When Sex in the City launched in 1998, Carrie Bradshaw brought the New York fashion scene to households everywhere and popularized the quest for the perfect shoe. While the target market for the boundary-busting dramedy was clearly women, shoe obsession has become gender-neutral. According to a survey in Time magazine, the average American woman owns 27 pairs of shoes, and the average American man has 12 pairs.

In 2018, the biggest retail trend in footwear is the omnipresence of sneakers in both formal and informal settings. The athleisure movement is influencing footwear in a big way, with sport leisure shoes becoming the largest category in athletic footwear. According to market research company The NPD Group, the sport leisure footwear market grew 17 percent last year, and in the U.S., 75 percent of sneakers are currently purchased for aesthetics, not athletics.

This trend is bound to impact the entire footwear market, projects The NPD Group, as consumers demand increased comfort in all shoes—not just sneakers. 

Those who want to pay Fifth Avenue prices to flash hipster chic have options, too, with price tags on luxury styles ranging from hundreds of dollars to up to $10,000 for limited edition sneakers. Business of Fashion magazine reports that sales of premium sneakers increased 10 percent last year, as sneakers continued to make the leap from utilitarian necessities to statement pieces. So far, this market has been primarily driven by Millennials and men in all age groups.

Another shoe that has benefited from streetwear’s laid-back vibe is the flip-flop. According to marketplace.org, Americans spent $2.6 billion in 2015 on these summertime favorites. The fashion industry has had a contentious relationship with flip-flops over the years, but that hasn’t stopped designers like Rihanna from introducing embellished, high-heeled interpretations.

In the promotional market, shoes and shoelaces are in demand by schools, universities, clubs, airlines, sports teams, business retreats, employee incentives, conference grab bags, charity runs and marathons, according to Brandon Brown, vice president of marketing for supplier SnugZ USA (PPAI 112982).

The sock market has also gotten a boost as all things practical and historically unstylish are being celebrated as part of the anti-fashion trend. Fun socks are an opportunity to show a sliver of personality and whimsy, and they have been embraced by all demographics. Cropped pants or rolled-up jeans allow socks to take center stage, and The Wall Street Journal reports that luxury brands have introduced swanky socks priced as high as $210 per pair.

“Footwear is an up-and-coming product category for the promotional products industry,” says Bob Strem, executive vice president of supplier Neet Feet (PPAI 112755). “The idea is to use a product that puts a smile on your face. In today’s fast-paced business atmosphere with its constant stress, flip-flops and sliders literally have that effect on people’s everyday lives. Even going to work in flip-flops relaxes the anticipation of stress.”

Case Studies


Festival Flare
Every year, a German community holds an Oktoberfest celebration. The souvenir committee was looking for a fundraising item to be sold at the souvenir tent. In the past, they had provided t-shirts, but they were looking for something different. So, they had socks created with fun and colorful artwork that were sold at the event. The unique souvenir was popular with festival participants and provided a great source of revenue. Going forward, the committee plans to include decorated socks as a part of their annual festival. 
Source: Beacon Promotions


Flu Fighters
Before flu season, Microsoft launched a healthcare initiative to motivate employees to get an annual flu vaccine. Employees lined up to get their shots and a pair of premium “Flu Fighter” socks as their reward.
Source: Strideline, LLC

Soccer Fever: Get  In The Game

In many parts of the world, the sport also known as “football” has been an integral part of popular culture for centuries. But it’s taken a while for it to catch on in the United States.

In 2012, a 15-story, full body-length image of British soccer star David Beckham in his H&M “knickers” welcomed visitors to New York’s Times Square. Beckham-mania may have been the beginning, but he’s not the only player to preen for the cameras; in fact, Giorgio Armani was quoted in the New York Times saying, “footballers are today’s new style leaders”—and that was 10 years ago. 

With the recent announcement that the U.S., Canada and Mexico will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, coupled with the kickoff of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in June, soccer enthusiasm seems to be at an all-time high in North America. And with the steady influence of sports and sports stars in fashion, watch for soccer-inspired apparel to make its way into the mainstream.

Soccer scarves and jerseys have already become popular retail items, and in recent years fashion designers have rolled out soccer-inspired footwear, jewelry, bags, outerwear and even dresses. 

If you don’t know where to start, consider joining the 313 million fans who make up Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo’s social media following, who watch his every move—and what he’s wearing.

For additional related products, please view this story in the flipbook .

Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.