The major outdoor brands saw their sales of footwear grow by only 1.2 percent in terms of U.S.dollars in 2015, coming just under €5 billion for the year. They would have risen by more than 10 percent, especially outside the U.S., if currency exchange rates had remained constant.

Our annual study of the branded rugged outdoor footwear market, which is conducted together with Sporting Goods Intelligence, shows an overall sales increase at the wholesale level of 9.3 percent to an estimated level of $2.26 billion in the U.S. Outside the U.S., sales declined by 4.7 percent to $2.73 billion, but this was only due to the strong increase in the average value of the dollar, which climbed by nearly 20 percent against the euro.

Our figures are based on public data, input from management and observers' estimates for a representative sample of outdoor brands. They only concern their sales of footwear, and they include any licensees' sales. As in previous years, figures obtained in euros and other currencies are converted to U.S. dollars at the average exchange rates calculated by the OECD for each year.

The 2015 rugged outdoor footwear chart published by The Outdoor Industry Compass on page 3 of this issue shows a slight loss of market share in the U.S. for the leading brand in the market, Merrell, based on the estimated level of its direct and licensed sales. Looking at the 12 largest players in the market, above-average increases were recorded in the U.S. by Salomon, the various brands of Columbia Sportswear, The North Face and Hi-Tec Sports. Outside the U.S., the Columbia group, TNF, Rocky Brands, Italy's Grisport and TrekSta, the Korean brand, performed better than the market.

Further down on the chart, we can remark above-average overall growth for La Sportiva, which has deserved a big article in this issue, as well as Salewa and Hoka One One. We have eliminated Kamik this time from the chart because we have stopped receiving information from its parent company, Genfoot, which was previously reporting strong growth in the U.S. and abroad.

Market research has indicated stronger increases in 2015 in sales of shoes than clothing at the wholesale and retail stages in the sporting goods sector at large and in its outdoor segment. Interestingly, the market for branded athletic shoes, which is led by big players like Nike and Adidas, grew in dollars at a higher rate of 6.3 percent last year to $54.5 billion, according to SGI and SGI Europe, with increases of 11.1 percent in the U.S. and 3.3 percent elsewhere.

Much of that growth can be attributed to a rapidly rising demand for sneakers that are used for fashion and comfort rather than sports performance. Outdoor shoes seem to have become less preferable for these purposes, although the urban outdoor style is still important.