The footwear industry sat at a crossroads in 2023, marked by inflation, excess inventory, and a saturated market, according to Footwear News. But in 2024, the market is expected to return to "normal" with innovation taking precedence.
Becoming more offensive this year, the footwear industry is stepping up to the plate with creative solutions. Here are 4 ways footwear companies are driving growth.
Emphasizing Product Innovation
According to Bobbie Lenga, head of global retail practice for Russell Reynolds, the footwear business moves fast. Innovation and transformation, Lenga tells Footwear News, are the keys to standing out in what feels like a saturated North American footwear market.
On, for example, has made waves for offering shoes with vented fabric. It’s a cushioning system uniquely their own: CloudTec. With people saying it feels like “running on clouds,” the brand found its niche differentiator. On’s innovations could propel the brand to double its sales by 2026.
Footwear brands are also meeting the challenge of excess inventory and conservative orders head-on with 3D technology. Innovative 3D technology makes it possible to explore product variation before production and cuts down on physical samples.
Adapting to Consumer Preferences
Innovation for its own sake doesn’t always work. The changes you make to your products should align with consumer preferences. And there are three key preferences to watch here:Affordability
Forrester’s consumer spending report notes key trends: consumer spending is still growing. But concerns like inflation have driven consumers to a more considered, slower approach as they try to stretch every dollar. In one survey, 84% of respondents said they weigh the price when buying clothes and shoes online, the highest category of responses. To improve affordability, companies should try to introduce flexible payments like BNPL (buy-now-pay-later).Casual wear
RetailDive reported that in an inflationary environment, consumers’ perception of “essential” footwear affects their preferences. Consumers point to casual footwear, sneakers, and athletic wear as the “necessities.” Dress, outdoor shoes, and slippers—not so much.Sustainability
Consumers are also becoming more concerned with sustainability, evidenced by the rapid growth rates of the sustainable footwear market. It is projected to reach $12 billion by 2027. Brands looking to cater to environment-conscious consumers will look into manufacturing with more eco-friendly materials.
Using Insights to Innovate and Cater To Consumers
For some brands—like Foot Locker—a shift in consumer demands requires a fresh approach: hitting the “product reset” button.
In March, Foot Locker unveiled its "Lace Up" initiative, a comprehensive strategy designed to boost its market share and elevate sales to $9.5 billion by 2026.
This plan involves evaluating how consumer buying habits have shifted. Then, using these insights to make improvements. Innovations include diversifying Foot Locker's brand portfolio, revamping the Foot Locker brand through innovative store formats, optimizing its loyalty program, and making significant investments in technology to improve the overall customer experience.
That’s also why they’re investing in an off-mall model (i.e. a free-standing store not located in a shopping mall) for retail sales that will require a new investment in customer journey technology. They have additional plans for investing in a customer loyalty program that drives repeat business with consumers.
Foot Locker’s approach highlights another evolving trend in footwear: consumers more concerned with everyday casual wear have to know that their footwear suits them to a T. In a Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey, two-thirds of respondents said they wished brands and retailers knew more about who they were and how they liked to shop.
In NuORDER, you can combine sales forecasting with a visually immersive product assortment for an enhanced planning process. This modernizes the planning experience, enabling teams to collaborate online and visualize, merchandise, and plan assortments across multiple stores. It’s a vital innovation giving brands the flexibility to adapt to changing consumer preferences.
Innovate your Offerings with NuORDER
Whether you’re updating the products you offer or changing your product assortments to adhere to changes in consumer demand, NuORDER’s buying platform can help you remain responsive to the North American footwear market. Get started by scheduling a demo with NuORDER today.