Nation & World

Sneakers trend upends shoe retail

One CEO calls it the 'casualization of fashion footware'

Stock photograph of sneakers.
Stock photograph of sneakers.

The rise of the fashionable sneaker — the result of casual Friday’s inexorable creep across the rest of the week — has footwear retailers scrambling to adjust.

Comfier shoes appear here to stay. Walmart announced on Wednesday that management now can join other employees in wearing sneakers to work, and casual attire is increasingly accepted at many companies.

The trend means that closely held Aldo Group, for example, has found itself competing against footwear giants such as Nike and Adidas.

“Our customer is spending more and more of their wallet share on what we would traditionally think of as athletic wear — the Pumas, and the Adidas and the Nikes,” Aldo CEO David Bensadoun said in an interview.

He referred to the broader trend as the “casualization of fashion footwear.”

The shift in consumer preferences is an additional challenge for brick-and-mortar footwear retailers that already are struggling to respond to the rise of e-commerce.

The stakes are high for the $68.5 billion industry. Rockport Group, Nine West Holdings and Walking Co. Holdings already have filed for bankruptcy in recent months.

Spending on footwear rose less than one percent last year — the least since 2009 — according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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That modest gain masks the widely divergent scenarios among different segments of the market: High-heel sales dropped 12 percent, while those for sport-leisure shoes climbed 16 percent, according to NPD Group.

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