For a long time, shoes were one of those things people hesitated to buy online. Every brand (and sometimes even individual models) has slightly different fits, so no matter how confident you were in your shoe size, you would still want to try them on before you buy. But then Zappos came along and changed everything. With free shipping and returns, and a focus on outstanding customer service, Zappos single-handedly built consumer trust in online shoe sales and was so successful that Amazon spent $1.2 billion to buy the company in 2009.  Today, Shoes on Amazon is a multi-billion-dollar product group, growing at a rate far outpacing brick-and-mortar stores.

The Numbers (US, 2016)Amazon-Footwear-Sales-analysis-of 2016 Shoes revenue

Men's Running$40M
Women's Running$35M
Women's Sandals$30M
Women's Flats$30M
Women's Sandals$30M
Women's Non Tech Athletic$20M
Men's Hiking/Approach$15M
Women's Sandals$15M
Kid's Shoes$90M40%
Sport Sandals$10

*These figures only reflect shoe-specific stores, excluding apparel stores that also sell shoes. Source: US Census.

Last Tuesday, Amazon launched The Fix, a new private fashion brand specializing in shoes and handbags. Combined with the rollout of the Prime Wardrobe service which allows Prime members to try on shoes, clothing and accessories for free, this is a clear indication that Amazon is positioning itself as a major player in the footwear industry at a time when brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to retain customers, with even the major chain Payless filing for bankruptcy.

Though some chains are barely staying afloat, most shoe stores in the US are doing okay. A 5% YoY growth rate for shoe-specific stores is actually a little bit higher than the domestic growth rates for most other retail sectors. As usual, however, brick-and-mortar can’t keep up with Amazon, which saw shoe sales grow by 35% percent YoY in 2016. Even before launching The Fix and bringing Nike on board as a first-party seller, 2017 is already shaping up to being a strong year for shoes on Amazon, with a growth of 18% YoY during the first two quarters:Amazon-Footwear-Top-Categories-Analysis

Key Shoes Trends

  • Shoes

Believe it or not, one of the key trends driving the Shoes product group on Amazon is… shoes. The Shoes product group includes both footwear and accessories, and it’s the accessories that have shown the least growth in the past 18 months. In the UK, for example, when looking at the entire Shoes product group, we see a growth rate of 7%, but when we remove everything except for actual footwear (shoes, boots and sandals), that growth rate balloons to 20%. The difference is even more stark in the US: the Shoes product group as a whole grew by only 5%, but with accessories removed that growth is 35%. Let’s face it, shoes can be a little bit pricey and owning multiple pairs is a luxury, but today shoe sales are on the rise because people have more disposable income and have more faith in economic stability than they have had in over a decade. In particular, Amazon’s core demographic, millennials, are earning more than ever before.

  • Less Competition

Prior to filing for bankruptcy in April, Payless ShoeSource was one of the largest shoe chains in the world with over 4,400 stores in 30 countries. Along with their bankruptcy announcement came the closure of 400 stores, followed two months later by the announcement of the gradual closure of up to 408 additional stores. Even Foot Locker, currently the number one seller of Nike brand shoes in the US, is poised to lose a great deal of business to Amazon in the near future: Nike has just announced a new partnership with Amazon to become a first party seller.

  • Adidas

So far in 2017, the biggest driver of growth has been women’s sneakers from Adidas. One of the biggest shoe brands worldwide, Adidas has had a stellar year on Amazon, with 5 different variations of the Women’s Superstar Foundation Casual Sneaker appearing in the 6 fastest-growing items on, ranging from 480% to 890% growth.Amazon-Footwear-Top-Revenue-Growth-Items

  • Men’s Insoles

The only brand stopping Adidas from getting a clean sweep of the top six items is Sof Sole insoles, two variations of which join Adidas to complete the eight top-growing items in the first six months of 2017, growing by 300% and 630%. Despite this growth, Sof Sole only just barely made it into the top 10 items, behind nine different variations of Superfeet Insoles. That’s right: each of the 10 bestselling items YTD are insoles, with the top nine coming from Amazon’s insole king, Superfeet.

  • Emerging Brands

Adidas’ rise in the ranks of Amazon’s shoe sales reveals that the product group is not being dominated by longstanding incumbents – it is still very much open to competition. Nevertheless, Adidas is a major global brand, so we need to look past the likes of Sketchers, ASICS, New Balance and other industry heavyweights to identify the true emerging brands. Leading this category we find two companies founded in the early 2000s, Keen and Crocs, which are both known for their innovative approaches to the sandal. Consistent with this, the top-selling shoes from emerging brand are overwhelmingly in the Comfort and Outdoor categories, in contrast to athletic focus of the leading incumbent brands.Amazon-Footwear-Emerging-Brands-Revenue-Data

UK  Shoes Comparison

The UK has experienced a growth similar to that of the US. Total Shoes sales were £67 MM, representing 7% growth in the product group and 20% growth in sales of footwear specifically. Sales were driven by Sandals and Boots, the leading subcategories in both Women’s (£22 MM) and Men’s (£15 MM) shoes, while Sports Shoes (£14 MM) came in as the third largest category, with all other categories trailing far behind.

The top brands in the UK are vastly different from those in the US, with no representation from Adidas or Superfeet in the UK’s bestselling or fastest growing items. Timberland’s Women’s Hiking Shoes line provided two of the top 5 bestselling items of the year so far, including the #1 item, and both Vans and Converse has two items in the top 10, all classified as Outdoor Multisport Training Shoes.

Women's Basic£22MTimberland 6 Women's High Rise Hiking Shoes
Sandals£4MCrep Protect 200ml Can
Boots£3.5MOptical White Converse Low Tops size 6
Sports Shoes£14MLiquiproof Fabric Protector 50ml
Outdoor Multisport Training£3.5MTimberland 6 Women's High Rise Hiking Shoes
Running£3.5MDr. Marten's 1460 Original 8 Eyelet Lace-Up Boots
Men's Shoes£15MVans Atwood Unisex Kids' Low-Top Sneakers
Fashion Sandals£2.5MVans Old Skool Unisex Adults' Low-Top Trainers
Boots£2.5MConverse Chuck Taylor All Star Adults' Trainers

2017 is just getting started – we’re bound to see a major increase in shoe sales during Q3 and Q4. As we approach back-to-school season, we’ll see the expected spike in Kids’ Shoes, while Nike’s recent partnership as an Amazon first-party seller as well as the launch of The Fix, Amazon’s private shoe line, are going to drive sales growth. In light of the eCommerce giant’s renewed focus on shoes and fashion, now is the time for brands to update their Amazon strategy to make the most out of the fastest-growing sales channel in the industry.

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