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Footwear retailers suffer despite UK's growing love of shoes
Jan '08
Cost inflation has compounded the problems facing the UK's footwear specialists, according to the latest report from Verdict Research, part of the Datamonitor group. Despite rising costs, footwear retailers are unable to raise prices due to the high level of competition in the market – particularly from clothing retailers. As a result, even the UK's largest footwear specialists continue to suffer despite shoppers' growing appetite for new footwear.

According to Verdict Research, of the UK's Top 10 footwear specialists, eight either saw profit margins fall or made a loss during 2006, and in 2007 this trend will have continued for most specialists. Indeed, footwear chain Dolcis has now been placed in administration – becoming 2008's first high profile casualty in the sector. One of the biggest problems plaguing footwear specialists is cost inflation, not least from the EU anti-dumping tariffs, which exacerbated more general retail issues of higher rents, fuel costs and energy prices.

Clothing retailers and other non-specialists are also facing higher costs in footwear but, as typically larger organisations, they are in a better position to withstand these pressures.

Specialists are losing market share But the problem is not just cost inflation. According to Verdict Research, footwear specialists accounted for over half of all UK footwear sales in 2001 – a figure that has fallen to an estimated 41.8% of footwear sales in 2007 as consumers increasingly turn to clothing retailers, supermarkets and sporting goods retailers to pick up their footwear. Over 2007, clothing retailers were the biggest winners in the footwear market – with New Look performing particularly well.

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