This category covers establishments engaged in the production of women's footwear designed primarily for dress, street, and work. Establishments engaged in the production of athletic shoes and misses', children's, infants', and babies' footwear are classified in SIC 3149: Footwear, Except Rubber, Not Elsewhere Classified. Establishments primarily engaged in the production of rubber or plastic footwear are classified in SIC 3021: Rubber and Plastics Footwear, and those manufacturing orthopedic extension shoes are classified in SIC 3842: Orthopedic, Prosthetic, and Surgical Appliances and Supplies.
Women's Footwear (except Athletic) Manufacturing
The U.S. women's footwear industry is dominated by large companies that design and manufacture a wide variety of shoes each year. A steady market of consumers eager for new styles, along with the short life span of a pair of shoes, have produced lucrative profits for the nation's well-established footwear manufacturers. According to Footwear Industries of America (FIA), U.S. consumers purchased over 2.16 billion pairs of shoes in 2004. However, imports dominate the U.S. shoe market, with only 35.2 million, or less than 3 percent, produced in the United States. In relation to the overall footwear industry, women's models accounted for about 23 percent, or 4.67 million, of all shoes produced by manufacturers in the United States.
The import of foreign-made footwear has been the biggest problem for domestic shoe manufacturers as comparably stylish but lower priced models made outside the United States continue to dominate the market. Approximately 98 percent of shoes sold in the United States in the mid-2000s were made abroad, arriving primarily from China. These imports were able to undercut their American counterparts in large part due to the lower labor and production costs incurred by foreign shoe companies. As a result, total industry shipments declined significantly throughout the late 1990s, falling from $703 million in 1997 to $373 million in 2000. By the mid-2000s total value of shipments in the industry had fallen below $250 million.
Unveiling a wide assortment of new shoe styles each season is how industry leaders regularly improve their product lines and increase their market shares. A key aspect of this process consists in the work of a shoe company's in-house design staff, which develops appropriate new versions of their firm's basic products by monitoring European and American fashion trends. As this is one of the most expensive parts of the entire manufacturing process, more and more American companies have attempted to reduce overall costs by relocating many preliminary manufacturing tasks to foreign factories where labor expenses are lower. Nevertheless, shoes are frequently returned to the United States for a number of final production steps, at which point the finished footwear is distributed to stores across the nation. Marketing teams from each manufacturer then negotiate with retail outlets and department stores in an effort to place as much of their company's products on display shelves as possible. Competition is fierce, and dramatic shifts within the industry based on the smallest stylistic or structural innovation are commonplace. To keep up with these changes, much of the industry's design, marketing, and management personnel meet at annual trade gatherings like the Fashion Footwear Association of New York show, the National Shoe Fair, and Shoes in New York.
The U.S. market for women's footwear underwent a significant transformation in the late 1990s. This shift was driven by two distinct yet interrelated trends. First, women came to prefer comfort over style when selecting their footwear. A late 1990s study cited by Footwear News revealed that 82 percent of women ranked comfort ahead...