The COVID-19 crisis has elevated the work of health-care workers around the country and the world. These everyday heroes are likely to encourage a new generation to join the health field, with many likely to take on jobs as nurses and medical assistants.
But even before the pandemic hit, the healthcare segment ranked among the fastest growing job categories. According to the U.S. Department of labor Statistics, roughly 2.4 million jobs could be added to the sector between 2016 and 2026. These increased numbers are likely to impact sales of duty shoes as more continue to join the industry.
“I believe all the attention this COVID-19 situation has brought to the country and to the world is how important our health-care providers are to us, [evidenced] by their faces bruised by [masks],” said Larry Dula, sales director for slip-resistant footwear brand Laforst Shoes. “On the bright side, it has [shed] new light on the importance of this career path. It will inspire a lot of young people — and not just women — that this is what they want to do.”
According to Dula, Laforst’s Shanghai-based factory is in the process of building inventory. “Right now, we’re making shoes we would have probably not been [having to make pre-coronavirus] since I think there will be real surge in [new consumers],” said Dula. Coupled with the expectation that there will be an uptick in new health-care workers, he observed there are many current health-care workers on their feet for long hours at a time destroying their shoes. This, he added, will open the door to increased sales post-pandemic.
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Footwear performance is essential for these front-line workers, with styles that are easy to clean as well as slip on-and-off, among the top-selling features. And, while women have been the bulk of the business, agree vendors, there remains an untapped opportunity to garner male consumers increasingly taking on these jobs.
According to Tiss Dahan, VP of marketing for Dansko, while health-care professionals wear a wide a range of footwear depending on their specific job function, Dansko has recently seen renewed interest in shoes that can slip on and off without being handled, along with styles that are easy to clean. Among the looks fulfilling these requirements are the Dansko Professional Clogs, and XP 2.0 Clog, both available for men and women.
Klogs anticipates an uptick in business, particularly as a result of workers recognizing the need for shoes they can quickly sanitize at the end of their shift, according to Matt Dieckhaus, VP of sales and marketing. “All Klogs styles, especially in our USA collection, are very easy to clean,” he said. “[This] added value is appealing to this community.”
Crocs agrees today’s health-care consumers are seeking shoes that are easy to clean and wear. “For these reasons, we have seen increased demand for our shoes during the pandemic, which is why we responded with our ‘Share a Pair for Healthcare’ program,” said Melissa Layton, senior manager, global PR and influencer marketing. “We believe there will continue to be demand for this type of relevant product at the conclusion of the pandemic.” (Last month, Crocs unveiled the Share a Pair for Healthcare program that allows U.S.-based health-care workers to get a free pair of shoes on Crocs.com while supplies last. The brand said it could ship up to 10,000 pairs a day.)
Among the styles suitable for both men and women, is the Crocs Classics, Bistro, Bistro LiteRide, Specialist and On the Clock, in addition to the Neria Pro II for women.
Although Matthew Tracy, president of Sanita USA/M. Leonard Int’l., expects an uptick in sales on the back end of the crisis, he said revenues would be uneven in terms of timing, geography, and consumer base. “I’m sure there will be a lot of medical staff who will want to reward themselves with a new pair of Sanitas after focusing on their exhausting duties for so many months,” he noted. However, he added, one of the brand’s biggest challenges is connecting with male consumers in the field. “It’s [about] demonstrating to men that wearing an anatomically-correct clog with arch support can mean the difference between ending their day with pain and fatigue vs. feeling energized enough to actively undertake non-work responsibilities and engage in personal pursuits.”
While nurses and other health-care workers are boosting sales for duty-shoe brands, on the flip side, sales of slip-resistant shoes in the hospitality and food services industries have been hit hard by the pandemic. According to Dula, the company’s business with cruise ship personnel has declined sharply as boats remain docked.
Added Tracy, “Sanita has a very big consumer base in the hospitality/food-and-beverage industry. Those workers are going to be digging out from months of lost or depressed wages and will also face a more unsteady return to their workplaces.”