April 22nd, 2020

Identifying key sector trends prevalent in the footwear market

Continuing our exploration of the strategies that footwear brands and retailers are using to advance the market at speed and offer a glimpse into the future of retail, by and large, we focus on two wider societal trends – Sustainability and Brand-Purpose & Community – which footwear brands will have to define their position on in the coming years.

Person jumping next to a lake



With reports that footwear accounts for one-fifth of environmental impacts generated by the apparel industry (Quantis), discovering green and sustainable footwear alternatives and solutions is on everyone’s agenda, albeit to differing extents. There is a general consensus among eco-conscious consumers that larger brands should be focussing more on eco-friendly and sustainable footwear solutions than they are currently. That said, efforts have been made by the likes of Nike, Reebok and adidas with Nike increasingly using recycled leather, adidas increasingly using recycled plastic, and Reebok announcing the launch of a running shoe made from plant-derived materials.

A sheep, source of sustainable materials for footwear


But whilst well-established footwear brands are making efforts to reform their materials and practices, their lack of haste has opened up doors for smaller footwear brands and startups that have built their entire market offer and ethos on these core values and activities. Operating in contrast to the aforementioned labels, their business models focus on their brand intent and purpose with regard to sustainability – setting them apart from many well established brands.

With sheep outnumbering people in New Zealand, allbirds footwear, which claims to be “light on the feet, easy on the planet”, is made primarily from sheep’s wool which uses 60% less energy than materials used in the typical synthetic shoe. Another brand which has enjoyed success in recent years for their position on planet-saving initiatives is Reformation – a marketplace which has a scoring system to inform consumers about the impact each product in their marketplace is having on the environment. Furthermore, the retailer boasts that 75% of their footwear has a score or either A or B, with A being “made from natural fibres that are rapidly renewable, plant-based and have a potential for circularity”, and B being “fibres which are almost all natural or recycled”.


Spanning across not only sustainability but also a brand’s effective use of technology is adidas’ Speedfactory – an intelligent set-up which explores small quantity, high-specificity production. We predict that this on-demand trend will rise in popularity in the coming years, not only for its waste-cutting benefits but also its ability to satisfy the increasing number of consumers who are seeking exclusivity and that ‘personal-touch’.

woman hula hooping in green forest


It’s vital, now more than ever, that brands and retailers are not the only ones who advocate for reducing their impact on the planet but that third-party agencies are, too, passionate about putting the planet-first to ensure that the entire retail chain, from manufacturer to sale, is held to the same standards.

We have a clear vision about the future of retail with regard to sustainability and creating a more circular economy to reduce the impact that brands and retailers have on the planet. What’s more, our position on this matter very often results in ourselves absorbing the costs of breaking down fixtures and fittings to ensure that as much of the material is recycled as possible, if the alternative is that it would otherwise be discarded in landfill. Our Trends and Insight team also research manufacturers, both globally and locally, to gather insight into innovative materials and manufacturing techniques that are more eco-friendly than those commonly used in the industry.

Toms brand logo in shop
graffiti on bricks saying together we create

Brand-Purpose & Community


Consumers are increasingly looking for brands whose views align with their own – brands with a purpose that open up discussions on wider societal issues and use their platform to initiate change. Sustainability is just one of these areas, but in a society divided by opinions, consumers are looking for brands that can provide them with a community of like-minded individuals in all facets of life. Subsequently, some brands are using community-led initiatives and creating community-led spaces to satisfy any void.

Toms retail store with environmental design


TOMS was a brand built on purpose with a pledge that for every pair of shoes sold, another pair would be given to someone less fortunate. Since their launch in 2006, TOMS has donated 95+ million shoes, been involved in 780,000+ sight restorations, provided 722,000+ weeks of safe water and has committed $6.5 million in impact grants across 85 countries.

Lots of people with hands in a circle


Similarly, NIKE run a number of initiatives world-wide with the aim of bringing communities together by harnessing the power of sport and using it as a unifying force to create an equal playing field for everyone.

_5,700 Nike coaches around the world
_Getting more than 16 million kids active
_Donating more than $4 million in community grants
_More than 60 community organisations around the world

people relaxing in a natural environment


More commonly, brands are transforming their physical retail spaces into community hubs, as demonstrated by Reebok’s collaboration with La.Salle.De.Sport to create a physical retail environment in Paris which is open to the community and puts activity before product. This experiential space showcases a full ecosystem for consumers, inviting visitors to relax, immerse in the brand, and expand their understanding of what the brand stands for. Reebok’s concept cannot only be likened to a gym, but it is in fact a fully functioning gym which focusses on four pillars of practice: crossfit, boxing, cycing and yoga/pilates. The ‘store’ stocks only the best products from its performance ranges, including both limited editions and Reebok classics products for further exclusivity.


From identifying people’s desire to ‘help’ and be part of something, to encouraging people to actively participate and creating ‘homes’ for this purposeful activity, nurturing a community is key to brand loyalty. We understand that the brands that realign their strategies to encourage psychological responses and a sense of co-creation and community typically thrive in modern retail. A strong and engaged community will lead to enhanced products, research and development, and subsequent brand growth. Furthermore, physical community-retail spaces possess capabilities that the online store does not – appealing not only to the shopper, but to the human.

What’s trending?

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