While it’s little surprise to industry members, the toll high inflation is taking on consumer sho shopping habits is backed by stats. According to a survey by global consulting firm, AlixPartners, inflation and other economic concerns are changing how often and where Americans buy shoes, as well as which brands they purchase.
The survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults reveals that inflation is causing 43 percent of women and 30 percent of men to deprioritize footwear purchases, with only 15 percent and 25 percent, respectively, saying inflation is having no impact. Inflation is having the most impact, the survey finds, on footwear purchases among older people. Although, even among younger adults, inflation is likely to dampen spending on footwear during this holiday season. In particular, the survey finds that 41-54 percent of those ages 45 and older are deprioritizing shoe buying due to inflation, and that 20-27 percent of those ages 18-34 expect inflation to impact their shoe purchases during this holiday season.
“The entire footwear industry is experiencing the impact not only of inflation but of a dramatically changed consumer,” states 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.”
To that end, the survey finds that consumers are shopping more in-store for shoes than a year or so ago, and that whether in-store or online, loyalty is taking a back seat to price. In the past 12 months, 77 percent of surveyed consumers have returned to in-store as their primary shopping channel for shoes, which is 18 percentage points higher than what consumers thought their post-pandemic level would be in a AlixPartners survey conducted in May of 2021. As for brand loyalty, the latest survey reveals that six in 10 consumers (61 percent per non-athletic and 60 percent per athletic) are likely to switch brands if a similar style can be found on sale, and that eight in 10 (78 percent per non-athletic and 83 percent per athletic) are likely to switch retailers if a preferred shoe is available elsewhere on sale.
But let’s not get completely physical. The survey revealed that shoe shopping online with home delivery is up from what consumers previously expected it would be. In last year’s survey, just 36 percent thought that would be their main way of shopping for shoes post-pandemic, yet in this year’s survey 56 percent say that’s how they’ve bought shoes in the past 12 months. Also of note, free delivery is the expected norm among the vast majority of consumers, as are free returns. No less than 89 percent of consumers in this year’s survey expect free shipping when buying shoes online, and an equal percentage expect free returns.
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 store, ease of shopping was the top choice (of five options offered) among those ages 55-64 (chosen by 39 percent) as well as among those ages 64 and older (chosen by 43 percent). Among those ages 18-24 and ages 45-54, more product selection was the top choice, at 35 percent and 39 percent, respectively)