Louis Vuitton sneakers.

Are women sneakerheads overtaking the men?

A new study from ForwardPMX found that women’s sneaker sales growth is outpacing the men’s sneakers market and has grown five times faster from 2016 to 2017.

The study — “The Here. The Now. Tomorrow. Sneakers.” — analyzes sneaker consumption, brand and buying trends, and found that female sneaker buyers tend to have stronger opinions about sneakers.

Gen Z buyers — 69 percent of women versus 63 percent of men — “don’t like wearing the same sneakers that a lot of other people are wearing.” Generation X women buyers feel the strongest — 90 percent — about having a unique style compared to other groups.

Women’s increased general interest in sneakers could be the result of a more active lifestyle or pop culture influences, or the two together. The latter in this case is supported by athletic companies like Nike, Adidas and Puma making pop stars and top influencers their brand ambassadors.

Puma started the trend through its partnership with Rihanna that birthed the Fenty Puma Creepers, which won Shoe of the Year at WWD sister publication Footwear News, and later tapped Kylie Jenner to front its campaigns before she jumped ship to Adidas. The German company also received promotion from Jenner’s sister, Kendall, who became a brand ambassador in 2017, and Kim Kardashian, who continues to wear Yeezy sneakers to support her husband, Kanye West’s, venture.

Nike — more specifically Jordan — increased their product focuses. Jordan collaborated with Aleali May on the Air Jordan I, VI and X, and partnered with Vogue to produce the first collaboration to be offered only to women.

Chris Paradysz, ForwardPMX chief growth officer, believes the growth came from the rise in streetwear and the increased interest began as far as two years ago.

“The streetwear thing happened, and streetwear for women is not like streetwear for guys. But in women’s fashion, streetwear showed up before men’s non-streetwear clothing,” he said. “The manufacturers realized that women want unisex styles and want some for their own.”

Nike turned its attention to women with the launch of its Unlaced concept shop and online destination in early 2018 and tapped Martine Rose, Sarah Andelman and Yoon Ahn for collaborations. Some male shoppers also argue that Nike is saving better colorways for women’s sizes. For instance, the women’s version of the Nike Air Max 270 React in Bauhaus had been asked for by male shoppers at Kith in New York City on the July 3 launch date and at Sneakersnstuff.

“I think 2020 is the year of women in sneakers,” he said. Paradysz doesn’t foresee the women’s market overtaking the men’s market because, “so much of the volume is driven by sport and the top sports,” but he added, “I think the growth rate will be stronger than men’s for as far out as we can see. We’re past the tipping point and barely rolling downhill and we’re going to see interesting collaborations.”

Though the global brand performance agency found higher growth in the women’s market, its research found that men and women sneaker buyers, sneaker fans and sneakerheads think alike across generations. Male Boomer sneaker buyers and Millennial women sneaker buyers feel strongest that sneakers are more popular today than when they were young, and 80 percent of all sneaker buyers believe sneakers have a more positive perception than in the past.

Sneaker fans feel nostalgic about sneakers, are more confident about their style and want their sneakers noticed before their outfit, while sneaker buyers care more about their perception on social media.

Millennials are the biggest sneaker enthusiasts, with the most male respondents in that segment believing sneakers are culturally important today and identifying with the statement, “When I am going out at night, I dress so that I’ll look good on social media.” Only 42 percent of sneaker buyers collectively agree with this statement. Also, Millennials were among the most to visit sneaker web sites every day.

The study also found that sneaker customizers and resellers influence consumers the most over brands, celebrities, influencers, designers, “community” and bots. Resellers are most popular with Millennial men and women and Generation X men.

Vans is the only sneaker brand to increase in search interest between 2016 and 2018, with Gen Z female sneaker buyers and fans believing most that Vans are “on the way up.” The brand was also purchased most by Gen Z men and women. Fila showed the most year-over-year volume growth at 170 percent, followed by Allbirds at 66 percent and Greats, the recent Steve Madden acquisition, at 41 percent. As for all of the sneaker brands purchased in the last 12 months, Nike was purchased by more than two-thirds of all respondents, Adidas was purchased most by Millennial men and Gen Z women.

The research, conducted in partnership with National Research Group, categorized its respondents by purchase frequency. Sneaker buyers are people who bought two to four pairs of sneakers of the last year, sneaker fans bought five or more pairs over the last year, and sneakerheads are people willing to camp out for limited releases.


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