The global outdoor footwear market accelerated slightly on the wholesale level in 2017. According to an annual survey conducted by The Outdoor Industry Compass among the major brands, their footwear revenues rose last year by 5.0 percent to $4.9 billion in terms of U.S. dollars.

That was a little better than in the previous two years, due only in part to a slightly weakened value for the dollar, which depreciated by 1.9 percent against the euro. In our previous studies, we tracked down growth rates of 1.2 percent in 2015 and 2.9 percent in 2016 for the global market, but the dollar had strengthened against the euro in both years. Backing up our findings, the European Outdoor Group (EOG) estimated that the European outdoor market returned to growth last year, in contrast with NPD's data.

As shown in our chart on page 3, Merrell, which is now gaining some momentum, remained the market leader including its licensed businesses around the world. Hoka One One remained the fastest-growing brand in the sector, although much of the increase was due to its strong diversification from trail running into road running, particularly in the U.S. Another Deckers brand, Teva, performed particularly well. Double-digit increases were also scored by the Italy's Tecnica Group and Garmont International.

Many of the figures in our chart are based on the reports of public companies, although very few of them give specific details on their footwear sales or break them down between the U.S. and the rest of the world. In the absence of public data, we ask the companies to give us their sales figures, or to guide us to them. If we don't get precise figures, as in the case of Meindl, for example, 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.

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, as in the case of TrekSta, the Korean footwear company. For Rocky Brands, which recently divested its casual footwear business, we have tried to take that segment out as well as its sizeable military business.

This year, we have taken Hi-Tec Sports out of the chart because it has been difficult to obtain its footwear figures following its switch to a pure licensing mode under Cherokee's ownership. We have also eliminated a smaller player in the outdoor footwear category, Salewa, due to a lack of input from the management. Both are now listed under Others.

As before, the outdoor footwear market did not grow as fast as the athletic footwear market, largely because the sports-inspired sneakers of brands like Adidas, Nike and Puma are finding greater favor as normal walking shoes among consumers in the context of the broader athleisure trend. In reaction to this, brands like Lowa have started to sell outdoor-looking sneakers, while Salomon has started to move into a more fashion-oriented segment of the market.

As we have already reported in a sister publication of ours, Sporting Goods Intelligence Europe, the much bigger athletic footwear market expanded last year at a stronger rate of 9.4 percent, up from the prior year's growth of 8.8 percent, to reach a level of $63.2 billion.

A generally improved economic climate, especially in China, may have been a factor for the acceleration of the outdoor and athletic footwear markets. Another important factor in the outdoor shoe market is the weather, which has become more capricious than ever. Some brands are projecting lower increases for this year after a protracted torrid summer in important regions of the world, but they are still waiting to see how the weather will turn in the autumn before coming to conclusions.