Our annual survey of the global branded rugged outdoor footwear market shows a strong increase of 12.8 percent in 2010 at the wholesale level in terms of U.S. dollars. Some of the growth was obviously the result of price increases and replenishment of inventories by retailers who had ordered little during the economic crisis of the previous years, but reports of good sell-through levels indicate that strong consumer demand played a major role in driving the increase as well.

Published on page 3 of this issue, our exclusive rugged outdoor footwear chart gives the actual or estimated figures for the invoiced sales of 25 different major companies and brands and the respective market shares. They figures relate mostly to their wholesale revenues, translated into U.S. dollars at the average exchange rate for each year. As the dollar appreciated by 5.3 percent against the euro in 2010, the market outside the U.S. and the sales of European-based companies grew at a higher rate than shown on the chart.

Including licensed footwear and excluding its new apparel collection, Merrell kept its leadership position in the segment, but it apparently lost some market share as its footwear sales rose by only an estimated 11.1 percent, with a drop of 5.6 percent in the U.S. offset by an increase of 25 percent elsewhere. Adding its Wolverine brand and its Patagonia footwear license, for which we only have estimates this time, Wolverine World Wide, parent company of Merrell remains by far the major player in the market.

Rising by 25.5 and 26.0 percent, respectively, Salomon and the brands owned by Columbia Sportswear overtook Hi-Tec Sports as the second-largest factor in the outdoor shoe market. Columbia's figures include those of its sub-brands Sorel and Montrail. Hi-Tec's sales include those of shoes in other categories.

Like with Columbia, we have chosen to treat Rocky Brands as a single corporate unit instead of providing figures for individual brands, but we are not doing the same thing with Red Wing Shoes, whose operations are more diverse. Vasque, the outdoor footwear brand of Red Wing, has its own line with an estimate of its sales on the chart. We are bundling together our sales estimates for Genfoot and its proprietary brand, Kamik, although its private label business has been shrinking and is now relatively marginal.

We have decided to take Asolo out of the chart this time as its executives have refused to provide any figures for 2010, maybe because the legal proceedings related to the company's previously covered dismissal of Lowe Alpine have not yet completed. Offsetting this hopefully temporary loss, we have picked instead a new rapidly growing player in the market: the footwear division of Salewa. Run by Antonio Dus, it is developing strongly, with sales expected to reach €29.8 million this year, up from last year's level of €20.3 million.

It will be interesting to compare the growth of the rugged outdoor footwear market with that of the athletic footwear market, comprising much bigger brands such as Nike and Adidas. We'll run a separate chart on that in our sister publication for the broader athletic market, Sporting Goods Intelligence Europe. In a few weeks time, we shall also provide an estimate for the casual segment of the brown shoe market, comprising brands such as Clarks, Geox and Timberland, in another sister publication of ours, Shoe Intelligence.

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