Recession or Not, Shoe Shopping Continues

Posted on November 13, 2009

The New York Times reports that shoe sales are brisk. In the last three months women are buying more shoes. But experts are conflicted over why women who are cutting back on purchases across the board are still buying shoes.
Retailing executives and analysts offer varying, occasionally wacky, explanations. The one favored by many of them is that consumers consider shoes more of a necessity than, say, dresses, cuff links or handbags, so people feel less guilt about buying them.

"I would argue you wear out shoes more than you wear out handbags," said Marie Driscoll, an analyst with Standard & Poor's Equity Research who is adept at rationalizing her own shoe purchases. Living in New York, she walks everywhere. "I use the argument, 'If I spend $150 to $300 on shoes, this is my car.'"

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Among the more curious explanations proffered for the relative strength of shoe sales is that women -- who make up the lion's share of the American shoe market -- get an emotional lift from shoe shopping in a way they do not when trying on jeans and cocktail dresses. "Shoes democratize fashion," said Kathryn Finney, who writes the Budget Fashionista blog. "You probably can't buy a Zac Posen dress if you wear a size 14, but you can buy a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes."

Or, as Jennifer Black, president of research company Jennifer Black and Associates, put it: "It's just fun to shop for shoes. Maybe part of the fun is you don't feel fat. And you don't get hot. It's exhausting trying clothes on, especially the skinny jeans."
We think Jennifer Black has nailed it. It is no fun to shop for swimsuits or skinny jeans, no matter how thin you are. It's an annoying, lengthy, hot process. But shoe shopping is different. You sit in a chair while the salesperson brings you ice water (or champagne if you're at a really nice store). They bring you piles and piles of shoes to try one and don't rush you. You don't even have to leave your chair to sign your credit card receipt.

Which reminds us, Nordstrom's is having a huge shoe sale right now and we really must dash.