In this year’s pandemic-riddled market, affiliates of the Cologne-based shoe retailing association GMS managed to limit losses, achieving significantly better results than the national average. 

A survey on sales between January and September showed an average drop of 6.4 percent for GMS’s affiliates, compared with a decline of around 30 percent cited by BDSE, the association of German shoe retailers, for the first half of the year. 

However, even within GMS there were significant differences depending on location, product range and degree of specialization. Small shops in small to medium-sized cities were significantly less affected than prime locations in large cities, the association said. Specialty retailers also suffered smaller losses than general retailers. This also helps explain why GMS-affiliated stores, that are mainly specialized and owner-managed dealers with strong customer loyalty, fared much better than the sector’s average. According to the survey, total sales at specialty fashion retailers fell by 7 percent, while general retailers suffered greater losses, with sales dropping by an average 15.9 percent, according to GMS. 

By segment, the comfort shoe segment posted a 9.6 percent sales drop from the previous year, with inner city shops and specialty stores hit the hardest, with sales down by 26.5 percent. 

By contrast, retailers of children’s shoes posted a 1.7 percent increase in sales thanks to greater customer loyalty. Sports footwear sales fell by 29 percent as a sharp drop in sales of footwear for team sports weighed. On a brighter note, running shoe retailers enjoyed a 13.5 percent jump in sales as more people turned to running, GMS added. 

Overall, according to BDSE, the footwear retail sector plunged into the worst recession in post-war history, and more challenging times lie ahead. 

In the first half of the year, sales dropped by around 30 percent, also due to a sharp fall in March and April, down by 55 percent and 70 percent respectively, when strong sales and earnings are traditionally generated. 

Sales in brick-and-mortar stores partly recovered in the summer months - again with differences depending on location and size - but remained well below last year’s levels. In the first seven months of the year, the footwear retail sector lost €1.2 billion in sales from the same period last year, BDSE said. 

The losses after the onset of the pandemic were partly offset by a surge in online sales. Moreover, according to the BDSE, the widespread lockdowns this spring accelerated the shift from offline to online retail, and the latter is currently continuing to grow. 

The autumn/winter season however, remains challenging for footwear retail, according to BDSE. For the full year, the association forecast at the end of August a drop in sales of 20 to 25 percent, but the current second wave of the pandemic, with the resulting tightening of restrictions, could further impair recovery.