Sales of branded casual footwear were rather stable in terms of local currencies at the wholesale level in 2009, in spite of the economic crisis. Translated into U.S. dollars, the international currency that we have been using every year for our brand charts, they suffered a decline of 4.0 percent to a total of $11.9 billion. While sales in the U.S. retreated by 0.7 percent, sales in the rest of the world fell by 5.6 percent in dollars but were virtually flat in terms of local currencies.

As previously reported in Sporting Goods Intelligence Europe and in another publication of ours, The Outdoor Industry Compass, the branded athletic footwear market performed comparatively better last year in dollars, showing a decline of only 0.1 percent to $33.0 billion, while the rugged outdoor portion of the so-called brown shoe market increased by 1.0 percent to $2.9 billion.

Interesting trends can be observed if we split the casual portion of the brown shoe market into its two main segments. While the fashion casual footwear market grew by 3.5 percent in dollars, driven by the likes of Ugg, Steve Madden and Camper, the lifestyle casual market went down by 6.5 percent, with the three major players ? Clarks, Geox and ECCO ? all recording declines.

Currencies were partly responsible for the poor performance of these three companies in terms of dollars, and for the fact that their combined share of the market declined to 45.5 percent from 49.7 percent in 2008. Clarks' overall wholesale turnover (including the wholesale equivalent revenues of its stores in the U.S. and Canada) fell by 20.9 percent in the U.S. and by 18.2 percent in the rest of the world, but in pounds sterling they decreased by only 7.1 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively, and the brand's share of the global market remained high at 19.0 percent.

The whole lifestyle casual footwear category suffered from the fact that most of the companies in this segment are European, including comfort shoe brands like Mephisto, Stonefly and FinnComfort, whose sales are mainly in euros. The secretive Birkenstock was a stand-out, with a global sales increase reported by a company official at 25 percent in volume.

The U.S. market for branded lifestyle casual shoes declined by 6.4 percent last year. The rest of the world fell by 6.6 percent in dollars but was more or less flat in terms of local currencies. Besides Birkenstock, brands such as Josef Seibel and Lumberjack put up impressive performances.

In the fashion casual segment, where the U.S. market is bigger than the rest of the world, the currency effect improved the total picture, yet the U.S. market alone increased by 4.8 percent. The rest of the world rose by 2.6 percent in dollars and by about 8 percent in local currencies. As predicted, Ugg overtook Timberland as the major lifestyle casual brand in the U.S.

The corresponding charts on pages 4 and 5 of this issue show the relative scores of 40 major brands (two more than last year) ? for footwear only and in dollars ? but we are excluding brands such as Skechers on Crocs, which we have run in our athletic footwear chart. Sales of Kickers shoes include those of licensees but not the Italian brand by the same name. Conversions into U.S. dollars are based on the average value of the euro and other currencies in the course of each year. While some of the figures are public, many others are estimates, and some of them have been restated.

Download the Lifestyle Casual chart HERE
Download the Fashion Casual chart HERE