Britain falls head over heels in love with shoes
Following in the footsteps of on-screen shoe addicts, such as Carrie Bradshaw, Britain's love affair with shoes has continued to gather pace. Indeed, latest research from MINTEL finds that over the past five years sales of shoes have grown faster in Britain, than anywhere else in Europe. Spending on footwear (including VAT) has risen by no less than 38% since 2001 alone, to reach just over £6.5 billion (9.4 billion Euros) this year. What is more, the market is expected to see continued growth, with sales increasing by 17% between 2006 and 2010, to reach £7.6 billion (11.1 billion Euros).
Meanwhile, in France and Italy, the countries many of us associate with sophisticated fashion and style, growth in shoe sales has faltered. Although the Italians spend the most on shoes, with the footwear market here set to reach 14.6 billion Euros by the end of the year, growth has been only around 1% over the past five years. France too has seen only a marginal increase in spend, as sales have risen just 4% since 2001.
Italy (14.6 billion Euros), Germany (10.4 billion Euros), Sweden (9.6 billion Euros), the UK (9.4 billion Euros) and France (8.0 billion Euros) make up the largest five footwear markets in Europe.
A pair of shoes for every day of the month
According to MINTEL’s exclusive consumer research, one in 10 British women (2.6 million women aged over 15) are aspiring Imelda Marcoses, owning over 30 pairs of shoes - one for every day of the month. A further one in 5 (20%) women own between 16 and 30 pairs.
While comfort and fit are still the most important attributes in choosing shoes, there is a growing interest in fashionability. Indeed, today, just one in four (26%) women in the UK say that they only buy shoes when they need a replacement pair.
"Footwear in the UK has moved centre stage in the world of fashion and demand has been growing rapidly. Indeed, apart from accessories it has been the fastest growing element in fashion retailing. Shoes are no longer seen as a clothing essential to be bought on a replacement basis only, they are now an integral part of the fashion of the day. What is more, people are now far more willing to buy a pair of shoes for a specific occasion or to go with one particular outfit," comments Richard Perks, Director of Retail Research at MINTEL.
The demise of the shoe shop
But while Brits are spending more on fancy footwear, it is not the specialist shoe shops that are reaping the rewards. In fact, the percentage of the footwear market held by specialists has fallen from almost 70% in 2001, to just 57% this year, with market growth being mainly enjoyed by the non-specialists, from New Look and Asda to Primark and Next.
Fashion retailers are increasingly taking advantage of the fact that they can sell shoes as part of a complete outfit. As Zara has long since sold shoes and H&M is about to launch a range, this trend is well established and will accelerate. Clothing retailers have the expertise in sourcing low cost products from the Far East, they also have the experience of being highly responsive to fashion and now have a mindset adjusted to several changes of styles through the seasons.
"Fashion retailers have all taken on board the need for fast fashion in footwear just as we have seen in clothing. Footwear specialists need to start appreciating the importance of fashion in their sector and introduce a much faster turnover of styles. Specialists also need to make more of their strengths, emphasising their authority on shoes and high levels of service through advice and fitting," explains Richard Perks.
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