A loom from Buffalo.

Being ugly has never been so attractive. That is, according to the consumers flocking to footwear stores and brands cashing in on the frumpy footwear trend. The look isn’t showing signs of letting up, either. According to Mintel’s report, “Men’s and Women’s Footwear, U.S. 2018,” consumers continue to opt for athletic and “more comfortable” shoes over dressed-up alternatives.

“Casual styles are among the most purchased shoes in America today, even among younger consumers. Young consumers aren’t solely choosing shoes for comfort, but also because comfortable shoes are now considered cool, with comfort and style increasingly being considered synonymous. In fact, we’re seeing a trickle-down effect from the high-end fashion world, which has been featuring more casual shoe styles,” said Alexis DeSalva, retail and apparel analyst at Mintel.

Mintel’s research discovered that traditional footwear continues to take a backseat to sportier styles. “Consumers are most likely to purchase athletic shoes (65 percent) and casual shoes (53 percent), followed by dress shoes (34 percent),” the report said.

Brands of all price points are buoying their revenue with accessories and footwear — partially in an effort to attract younger shoppers who might not have the spending power to purchase more expensive items. This has largely contributed to the category’s ongoing growth. According to Mintel, the footwear segment has increased 17 percent in the last five years, resulting in $63.2 billion in sales last year.

“As a result, more mainstream brands and retailers have featured comfortable shoes like sneakers and slide sandals as part of their assortments, making comfort a cool trend,” DeSalva explained. “Additionally, the increased acceptance of less formal footwear choices is a reflection of the growing trends in casual fashion and relaxed dress codes, as well as flexible work situations.”

Mintel anticipates that sales will increase nearly 3 percent this year, landing footwear revenue at $65 billion for 2018. But footwear retail is in a paradoxical relationship — younger consumers like Millennials and Generation Z have boosted online sales, while physical store shopping has declined immensely.

“Today, 76 percent of Americans say they have purchased footwear online, up from 57 percent in 2014 — a 33 percent increase in usage over the five-year period. Meanwhile, as online shopping for footwear continues to rise, in-store shopping has slowed as 83 percent of consumers purchased footwear in-store in 2018, down from 89 percent in 2014,” the report said.

Social media is also growing as an ongoing product discovery tool, driving more online purchasing, the report suggested. What’s more, the mobility of researching items on smartphones has also contributed to the shift from physical to digital spending.

“Consumers are generally becoming more comfortable with shopping online for footwear, despite the fact that in-store shopping has historically been preferred. Increased online activity now has consumers doing more browsing online, scrolling through social media and researching products, which could prompt them to make impulsive or unplanned purchases, and ultimately driving incremental sales,” DeSalva said. “Utilizing services like ‘reserve online, try on in-store’ and features such as real-time, in-store inventory updates could help to reduce hesitation regarding shopping online and promote seamless shopping between both channels.”

More from WWD:

Sneaker Influencers Predict What’s Next for Footwear Market

What Millennials Want from Retailers

Back-to-School Shoppers Raid Stores Early, but Not Often

Are ‘Fashionable Males’ the Key for Retail Survival?

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