"Slippers sales doubled compared to last year and increased by 12% over March. While most of the growth was a result of price growth due to splurges on higher-priced slippers, the number of pairs sold also grew, as consumers outfitted themselves for comfort at home."

Two brands of athletic footwear are defying the global trend as the unprecedented pandemic forced the closure of shops in cities and suburbs across the world.

Total footwear sales in the US alone for April totalled US$1.2 billion, which represents a 56% decline on the same last month last year. Total footwear sales in the last 12 months, ending April 2020, amounted to US$31.5 billion, an 8% fall year-on-year.

Despite the presence of ecommerce, every category of footwear suffered.

“For the most part, athletic brands that were outperforming the market before the pandemic continued to do so, and those that underperformed did not improve. Two standout brands in April were Hoka One One and On Running, both of which had strong increases despite the steep declines within the overall market. These running shoe brands also helped the performance category to fare better than the industry – a story we haven’t been able to tell in quite some time,” said Matt Powell, senior industry advisor, sports at The NPD Group.

Hoka One One, which have been worn by Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Britney Spears, Pippa Middleton and Katie Holmes, is the running shoe to-go for. The revenue for Hoka One One is showing an increase above 30% in this quarter-to-date.

Hoka One One was founded by Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard in Annecy, France, in 2009. Four years later it was bought by Decker Brands, the California-based parent company for UGG, Teva, Sanuk, Koolaburra and other footwear brands.

Hoka’s revenue for the fiscal year 2020 increased 58% compared with last year, to US$353 million, with fourth-quarter sales rising 52% to US$101.9 million.

Decker Brands CEO Dave Powers said at the fourth quarter conference call on Friday the company is “very encouraged” by the consistently strong interest in the UGG and Hoka brands as evidenced by Google Trends over the last two months. UGG search interest was up 73% over last year and Hoka One One search interest growth was second-highest among peer brands.

“We think this speaks well to the power of our brands that consumers are actively searching and buying our products during a historically low period of consumer demand,” Powers said.

In the fourth quarter ending 31 March, Decker Brands earnings fell 32.9% to US$16.1 million, from $24.0 million a year ago. Removing non-recurring items from the year-ago period, earnings were down 35.3% from US$24.9 million for the same period last year. Sales decreased 4.9% to US$374.9 million, which was down 4.5% on a currency-neutral basis. For the full-year, Decker Brands’ sales increased 5.6% to US$2.13 billion and grew 6.5% on a currency-neutral basis.

On Running was founded by three-time world duathlon champion and multiple Ironman winner Olivier Bernhard and his mates David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti in Zürich, Switzerland, in January 2010. On also now has offices in the US, Japan, Australia, and Brazil. It makes the Cloud brand running shoes and Swiss tennis great Roger Federer joined in November last year as a co-entrepreneur.

There was another category of footwear that saw a dramatic jump.

“Fashion footwear sales again underperformed in total, but slippers sales doubled compared to last year and increased by 12% over March. While most of the growth was a result of price growth due to splurges on higher-priced slippers, the number of pairs sold also grew, as consumers outfitted themselves for comfort at home. Other casual categories that gained share despite declining over last year included sport lifestyle sneakers, sport slides, and mules/clogs driven by the continued growth of Crocs – adding to Powell’s point about brands that were already doing well pre-pandemic. In addition, work/safety boots and sneakers, essential to many frontline workers, outperformed the market as well,” said Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear & accessories analyst at The NPD Group.

Leisure and performance shoes were down 50% and fashion footwear dropped 66%. With families locked down in their homes and bars and clubs shuttered, millions of people losing their jobs, the figures are fairly easy to understand.