales in the second quarter of 2021, compared with $4.1 billion in 2019. Spending in the men’s category is 8 percent under 2019 totals, children’s stands at about negative 6 percent, and women’s is around 3 percent under.

Beth Goldstein, NPD’s executive director and industry analyst for fashion footwear and accessories, added: “As consumers are returning to their pre-pandemic activities, they are sticking with comfortable, casual options such as sneakers, clogs (driven by Crocs), and slides, all showing growth when compared to both 2020 and 2019.

“In addition, outdoor and work/safety footwear continue to perform well. 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.”

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