The global market for outdoor shoes recovered in 2013 from the 2.4 percent drop suffered in 2012, rising by an estimated 9.2 percent in terms of dollars to $4.27 billion at the wholesale level, according to an annual study by The Outdoor Industry Compass in combination with Sporting Goods Intelligence.

Some of the growth was due to currencies - the euro appreciated by 3.3 percent against the dollar - and to the price increases that the brands were able to pass on to compensate for higher material and labor costs. The weather was not particularly cooperative in certain regions and at certain times of the year, but it was generally more favorable than in 2012, and retailers apparently ordered more merchandise to fill their inventories. Due in part to the currency situation, the market grew by 12.5 percent outside the U.S. in dollars and by 4.7 percent in the U.S.

Market research companies have indicated that the footwear segment performed better than the overall market in the outdoor sector, as it did in the more general sports sector. As we have reported in SGI Europe, while the growth of the global sports apparel market slowed down to only 1.8 percent in terms of dollars in 2013, the athletic footwear market kept some of its momentum, growing by 4.6 percent, compared with a rise of 9.2 percent in the previous year.

Being more technical and comfort-oriented, shoes have evidently resisted better than apparel to the economic problems in the mature markets and the slowdown in the growth of important emerging markets. Outdoor shoes have also performed better than athletic shoes because of their lower lifestyle orientation. The rugged outdoor footwear market had already outperformed the athletic shoe market in terms of growth in 2011, but the opposite occurred in 2012 because of unseasonable weather conditions and the staging of two mega-events: the Euro 2012 football championships and the Summer Olympic Games in London.

Our annual market surveys are mostly based on publicly available data reported by the major brands, but in some cases they are estimates based on comments made by insiders or outsiders. The figures relate to the brands' wholesale-equivalent sales of shoes, to the exclusion of apparel and other products. They include the sales of any licensees, but they are slightly overstated because of the inclusion of a growing proportion of direct-to-consumer business due to the ongoing verticalization of the industry.

Our annual International Rugged Outdoor Footwear Chart gives the rankings of the major players in the outdoor footwear market in the U.S. and elsewhere, with the changes in their turnover and their market shares. We are not including here the sales of unbranded outdoor shoes or those of the private labels of big retailers such as Décathlon or Intersport, which would probably boost the total size of the market at retail to well over $10 billion. All the figures listed in the chart are stated in U.S. dollars. Those that we obtained in other currencies are converted to U.S. dollars at the average exchange rate calculated by the OECD for each year.

We again have only an estimate for Merrell, which excludes other product categories and includes its foreign licensees' sales, but it seems that it kept the leadership last year, while losing some market share, in spite of the ongoing progress of Salomon. Double-digit increases were scored by this French brand and others including Kamik, Lowa, Dolomite, Grisport, Scarpa, Treksta, Viking, Salewa, Chiruca and Trezeta.

The Tecnica Group's progress was remarkable, with the Lowa brand continuing to make big strides as a technical brand and Dolomite growing even faster as an Italian vintage brand, making it a possible candidate for a takeover. The Tecnica brand performed less well. Scarpa's turnover was boosted by a big contract. Viking made a nice recovery, and the momentum is still going on. Garmont suffered from the sale of its ski boot business to Scott Sports Group and from financial problems that recently led it to change ownership.

Some of the growth last year was triggered by the booming trail running segment, benefitting Salomon and other brands such as Hoka One One, which is still relatively small, and Inov-8, whose sales are estimated to have grown to more than $30 million in 2013 from $20 million in 2012, with a doubling in the U.S.

We understand that the footwear divisions of Jack Wolfskin, Mammut and other major outdoor brands grew substantially, too, but we were unable to obtain the related figures. The North Face is only a guess. We are not featuring Lacrosse Footwear this time because it is no longer supplying the same figures as before due to its recent change of ownership. Like before, Asolo refused to provide any data, but it seems that it continued to grow nicely without the burden of Lowe Alpine.

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