Global footwear consumption is expected to rise by 2.8 percent in volume this year as the market recovers from losses posted last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a projection established from the answers of a panel of experts for the latest Business Condition Survey of World Footwear.

Respondents believe that consumption may still be below pre-pandemic levels next year and return to those levels only during 2023.

Consumption is expected to grow by 5.8 percent in South America in the whole of 2021, by 3.8 percent in North America, by 2.0 percent in Europe and Africa, and by 2.8 percent in Asia.

But, in the World Footwear survey only 37 percent of panelists expect the quantity of shoes sold to increase in the first half of 2021, 30 percent foresee a stable market and 33 percent anticipate a decrease.

The majority of respondents, 55 percent, expect footwear sales to increase in Asia during the first six months of the year but they are less optimistic about other markets. Only 43 percent predict growth in Africa during the period, 34 percent in Europe and 25 percent both in North America and South America.

For South America, half the panel expects a decline in volume sales in the first half. The second worst score was registered by Africa, with 43 percent of respondents anticipating a decline, followed by Europe, with 38 percent of experts predicting a decline.

Over half the panelists (52 percent) expect global footwear prices to be stable in the first half, while 32 percent anticipate an increase and 16 percent a decrease.

For South America, half the respondents expect higher prices and the other half see stability. In Europe, they overwhelmingly anticipate prices to be stable (59 percent), while a quarter expect higher prices and 16 percent see a decline.

Asia is the market most exposed to lower prices, with 24 percent of respondents anticipating a fall in prices, 45 percent stability and 31 percent an increase.

The answers for North America and Africa are fairly similar. Responses of higher prices and price stability totaled 45 percent each for North America and 43 percent in Africa. Ten percent of panelists see lower prices in North America and 14 percent in Africa.

Lack of demand at home and abroad was the main difficulty viewed by the experts. The other main issues were financial difficulties and the cost of merchandise or raw materials.

The market will continue to be underpinned by sneakers and leather shoes will pursue their descent. The report showed that 77 percent of panelists expect sneaker sales to rise, 20 percent see stability and 3 percent a decline. Other sports-related footwear and other footwear with textile uppers will also have headwinds, with 63 percent and 50 percent of respondents predicting increases, respectively.

Regarding leather footwear, 59 percent of experts see a decline for classic men’s models and 47 percent anticipate a drop for classic women’s shoes.

Purchasing power and price remain the two main drivers for buying shoes, but sustainability concerns have overtaken fashion trends, according to the experts’ replies.

The bulk of the panel expects digital tools to remain essential in a post-pandemic environment.

About 80 percent of the panel’s members believe that the importance of general online sellers, multi-brand and own-brand online channels will increase over the next three years.

Over half the respondents (52 percent) reckon that social media will be “very important”, 41 percent say the same for corporate websites and 34 percent for online advertising. The answers were less upbeat for online fair, with only 12 percent of experts considering them as very important. World Footwear noted however that physical trade fairs, “traditionally probably the most important tool for the footwear industry,” were viewed as very important by less than 23 percent of respondents.

Paper mailing and advertising in the printed press were considered the least interesting of the 10 business-to-business marketing tools proposed.

World Footwear is an initiative of Apiccaps, the Portuguese footwear, components and leather goods manufacturers’ association.

The fourth edition of the online survey was carried out in March. It received 141 valid answers, 52 percent from Europe, 21 percent from Asia, 14 percent from North America, 8 percent from South America and 5 percent from Africa. Thirty-five percent of the respondents were involved in footwear manufacturing, 20 percent in footwear trade and distribution, and 45 percent in other footwear-related activities such as trade associations, consultancy, journalism, etc.