Analysis: Lululemon entry into footwear could be market ‘gamechanger’

Marianne Wilson
Lululemon has entered the footwear category, starting with its first-ever women’s running shoe, Blissfeel.

Lululemon Athletica is off and running in the footwear category

In the commentary below, Matt Powell, VP, senior industry advisor, sports, The NPD Group, discusses the strong brand loyalty that Lululemon enjoys among women and why it bodes well for success in footwear.

Lululemon is leaping into the footwear space, and if its athletic apparel status among women is any indication, the brand’s new launch has the potential to be another market gamechanger.

I teamed up with Beth Goldstein [executive director, industry analyst, accessories & footwear, NPD Group) to take a deeper dive into Lululemon’s female customers and where they shop. Through Checkout Omnichannel Tracking data from NPD, we can follow consumers on their purchasing journeys over time, which enables a deeper understanding of these buyers and how their purchase behavior affects retail sales and trends across industries. 

NPD Checkout data indicates that Lululemon’s female customers in the U.S. are very loyal to the brand. Driven by the brand’s higher price-point compared to its competitors, women who bought Lululemon activewear spent 30% of their total activewear purchases there in the 12 months ending January 2022. The brand captured more of their customers’ spending on activewear compared to brands including Fabletics, Under Armour and Adidas, which each captured less than 10% of their customers’ activewear purchases.

I expect that the strong loyalty to Lululemon apparel will likely carry over to footwear. 

In terms of footwear, over the past year Lululemon’s female activewear customers have primarily purchased performance shoes at Dick’s Sporting Goods and Nike, followed by Nordstrom, Zappos and Amazon.

By brand, Lululemon’s female activewear customers favored Nike for their performance footwear purchases, followed by Brooks, Adidas, Asics and Hoka. It will be interesting to monitor if and how these brands are impacted by the Lululemon shoe coming to market. 

Lululemon has always been laser-focused on female consumers, and this focus has shone through in their footwear design. Each of their styles are crafted specifically for women’s feet.

Research has shown that, on average, women’s feet are typically more triangular, forefoot to heel, so a proper female shoe will be slimmer overall, contoured for a wider forefoot, and narrower around the heel. Men’s feet, on the other hand, are typically more rectangular, wider overall, and generally remain a very similar width from heel to toe.

A dirty little secret of the athletic shoe business is that many women’s sneakers in the market today were originally designed for men. I believe this is one of the reasons women’s footwear typically trails men’s products. But Lululemon has spent years researching the science behind the proper fit for women’s feet.

In addition to Lululemon’s loyal customer base, fit is another element that will likely make strides for its footwear program. I also believe that the new Lululemon footwear will force the rest of the industry to be more transparent about which of their products truly fit women’s feet.

Lululemon has developed a cult-like following in the U.S. women’s athletic apparel space. In my eyes, the brand’s performance footwear release is a pretty big deal.

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