The global revenues from branded outdoor shoes by major vendors grew by 2.9 percent to $4.71 billion in 2016, according to an annual survey by The Outdoor Industry Compass, with increases of 2.4 percent in the U.S. and 3.5 percent in the rest of the world.

The branded rugged outdoor footwear market performed a little better than in 2015, when it went up by only 1.2 percent, rising by 9.3 percent in the U.S. and declining by 4.7 percent elsewhere.

The dollar has made a big difference. In 2015, a stronger dollar reduced the vendors' actual sales outside the U.S. in dollar terms by more than 10 percentage points. In 2016, the dollar was on average only 0.3 percent higher than the euro, and so the market grew at about the same rate in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Like every year, we ask the companies in our sector to give us their sales figures for the U.S. and the rest of the world, or to guide us to them. If we don't get precise figures, we estimate them. We then convert all the figures to U.S. dollars at the average exchange rate calculated by the OECD for each year. You can see the results of our survey on page 3 of this issue.

In some cases, we restate the figures from those that we had estimated for previous years, based on new information made available to us or based on a narrower definition of the category. Thus, for example, our estimate for The North Face is a little lower and more accurate than before. We have also eliminated casual and military footwear from the figures given for Rocky Brands, and we have taken out the Oberalp group's sales of Dynafit ski boots.

Adding all other product categories, Rocky Brands was #7 on our list, so the total size of the market has shrunk to $4.74 billion. We have taken Viking and Chiruca out of the chart and put them under “Others” in the absence of any new data on these brands.

We are not particularly surprised about our findings. The market grew more slowly in the U.S. than elsewhere last year because of the bankruptcies of some major retailers, although this was partly offset by greater reliance on in-house e-commerce.

As previously reported, the European Outdoor Group has estimated a decline of 1.7 percent to €1.5 billion for last year's consumption of outdoor shoes in Europe (see our previous issue), indicating that it was probably only temporary. Our estimate for the market outside the U.S. is different because it uses a narrower sample and includes sales in other less saturated countries like China. On the other hand, we hear from TrekSta that the highly saturated market in South Korea went down sharply last year.

Merrell continued to lead the outdoor footwear market last year, although its global share declined to 14.5 percent because of a big drop in the U.S., due in part to the closing of mono-brand stores. It performed better in Europe and elsewhere. Only a few other major brands did better than the market including Salomon, Keen, Scarpa, and La Sportiva. Hoka One One grew the most, partly because of its diversification from trail running into road running.

Anyhow, the ongoing soft growth of the outdoor footwear market can be attributed to the difficulties that Merrell and other major brands are finding in its lifestyle-oriented segment. The sports-inspired sneakers of athletic shoe brands like Adidas and Puma are finding greater favor among consumers as normal walking shoes in the context of the broader athleisure trend. The trend has been so strong that Lowa has decided to introduce its first sneakers.

For this reason, the much bigger athletic footwear market expanded last year at a stronger rate of 8.5 percent to $57.97 billion, based on a similar study by a sister publication of ours, Sporting Goods Intelligence. Because of their more technical bent, the outdoor brands were probably more successful in the apparel category than the sports brands, whose sales of sports apparel inched up by only 1.4 percent to $78.0 billion, according to SGI.

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