Designer shoes at the Nordstrom women’s flagship in Manhattan.

Athletic shoes are gaining ground this summer of COVID-19 restrictions, but fashion shoes are seeing notable declines, according to a study by the NPD Group.

The research firm says that with parties, weddings, dinners and other social itineraries largely canceled in light of social distancing, there has been a steep fall-off in fashion, dress and seasonal shoe sales in the U.S. That said, athletic styles and shoes associated with construction and performance work are rebounding.

U.S. fashion footwear sales in the second quarter declined 48 percent compared with the same period last year. Performance footwear took less of a hit, dropping 16 percent over last year. The category saw a 32 percent decline with children’s shoes and a 20 percent decline with men’s shoes, but only a 2 percent drop off with women’s styles.

NPD senior industry adviser for sports, Matt Powell, said in a statement that the athletic category was the luckiest among footwear categories. “The second quarter was a wild ride for the athletic footwear market. April was the worst performing month on record and June was one of the best. What’s clearly working are increased allocations on limited-edition shoes. The return of running shoes late in the quarter was another positive sign. We are seeing a renewed interest in and commitment to health and fitness take hold, and I expect performance running will be a real beneficiary in today’s COVID-19 world,” he said.

The firm’s fashion footwear and accessories analyst Beth Goldstein said that, “The fashion category…has not rebounded to the same extent as have the leisure and performance categories. There were bright spots in work/live from home friendly styles such as slippers, comfort and athletic-inspired slides and sandals, but these could not compensate for the losses in the dressier styles and seasonal fashion. With no office to go to or social events to attend, demand plummeted and will likely remain low until we are able to return to some sense of normalcy.”

Goldstein added that, “Work/safety footwear has been successful, driven by the needs of essential workers. As service and construction jobs resume, this category should continue to outperform [others].”

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