The footwear retail business has been challenging overall so far this year, but many companies still see opportunity with younger customers (and their parents).
In recent months, a steady flow of shoe brands have announced plans to either enter the kids’ category for the first time or expand their children’s collections by adding more sizing and style options. Experts say there’s good reason to make these moves.
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According to Circana’s Consumer Tracking Service, shoe sales for children under the age of 18 outperformed the adult footwear business during the 12 months ended March 2023. In fact, kids’ shoes rose 14 percent in terms of dollars and 5 percent in terms of units. By comparison, the adult category saw 4 percent growth in dollars, and a 6 percent decline in units.
Part of the strength of the kids’ market is the fact that, amid an inflationary environment, parents are prioritizing buying for their children over purchasing new items for themselves. “When your kids grow out of their shoes, you’ve got to get them a new pair,” said Beth Goldstein, Circana executive director and industry analyst for footwear and accessories. “Its not like with apparel where you can kind of stretch out the purchases a little longer.”
And many retailers and brands are hoping that buying trend continues, especially this fall.
Jay Schmidt, president and CEO of Caleres, told analysts on June 1 that, despite overall consumer softness at Famous Footwear in Q1, its kids’ business should remain a bright spot this year. “Even with the weakness in shoe chains, we expect Famous to deliver a significantly stronger earnings contribution in the second quarter, as consumer activity accelerates due to typical seasonal drivers, including warm weather and back-to-school beginning in mid-July,” he said.
Here is a look at some of the footwear brands that have made bigger investments recently in the kids’ category:
After being acquired by American Exchange Group last year, Aerosoles has been expanding its product selection, and one of its first moves was to debut girls’ styles in January. The collection was designed with “mommy and me” in mind, as many of the styles are mini versions of Aerosoles’ women’s line. It offers a diverse assortment of casual and on-trend styles, like mini lug-sole combat boots, winter boots with real shearling, plus sneakers. And for special occasions, girls can opt for the brand’s signature ballet flats, Mary Janes and mini heels. Sizes range from toddler 11 to kids 4, and retail prices are $49-$79. The shoes initially launched at Aerosoles.com, but will also wholesale to department stores and specialty retailers.
FitFlop has launched a kids’ collection as part of its larger growth initiative. The line has a “mini me” concept and includes versions of the brand’s popular iQushion sandals, crafted for growing feet. Key styles include toddler back-strap sandals priced at $35, and junior flip-flops retailing for $25, all offered in a variety of colors. The sandals are available now at Fitflop.com.
One of the hottest sneaker brands on the market, Hoka finally unveiled its first kids’ collection in April. The collection launched with three styles inspired by Hoka’s adult line, including the Speedgoat 5 Youth, Clifton 9 Youth and Ora Slide 3 Youth — all made with kid-centric features, a focus on fit and the brand’s signature technology. Hy Rosario, product director of outdoor/kids at Hoka, told FN in an interview that the new kid-friendly features include quick toggle laces for easy on and off and a gusseted tongue to help everything stay in place during movement. The shoes are available now online and in stores, priced at $110 for the Speedgoat and Clifton sneakers; and $50 for the Ora Slide.
In March, the active recovery footwear brand revealed its debut kids’ collection, featuring its sustainable Revive shoe in several colorways. The Revive Kids features a closed-toe design and a pull tab above the heel — which Kane Footwear said is ideal for school — and is made with renewable plant-based foam, which the brand said is waterproof and “easy to clean.” The look, the brand explained, was made for young student athletes who play multiple sports and are seeking recovery post-workout. The kids’ shoes retail for $60 and are available now via Kanefootwear.com.
Like Aerosoles, White Mountain has been in expansion mode since being acquired by American Exchange Group in January, and it latest move is to launch girls’ footwear. The first collections are set to debut in spring ’24 and will complement White Mountain’s women’s line, with styles inspired by the brand’s most-popular silhouettes but updated with whimsical and colorful uppers. Available sizes will range from 11 to 5, with retail prices at $30-$50. The collection will initially launch on the brand’s e-commerce site and later begin wholesaling to retail and specialty stores.
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