Partner & Managing Director, New York
43% of women and 30% of men say inflation is causing them to deprioritize shoe purchases
NEW YORK (November 30, 2022) – Inflation and other economic concerns are changing how often and where Americans buy shoes, and which brands they buy. That’s according to a survey and report released today by AlixPartners, the global consulting firm.
The survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults reveals that inflation is causing 43% of women and 30% of men to deprioritize footwear purchases, with only 15% and 25%, respectively, saying inflation is having no impact.
Inflation is having the most impact, the survey finds, on footwear purchases among older people—and that even among younger adults, inflation is likely to dampen spending for footwear during this current holiday season. In particular, the survey finds that a hefty 41-54% of those ages 45 and older are deprioritizing shoe buying due to inflation, and that 20-27% of those ages 18 to 34 expect inflation to impact their shoe purchases during this holiday season.
“As is the case regarding many consumer products right now, footwear consumers are being whipsawed by inflation,” said Raj Konanahalli, a managing director in the consumer products practice at AlixPartners. “As a result, plus that their own costs to produce and transport product are up dramatically, shoe producers need to inject more flexibility and cost-control into their operations and to demand that their supply chains do the same. Having a rigorous operational strategy and then actually executing it is more critical than ever now.”
Meanwhile, the survey also finds that consumers are shopping more in-store for shoes than they thought a year or so ago, and that whether in-store or online, loyalty is taking a back seat to cost-consciousness. In the past 12 months 77% of consumers have returned to in-store as their primary shopping channel for shoes, says the survey, which is 18 percentage points higher than what consumers thought their post-pandemic level would be in a similar AlixPartners survey conducted in May of 2021. Meanwhile, for both non-athletic and athletic shoes, the new AlixPartners poll reveals that six in 10 consumers (61% per non-athletic and 60% per athletic shoes) are likely to switch brands if a similar shoe-style can be found on sale, and that eight in 10 (78% per non-athletic and 83% per athletic shoes) are likely to switch retailers if a preferred shoe is available elsewhere on sale.
At the same time, shoe-shopping online with home delivery is also up from what consumers previously expected it would be. In last year’s survey, just 36% thought that would be their main way of shopping for shoes post-pandemic, yet in this year’s survey 56% say that’s how they’ve bought shoes in the past 12 months, an increase of a whopping 20 percentage points. Of note, though, free delivery has become the expected norm among the vast majority of all consumers—as has free returns. No less than 89% of consumers in this year’s AlixPartners survey say they expect free shipping when buying shoes online, and an equal 89% say they expect free returns.
“The entire footwear industry is experiencing the impact not only of inflation but of a dramatically changed consumer,” said Bryan Eshelman, a managing director in the retail practice at AlixPartners. “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. That’s the only way companies can keep up with today’s super-empowered, but also increasingly cost-conscious, consumer.”
The AlixPartners survey also finds that the reasons for shopping online versus in-store for shoes varies by the age of consumers. When asked what are the top three reasons for shopping for shoes online instead of in a physical store, ease of shopping was the most-selected choice (of five options offered) among those ages 55 to 64 (chosen by 39% of that cohort) as well as among those ages 64 and older (chosen by 43%). On the other hand, among those ages 18 to 24 and ages 45 to 54 more product selection were selected the most (at 35% and 39%, respectively).
The survey also featured questions about most-popular shoe brands and shoe retailers today, sustainability and shoes, the impact of inflation by U.S. region and several other topical issues.
The 2022 AlixPartners U.S. Consumer Footwear Survey polled 1,069 American consumers ages 18 and older October 25-27, 2022.
AlixPartners is a results-driven global consulting firm that specializes in helping businesses successfully address their most complex and critical challenges. Its clients include companies, corporate boards, law firms, investment banks, private equity firms, and others. Founded in 1981, AlixPartners is headquartered in New York, and has offices in more than 20 cities around the world. For more information, visit www.alixpartners.com.