Consumer Trend Shift To Comfort

From Uggs to work and Crocs to parties, Gen Z has apparently flipped the script on consumer trends.

Consumer's desire to wear comfortable clothes and shoes has not gone unnoticed by retailers as they have noticed a consumer trend shift from style to comfort. 

It has become very apparent that Gen Z loves casual apparel and footwear and is driving once-stale brands, such as New Balance and Crocs, into the spotlight.

Not long ago, bulky shoes such as New Balance’s were considered “dad shoes” but have now become a fashion staple. Young consumers are prioritizing apparel and footwear that feels good to wear, embracing comfort over fashion and style. 

This is causing mainstream brands such as Nike and Adidas, who are used to being market leaders, to race to catch up to rising stars like Deckers Outdoor, Crocs, Birkenstocks, and Sketchers, who are currently dominating the comfort wear market. 

The Breakdown

The typical American only buys seven pairs of shoes per year, and the race is on for brands to be one of those seven.

Rising stars who have long leaned into this pivotal trend are capitalizing massively. 

In December 2023, Deckers reported a 17% jump in revenue while its profit grew nearly 50% to $632 million.

Crocs clocked a 47% bump to its profit for the full year in 2023, and its sales went up 11%. Now, the company is anticipating a revenue growth of 3% to 5% in fiscal 2024 compared to last year.

Investors have recently rewarded the companies, sending Decker shares, the company behind the brands Ugg and Hoka, flying 29% year to date and 89% over the past year.

Visual graphic showing the growth of sketchers and crocs over recent years

Why is This Working?

The pandemic certainly helped. 

Remote workers who have been used to comfy pajamas and fuzzy slippers during the pandemic have now decided to continue this lifestyle even as companies return to in-person work.

A company like Deckers, capitalizing on this shift, began developing products beyond its furry boots, such as slip-ons and sneakers, in order to reach a younger and more diverse consumer set. 

Companies, in order to appeal to their employees, have, in many cases, relaxed dress codes to motivate employees to come back to the office. 

The same can be seen in other places, such as schools and malls. 

This means that companies like Deckers, Cros, Birkenstock, and Sketchers are well-positioned for continued growth.

Other companies such as Vans, Timberland, and Allbirds are falling behind as they failed to innovate and introduce new products, losing consumer interest in the process.

Interesting Psychology

Something else of interest to note:

While many think that chunky running shoes and rubber sandals with holes are not stylish, others, especially in younger generations, take pride in their grunge look and feel. 

The more discourse there is on the appearance of the shoe, the more popular they become regardless if the debate is in a good light or not.

Talk about all publicity is good publicity….

Being seen as an ugly show can create quite a polarizing image that can draw a fan following, especially with a generation that loves to break the rules. 

Consumers enjoy being contrarian and wearing something that signals they are different from anyone else, and on top of that, they are able to be comfortable while doing so.

Comfy yet ugly footwear is here for the long haul. 

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